Monday, January 26, 2015

Beatles County Playlist

The Beatles don't exactly have a huge reputation as a band that recorded a lot of country music but there has been a subtle and sometimes not so subtle country flavor to a lot of their music from the very beginning. Ringo Starr is probably the Beatle who has most embraced the genre, but a country influence has also continued through out the solo careers of all the members of the Beatles. I have collected a few notable examples that I think makes a fun playlist.

Act Naturally

The Beatles covered this Buck Owens song on the UK version of Help! (1965). Ringo takes the lead vocals on this track and even got the chance to take to spotlight and sing it on the Beatles third appearance on Ed Sullivan.

Country Dreamer

This charming tune is performed by Paul McCartney & Wings. It was the B-side to the single "Helen Wheels" released in 1973. It was originally intended to be included on the album Red Rose Speedway.

I Forgot to Remember to Forget

George Harrison takes the lead on this classic tune written by Stan Kesler and Charlie Feathers and made famous by Elvis Presley. The Beatles recorded this song at the BBC Paris Studio, London on 1 May 1964 for their From Us To You radio show.

Sunshine Life For Me (Sail Away Raymond)

George Harrison wrote this song while hanging out with Scottish Folk Singer Donovan in Ireland in 1969. He gave it to his former band mate Ringo who recorded it on his album Ringo, his third solo record. It features musical accompaniment by members of The Band Levon Helm, Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko and Garth Hudson

I Live For You

An Outtake from George Harrison's All Things Must Pass which was later included on the 30th Anniversary reissue. Prior to its offical release it was a popular bootleg.

Rocky Racoon

A memorial track from the Beatles double record known as The White Album. This track also has the influence of Donovan behind it, written mostly by Paul McCartney while hanging out with Donovan while on retreat in India.

Husbands and Wives

Ringo's recorded this Roger Miller song for his 1974 album Goodnight Vienna

Crippled Inside

John Lennon dabbles in Country Rock on this upbeat track from his album Imagine.

Sally G

The B-Side to McCartney's better known "Junior's Farm," this song was recorded with Wings during their 1974 visit to Nashville.

Honey Don't

This song was originally recorded by Carl Perkins as the B-Side of "Blue Suede Shoes." John Lennon performed the song in a version recorded live for the BBC but Ringo takes the lead on the official  album version of the song on Beatles For Sale. In fact, "Honey Don't" is one of the few songs which has been performed by every member of the Beatles.

Life Begins at Forty

John Lennon wrote this song--which takes its title from a best selling, self-help book by Water Pitkin--for Ringo Starr in 1980, the year they both turned forty. The only known performance is a demo recorded in Lennon's home. Ringo planned on recording the song for his Can't Fight Lightening record, but changed his plans after Lennon's untimely death.

Heart of the Country

Recorded for McCartney's 1971 album Ram.

What Goes On

The Beatles resurrected and reinvented this song from their Quarrymen days for their 1965 album Rubber Soul. It is the only song to have song writing credits as Lennon-McCartney-Starkey.

Behind That Locked Door

Recorded for Harrison's All Things Must Pass. This song is said to be written as an encouragement to Bob Dylan who was considering a come back after taking time out of the spot light following a serious motorcycle accident.

Beaucoups of Blues

The title track of Ringo's heavily Country influenced 1970 album.

Maggie Mae

While not strictly a country song, this traditional Liverpool folk song certainly has Country sensibilities.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Why Do We Baptize Infants?


Genesis 1:1-5 Psalm 29 Acts 19:1-7 Mark 1:4-11

Today on the First Sunday after Epiphany we celebrate a key moment in salvation history, the Baptism of our Lord. Here at Christ Church, we are also celebrating the baptism of Abigail and Isaac. It is certainly an exciting day, not only in the life of the Stromberg and Cadwalader family, but also in the life of our parish. Today Abigail and Isaac are joined with us in the Body of Christ and as members of our covenant family, the Church. There is however a difference between our two candidates for Holy Baptism. Abigail comes to us as a young woman who is able—in at least some sense—to grasp the commitment she is making. She is of an age where she is able to confess her faith in Christ and pronounce her baptismal vows herself. Isaac, on the other hand, is only a tiny infant. Unlike Abigail he is not yet able to pronounce the vows himself, and so as his parents and God parents, we will take vows on his behalf and with God’s help do our best to teach him the meaning of his baptism and instruct him in the truth of the Gospel. 

Many of you may have come to faith in a tradition that baptized only those, like Abigail, who are old enough to make their own confession of faith. The question of whether or not we should baptize infants is one of the many issues that divide the various Christian denominations. During the season of Epiphany, our sermons here at Christ Church are focusing on tough questions that members of our congregation struggle with. It seems an appropriate time to address this particular question of why we baptize infants.

The first thing we need to say is that the baptism of the children of believers has been the established practice from the earliest days of the Church. The book of Acts tells us that in the apostle’s days whole households received baptism, which presumably included infant children as well. Also in acts, when Peter urges the people to be baptized he says, “For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord calls to him" (Acts 2:38-39). Some would argue that Peter meant only the Children old enough to make their own confession, but he himself makes no such qualification.

The great protestant reformer John Calvin makes the argument that Baptism is the new covenant fulfillment of the Old Testament practice of circumcision in which infants were included. Both are the means of initiation into the covenant family. He asks, is the Old covenant more merciful than the New Covenant? It is a good point especially given the fact that baptism is in every other way more inclusive than circumcision. Only Jewish males were circumcised in the old covenant, but baptism includes male and female, Jew and gentile. 

You may be thinking, “Doesn’t our reading today make it clear, however, that baptism is meant exclusively for mature believers?” After all Mark tells us that John was proclaiming a baptism of repentance and that those who were baptized by him in the river Jordan confessed their sins. How can an infant confess their sins? What exactly would a tiny baby need to repent of anyway?

Allow me to address the second question first. It is the consensus of the church that scripture teaches that all of us are born with the stain of original sin. It is a bit like a child born to drug addicted mother. The infant is born with that drug addiction, even though she herself is not responsible for it. She inherits the consequences of her mother’s bad choices. Likewise all us are inheritors of the consequences of the original sin of our ancient parents. Even as infants we are in bondage to sin and so we need the cleansing and regenerating power of baptism to heal and deliver us. If infants have the sickness isn’t it wrong to deny them the medicine?

So how can Infants repent of their sins? Well strictly speaking, they can’t. At least until they are old enough to take responsibility for themselves, they must rely on the vows made by their parents and God parents on their behalf to renounce sin and turn to Christ. “How can this be?” you ask, “Isn’t repentance and obedience something we must do for ourselves?” Well, yes and no. We do need to repent of our sins and turn in obedience to Christ, but that is never a work we ourselves achieve in our own strength.

Why is it that Christ presented himself for baptism despite the fact that he alone among the whole human race was completely free of the power of sin? The answer is, he did it for our sake. In his baptism, Jesus acted in obedience to his Father, renouncing the power of sin over us, and submitting himself to death in order that he may be raised up to new life for our forgiveness and justification. There is a vicarious nature to every baptism, not just those of infants, because we are all baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection. Our faithfulness in empowered by Jesus’ perfect righteousness at work in us through the power of the spirit. Even our faith in Jesus is only possible through that same spirit within us. This is why our promises made in Holy Baptism are punctuated with the statement, “with God’s help.” All of this demonstrates, “That we love God because he first loved us.”

We are not saved by our repentance alone. We need the righteousness of Jesus. John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, but it wasn’t enough. It was a mere symbol, a type of what was to come. He himself told the people, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me…I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Our epistle reading today from Acts also tells us that those who were baptized by John had need of another baptism in the name of Jesus. The baptism that Jesus commanded his disciples to perform in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is more than a mere symbol. It has the power to inwardly transform us through uniting us to the death and resurrection of Jesus.

The Gospel is good news for tiny babies as much as adults because Christ died for them too. We baptize them into his name as a sign and seal of the redemption he purchased for them. One of my heroes, the Anglican theologian, F.D. Maurice wrote,

“Infant Baptism has been a witness for the Son of Man and the universality of His kingdom, like no other. It has taught parents that to bring children into the world is not a horrible crime. It has led them to see Christ and His redemption of humanity through all the mists of our teachings and our qualifications. It has explained the nature of His Kingdom to the hearts of the poorest.”

The Gospels tell us that many in Jesus’ day brought their infants to him so that he might bless them. When his disciples tried to chase them away, Jesus rebuked them and said something startling, “whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.” What does this mean? I think part of what Jesus meant was this, “If you think you are more worthy of my attention than these infants you are wrong.  You think you are independent and capable but you are not. If only you realized that you are as helpless and incapable of coming to me as these tiny babies. You need to be carried by someone stronger. You are utterly dependent on another. It is only when you realize this that the kingdom will be yours.”

Saturday, January 10, 2015

F.D. Maurice on Infant Baptism

'And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them unto him, and said suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.'

The disciples might have a reasonable excuse for repulsing the mothers of these children. They knew perhaps that it was the habit of women in that land to bring infants to an enchanter, that he might, by his word, or his touch, work a charm on them, which would drive off some disease, or secure them against disease. Their Master was no such enchanter; let not these ignorant people fancy that He was. So far well. A desire to honour the truthfulness of Jesus may have been mixed with their severity. But there mixed with it another element; one of pride in them selves, not of reverence to Him.

‘We are men; we ' can understand His parables; we can listen to His commands; what can these infants do? ‘Here is that vanity of consciousness to which I referred just now ; the secret thought — ' He is our King because we are capable of choosing Him as our King. He ' has come to save us who are so good or so fortunate as to accept Him.' Bring out the thought clearly, and the conscience of those who confess a Christ shrinks from it; but it is not brought out clearly; it puts on cunning disguises.

The simple words, 'Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God,' have done more to strip off the disguises than all arguments. They have been owned as royal words. 'These children are mine. Whatever you may think of them, I claim them. For your faith does not make me your Lord. You do not elect me to be a Sovereign. If I am not King over children, I am not King over men. If you do not receive me as children—because you are 'weak, because you cannot depend on yourselves—your faith is a contradiction. You do not mean ' what you say when you ask me to be merciful to you as sinners. That prayer is a petition to be treated as children; to be guided by the Divine Spirit because you cannot guide yourselves.’

 It is on this ground, my friends, and not on any school reasoning, that the Church rests her Infant Baptism. Those who object to us for treating it as a charm should be listened to with all respect. That is a great offence against Christ. But this Baptism has been a witness for the Son of Man and the universality of His kingdom, like no other. It has taught parents that to bring children into the world is not a horrible crime. It has led them to see Christ and His redemption of humanity through all the mists of our teachings and our qualifications. It has explained the nature of His Kingdom to the hearts of the poorest. Christ has preached at the fonts, when we have been darkening counsel in pulpits.