Like an old Sabbath

A few weeks back, I was invited to do special music for the church I’ve been attending since I arrived in Houston. Given that I really had not other performance opportunities in sight, I accepted.

I haven’t played much, and I have honestly felt the void. On Monday, I had an excellent practice session. It was productive and fun—one of those you don’t get all the time. Then on Wednesday, while preparing the piece for Sabbath, I hated my guts because my altissimo register just plain sucked (that’s what practicing is more like on a daily basis).

So even though I generally don’t play music outside of the classical genre, I looked forward to performing once more, to feeling those nerves and the adrenaline, to enjoy being shaken by the beauty of music.

My faith has been faltering; my spirit has struggled with finding purpose, my self-esteem with the ever-challenging demands and expectations of a PhD program. But today, playing for the worship service at the West Houston Seventh-day Adventist Church, I felt fulfilled. Making music, participating in worship, if only for a moment, I was home.

The Sabbath closes and I thank God for a much-needed reminder of who He is even as I am overwhelmed with, not doubt, but questions. And I am grateful for another chance to make and share music. I needed it.

Egoism and Belief in God

There is a great anonymous sonnet that comes back to mind often. There is a problem with it, though. I don’t think it’s the intent, but it makes me challenge my belief in God. Interestingly, it is not a sonnet against the existence of God. On the contrary, it is all for God, but not in the way I see many think of God.

The sonnet is originally in Spanish. Here is a translation I liked (I might have edited it slightly, or not. I don’t remember).

Sonnet to Christ Crucified
I am not moved, my God, to love You
by the heaven that You have promised me
and I am not moved either by hell so feared
as the reason to stop offending You.
You move me, my Lord, it moves me to see You
nailed to a cross and your flesh destroyed,
what moves me is to see your body so injured,
what moves me is your suffering and your death.
What moves me, finally, is your love, and in such way,
that even if there was no heaven, I would love You,
and even if there was no hell, I would fear You.
You need give me nothing for me to love you,
For even if I had no hope for things hoped for
I would love you the same as I love you.

I don’t know how this made you feel. The sonnet makes me go from a state of awe to one of reflection. Even if you had no hope for things hoped for (heaven and the new earth), would you love God the same?

Over and over, I hear people using heaven to counter anything that can challenge your belief in God (the new earth is used less often for some reason). If we talk about evil, we say there will be no evil in heaven. If we talk about how hard it is to follow Jesus, we mention heaven (a reward). If someone is doubting God, hey, you can find heaven in the finish line.

Is our love for God really just a yearning for utopia? Do we love God or is it just the promise of heaven (or new earth)?

If we are completely honest, we would have a difficult time answering those questions. If heaven is our true desire or what persuades us to follow Jesus, I’d argue we don’t really love God. It would mean we are not selfless but selfish when we choose to believe and obey.

Over the next weeks I will be writing on psychological egoism and Blaise Pascal’s wager and what that entails. It should be an interesting little series and I hope you can share your ideas with me, whether you talk to me, email me, or text me.