Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Riff God, Part 2

*This is Part 2 of the previous post "Riff God"...

Here’s how it works.

Like riffs in rock n’ roll, God’s riffs are little bits that point to the bigger song. And what they are ultimately pointing to are God’s kingdom and God himself. Like rock’s riffs, these riffs might be interesting by themselves, but they are most interesting and significant to the extent that they point to the divine songs. So, for example, something like justice is important all by itself. But it takes on a more profound and eternal significance when it reveals something about God, that he is just. And then, when we pick up on the image riff—that humans are made to bear God’s image—then that justice riff becomes personal as we begin playing it ourselves. Our lives resonate with God’s life as we play his riffs. We become part of his songs. Yes! That’s where the fist-pumping starts!

We are riff people, made to be consumed by God-riffs 
and to be swept up into kingdom songs.

So, riffs like justice and beauty and care and peace—all nice tunes by themselves—become eternal ROCK! when we hear them in God and start playing them with our lives. I’ve had strange dreams every so often while drifting off with music playing. The music is instrumental usually—John Coltrane or something—and I’ll dream that I’m talking to someone, but what’s coming out of my mouth is what’s coming out of Trane’s sax. So I’m talking but it’s this glorious, tumbling saxophone music that is coming out. It’s your typical weird sort of dream, but it’s what I’m getting at here. God is a riff God. And we—made in his image—are riff people, made to be consumed by God-riffs and to be swept up into kingdom songs.

And this is why riffs get so discordant when they are pulled out of the divine songs. They seem okay at first. But then justice becomes street-justice, eye-for-an-eye vengeance. Beauty becomes self-indulgent obsession and superficial lust. Care of creation becomes pagan nature-worship and care of others becomes dehumanizing institutionalization. And even peace becomes a schmaltzy live-and-let-live homogenization that is apathetic toward truth and the deeper issues that divide.
            But resounding with the Creator, the Redeemer, the sanctifying Sustainer, these riffs become the very music of God’s kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven (I think I heard that one somewhere). The same way you know “Money for Nothing” by Mark Knopfler’s buzz-saw guitar riff, so the world begins to know God by listening to the lives of people who have begun to play his songs. 

            And like a kid sitting in his bedroom with the guitar he got for Christmas, banging out elementary riffs like “Iron Man” and “Smoke On the Water,” we learn gradually—maybe treating our family and friends justly, making peace with everyday adversaries. The kid moves on to “Wanted Dead or Alive” and “Crazy Train”—we learn the beauty of worship and to care for our elders. And so it goes as the maturing young riffer hits “Purple Haze” and “Walk This Way” and chord-based riffs that make his hands hurt like stuff by the Police and U2. We maturing Christians learn to put others before ourselves and to affirm the value of the lowly and to recognize the beauty of things that are only made beautiful in God’s grace. Our lives become God-music. We learn the love riff, and it hurts more than our hands. And no one knows this better than the riff God.

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