Here are my latest sermons (for the Sunday in between - Holy Trinity - we had a presentation from our JUMP team that went on a mission to Jamaica in January, so I did not preach):
I want to share some concert experiences of the past year, in reverse chronological order.
1. This past Friday, my whole family and I saw Lost and Found in concert in Pelican Rapids, MN. Now, if you do not know Lost and Found, you are missing out. It is a two person band, and they play the Speedwood style of music - think speed metal with an acoustic guitar and piano. It sounds strange, but their music really grows on you. Check out their website - www.speedwood.com
I cannot speak too highly of Lost and Found. Without too much hyperbole, they are perhaps the best theologian/songwriters since J.S. Bach. They distill a Lutheran theology of grace into high energy musical prayers or poems. My kids love them - we got to sit front row center. Their recent major albums - This, Something, Something Different, and Pronto - are destined to be classics. This was the fourth time I've seen them in concert, and they are a lot of fun to see live (at the Lutheran Youth Gathering in Atlanta in 2003, I and some of our church youth went to see them two nights in a row). They played in the Pelican Rapids High School gym, and how they interact with the crowd and improvise songs about their experience in each town and venue is amazing and hilarious. For example, the Pelican Rapids fight song lyrics were posted on the wall, and they worked out a Speedwood version of it.
Lost and Found is a small band in terms of fame - they are not selling out stadiums. They publish their own albums, and you can find them selling cd's and t-shirts with their manager after the show. But that also makes them extremely independent and approachable. Check out their concert schedule and find one near you.
2. My wife Mindy and I went to see Wilco in Fargo on May 1. They are simply amazing in concert. I was a fan of Uncle Tupelo from about 1992 (at the tail end of their short career), and have followed the music of Uncle Tupelo's children, Jay Farrar/Son Volt and Jeff Tweedy/Wilco, off and on since then. But, from bad timing and the busyness of life, this was the first time I've seen Wilco live. They played for almost three hours - coming back for three encores as the crowd went wild. Good songwriting, good musicianship, and tons of energy. Check them out at www.wilcoworld.net
3. Last summer, my family went on a road trip to Missouri to see my cousin John Schmalzbauer and his family. It was a wonderful trip. John is a sociologist of religion, with an interest (among others) in Ozark religion. He introduced us to his friends from the band Big Smith, a group of cousins who play Ozarks music with a fresh sound. They have some great albums, including a wonderful double album of children's music. We got to see them perform in an outdoor concert in Branson. Check them out at www.bigsmithband.com