Rhythm (Redo)


I’ve been thinking about Advent today. It starts Sunday, you know. (For those of us at Word of Life it really starts Friday night with our Thanksgiving Communion Service and Christmas Tree Lighting.) Anyway, alert reader Gerald Lewis reminded me of this four and half year old post and it seems apropos. So with a few alterations, here is Rhythm (Redo).


Life is full of rhythm.

The daily rhythm of sunrise and sunset.
The seasonal rhythm of winter, spring, summer, fall.
The lunar rhythm seen in the cycles of the moon.

When we consider the human body we can say life is rhythm.
The steady rhythm of breathing.
The syncopated rhythm of the heart.
The many rhythms of a healthy body.
When your body is out of rhythm you are sick.
If the rhythm is not restored you are dead.

Art is rhythm.
Dance is rhythm
Poetry is rhythm.
Music is rhythm.
(Pitch is the varying rhythms of frequency.)
Is symmetry (the essence of beauty) a kind of rhythm?

Strength is rhythm.
The engine in your car is a machine for maintaining rhythm.
When your car is out of rhythm you take it to the mechanic.
One of the secrets to climbing a mountain is rhythm.
It’s easier to climb a mountain with rhythm than in fits and starts.

If String Theory is right…
(The quantum world consists of single-dimensional oscillating strings.)
…the entire physical universe is rhythm.

But we have lost our rhythm.

Modern life is designed to wreck rhythm.
No longer do we rise and set with the sun.
Our frenzied lives seem to lack a sense of rhythm.
Time is a jet plane, it moves too fast.

I’m just back from India and still feeling the effects of moving too fast. Jet lag is the general malaise that comes from moving so fast that you are no longer in time with the rhythms of the sun and your own body. Jet lag isn’t just fatigue — it’s the sensation that you are out of sync. Could it be that the entire modern world suffers from a kind of cultural jet lag?

Many of the laws given to Israel were designed to establish a holy rhythm.
The daily sacrifices, seasonal feasts and most of all the weekly Sabbath.
Rabbinic scholars will tell you the cornerstone of Jewish life is the Sabbath.

Sabbath controversy more than any other thing set Jesus and the Pharisees at odds. Jesus was not liberalizing the sabbath laws, but doing something far more radical: Claiming to be Lord of the Sabbath! And that the holy day of weekly worship immediately moved from the seventh day to the first day for the first Jewish followers of Jesus is one of the most compelling evidences for the resurrection. Yes, there is a perpetual Sabbath rest of grace entered into by faith, but there is also a rhythmic holy day called the Lord’s Day. We call it Sunday.

This Sunday is a special Sunday. On this Sunday we will leave ordinary time behind and enter into the holy days (holidays) of Advent — the sacred countdown to Christmas where we re-live and re-tell the story of the coming of Messiah.

Observing the Christian calendar given to us by the church is not only a way to subvert secularism, it is also a means of adding sacred rhythm to our annual migration around the sun: Advent, Christmas (with its twelve day celebration), Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, Pentecost. Then it’s Ordinary Time until we return to Advent to begin a new sacred calendar with the anticipation of Messiah. As Christians called to be a peculiar people we have a peculiar calendar that is based on the story of Jesus’ life. Our observance of this calendar beckons us to enter into the Jesus story and find ever-deeper nuances of salvation. It also give us rhythm — sacred rhythm.

Remember, health is rhythm.

You need holy rhythms in your life.
A rhythm of prayer.
A rhythm of scripture.
A rhythm of worship.
A rhythm of communion.
A rhythm of calendar.

Weekly communion is an ancient rhythm of the church.
I wasn’t raised in the ancient tradition of the weekly rhythm of communion.
But beginning with Advent this year we will embrace the weekly sacred meal.
I’m now convinced the sacred meal is an essential part of spiritual health.

The Lord’s day is central to maintaining holy rhythm.
The Son of Man altered the holy day, but he didn’t eliminate it.
Communal worship on the Lord’s day is the central rhythm of the saints.

During the French Revolution the atheistic revolutionaries implemented the French Republican Calendar — a calendar with a ten day week. It was observed for twelve years (1793-1805). It was adopted in large part to cause people to forget Sunday and thereby forget Christianity. The French revolutionary atheists knew how important Sunday is to the Christian faith.

Do you?

May GOD keep us centered and devoted to Him,
Following the life path He has cleared,
Watching the signposts, walking at the pace and rhythms
He laid down for our ancestors.
(1 Kings 8:58 NLT)

In the madness of modern life which has little or no sense of natural and divine rhythm, the Sunday gathering of the saints is a kind of spiritual defibrillator to re-establish holy rhythm.

It’s all about rhythm.
Life, health, physics, strength, art, beauty, devotion, worship…
They all require rhythm.

Disrhythm is disease.
Disease of the body, the soul, the mind, the spirit, the culture.
Jesus restores rhythm.

The etymology of rhythm is from the Greek rhein: to flow
Rhythm makes life flow.
Jesus flows with rhythm.

In the Hebrew rhythm is related to tambourine.
Then Miriam the prophetess took a tambourine
And led all the women in rhythm and dance.

(In this verse tambourine and rhythm are same word.)
Jesus is the Tambourine Man who leads us in the dance.

In the Message Bible Eugene Peterson gives us a rather loose, but spiritually accurate and deeply profound paraphrase of Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28-29…

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?
Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.
I’ll show you how to take a real rest.
Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it.
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

The unforced rhythms of grace.
To live light and free…
We must learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

Jesus, teach us!
Jesus, teach us to dance.
Jesus, cast your dancing spell our way,
We promise to go under it.

Think of life as rhythm.
Think of faith as a dance.
Think of Jesus as the Tambourine Man.

Find the rhythm of grace…
And dance!



Jesus really is the Tambourine Man.
Even if the poet didn’t understand the prophecy at first.
Poetry is close enough to prophecy
That poets don’t always know when they are prophetic.
G.K. Chesterton said something about this…
About poetry being the loftiest form of knowledge.
(I think it was in The Everlasting Man.)

Mr. Tambourine Man
Bob Dylan

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me,
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to.
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me,
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you.

Though I know that evenin’s empire has returned into sand,
Vanished from my hand,
Left me blindly here to stand but still not sleeping.
My weariness amazes me, I’m branded on my feet,
I have no one to meet
And the ancient empty street’s too dead for dreaming.

Take me on a trip upon your magic swirlin’ ship,
My senses have been stripped, my hands can’t feel to grip,
My toes too numb to step, wait only for my boot heels
To be wanderin’.
I’m ready to go anywhere, I’m ready for to fade
Into my own parade, cast your dancing spell my way,
I promise to go under it.

Though you might hear laughin’, spinnin’, swingin’ madly across the sun,
It’s not aimed at anyone, it’s just escapin’ on the run
And but for the sky there are no fences facin’.
And if you hear vague traces of skippin’ reels of rhyme
To your tambourine in time, it’s just a ragged clown behind,
I wouldn’t pay it any mind, it’s just a shadow you’re
Seein’ that he’s chasing.

Then take me disappearin’ through the smoke rings of my mind,
Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves,
The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach,
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow.
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free,
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands,
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves,
Let me forget about today until tomorrow.

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me,
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to.
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me,
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you.

(The artwork is Dance-Painting by Alain Briot)