We Are Called to Solve the Puzzle

Hello, Merry Mystics! My songwriting challenge continues with week three of my sermon series on the practical teachings of Jesus. This week’s message was about Jesus’ teachings on nonviolence, with several relevant scripture readings (Luke 13:31-34, Matthew 5:39-41, Luke 6:27-28, and Luke 22:47-53).The hymn I wrote to go with it is ”We Are Called to Solve the Problem.” I thought my congregation deserved a break from having to learn new melodies, so I used a well-known hymn tune (BEECHER) for this one.

I have been training in a martial art (Karatedo Doshinkan) for more than thirty years; I have a title degree (Renshi) and a sixth degree black belt. People sometimes ask me how it is possible to practice karatedo while also trying to follow the way of one who spoke of loving enemies and humbly turning the other cheek. I explain that it isn’t a problem for me, because the Doshinkan Karatedo tradition is not generally aggressive or showy. In fact, I find that these two parts of my life fit together quite well.

Each attack is like a puzzle to be solved: how can I resolve this situation with minimum force? How can I defend myself, and defend those who can’t defend themselves, while not doing unnecessary harm? To make it even trickier: how can I do all this, while helping the attacker on a path to health and wholeness? I don’t claim to be very good at such puzzles. But it seems to me that my training helps me learn to solve them—in a way that is entirely consistent with the teachings of Jesus, and of course with the teachings of many other religious traditions.

In the video performance of this song, my friend Ron McCutchan leads a congregation in singing; Charlie Gebeck is the accompanist. As always, the sheet music is available in our Free Stuff area.


We are called to solve the puzzle of each twisted human will.
We are called to heal attackers, not just hit back harder still.
We are called to find solutions to each fallen human state.
We are called to break the cycle of returning hate for hate. 

Every threat, a different answer, every lock, a different key.
Every evil act a challenge: how to set that person free.
Boldly speak the truth to power; meekly hear while others speak;
dauntlessly insist on justice; humbly turn the other cheek. 

Jesus taught an unexpected way to counter each attack:
outmaneuver each aggressor, giving no aggression back.
Even forced to walk a mile, simply walk that mile again.
Even though the fox is coming, simply be the mother hen. 

There is one who solves each puzzle, who can heal each fractured soul,
One who knows our incompleteness, knows the piece to fill each hole.
Knows the peace that makes us whole and, wholly holy, shows the way.
Called to learn that way, now let us to our Puzzle-Master pray.

2022-11-20T17:37:35-06:00November 20, 2022|0 Comments

Don’t Let It Go to Your Heart

Mellow greetings, Merry Mystics! My songwriting challenge continues with week two of my sermon series on the practical teachings of Jesus. This week’s message was about Jesus’ teachings on money, with several relevant scripture readings (Luke 19:1-10, Mark 10:17-25, John 12:3-5,7-8, and Matthew 6:24).The song I wrote to go with it is called “Don’t Let It Go to Your Heart”.

Depending on your definition of a hymn, maybe this isn’t one; it’s more like a ballad, albeit Christian and biblical. But we sang it together in church, and the congregation seemed to enjoy it.

In the video performance of this song, my wife Kelly Autrey-Webber leads a congregation in singing; Charlie Gebeck is the accompanist. As always, the sheet music is available in our Free Stuff area.

2022-11-14T10:46:46-06:00November 14, 2022|0 Comments

Let Worries Go

Hello, Merry Mystics!

I’ve started a sermon series in my church: between now and Christmas, I’m preaching exclusively about the practical teachings of Jesus. The first one, just in time for the worrisome election here in the USA, is about not worrying.

I wrote a new hymn to go with my sermon. Here’s the text:

Let Worries Go

Let worries go, my anxious heart!
Let peace remain and fear depart.
Within the present moment dwell,
Where God is near and all is well.

Release the futile, foolish fears
That blind the eyes and stop the ears.
The future-focused mind will miss
God’s present voice and present bliss. 

When joys abound and blessings flow,
In gratitude to God I’ll go.
When troubles come and times are tough,
I’ll go with God and that’s enough.

Oh, Jesus taught us not to care
What we would eat or drink or wear,
In each adventure to depend
On God to be our faithful friend.

To worry is to spoil and waste
A treasure that can’t be replaced,
A thing of high and holy worth:
A precious hour of life on earth.

In hymnody this form is called long meter: four-line stanzas of eight syllables each. In my hymnal, there are at least forty melodies that would fit, including, of course, the Old Hundredth (“Praise God from whom all blessings flow…”). But I thought the subject needed a more fun and unusual tune, so I used an old Scottish border ballad, “The Wraggle Taggle Gypsy.” In the video performance of this hymn, my friend Ron McCutchan leads a congregation in singing; Charlie Gebeck is the accompanist. As always, the sheet music is available in our Free Stuff area.

2022-11-07T07:53:14-06:00November 7, 2022|4 Comments

God Send You Liberation

Hello, my merry and mystical friends! Here’s a new song with a very old melody: “God Send You Liberation”. As always, sheet music is available in our Free Stuff area.

These are the lyrics:

God Send You Liberation

Awake, awake ye drowsy souls, and hear what I shall say.
Remember how your freedom felt before it fled away?
Unbound, unburdened, unafraid, before you were in chains?
So God send you liberation, never fear, never fear.
So God send you liberation, never fear.

Imprisoned now, ye drowsy souls, perceive your shrunken state.
Forgetting your eternal life, returning hate for hate,
Tied up in wealth, in fear of death, and many bonds beside.
So God send you liberation, never fear, never fear.
So God send you liberation, never fear.

Have you forgot, ye drowsy souls, your high and holy birth?
You are the great Creator’s child who made the heaven and earth,
And Jesus is your brother dear, who frees the sin-sick soul.
So God send you liberation, never fear, never fear.
So God send you liberation, never fear.

Fear not, fear not, ye drowsy souls, this bondage shall not stand.
No snare on earth has yet withstood God’s liberating hand.
Cast off your chains, shake off your drowsiness, and set all captives free.
So God send you liberation, never fear, never fear.
So God send you liberation, never fear.

2022-10-26T18:22:00-05:00October 26, 2022|4 Comments

what if you were humble

Mellow greetings, Merry Mystics! I decided not to preach a sermon in my church this week, and sang this little song instead. There is, of course, something shaky going on when I, Renshi the Reverend Doctor Adam Brooks Webber, proudly present a new song, written by me, about … humility. But I guess we’re all on the same shaky ground, every time we open our mouths. So if you will indulge me, here it is.

2022-08-14T10:16:20-05:00August 14, 2022|4 Comments

Pure Delight

Bright blessings, Merry Mystics! Here’s a new song I hope you’ll enjoy: “Pure Delight.” I introduced it as part of my sermon today.

I guess you can tell that my musical tastes were partly formed in the 70s. Wacka-chicka-wacka-chicka!

2022-06-26T17:38:31-05:00June 26, 2022|4 Comments

As the Loaf Is Broken Open

Do you know the eucharistic chant, “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence”?

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly-minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.

That’s a translation by Gerard Moultrie from the ancient Greek Liturgy of St. James. In the Episcopal churches of my childhood, we sang it as a communion hymn, using the Ralph Vaughan Williams arrangement of “Picardy”, a French medieval folk melody. It’s a haunting melody and an elegant arrangement, and I must admit that the words too are beautiful—but they don’t fit my idea of what communion is all about.

So, of course, I wrote words of my own. Here’s my wife, Kelly Autrey-Webber, leading the singing for a Sunday service:

Sheet music for “As the Loaf Is Broken Open” is available on our web site here. As usual, it may be freely downloaded and copies for noncommercial purposes.

2022-02-06T13:01:32-06:00February 5, 2022|1 Comment

Naked in the Hall of Scholars

This poem is from a book I’m working on now, a plea for lightweight Christianity. It’s mostly prose—pithy prose, I hope—but this is a sort of poetic interlude.

Naked in the Hall of Scholars

High up in the ceiling,
     a single skylight admits the sun.
Swirls of dust show where the shaft of light passes.

Filtering down through the dusty air,
     it shines on the restless bodies below.
The scholars turn and turn, massing like starlings,
     discussing the Second Coming, so long delayed.
The sound of their voices—male voices, mostly—
     rises and falls in sonorous waves,
     tohu wabohu, chaos in a sea of sound.

They strive together, one with another,
     a number of scholars that no man can number,
     masters of ancient tongues, makers of many books.
They argue without end about the ending of the world,
     their voices convening a great tribulation.

Popes in a long line speak from beneath their white canopies,
     pontifical Latin flowing from their lips.

In a corner, Karl Barth reads from his own works,
     in German, of course, precise and authoritative,
     from the six million words of his Church Dogmatics,
     and from the five hundredth page of his commentary
          on the Epistle to the Romans.
“Will there never be an end,” he demands,
     “of all our ceaseless talk
     about the delay of the Parousia?”

Seemingly not.

I see C. S. Lewis seated, patiently expounding,
     explaining it all so a child could follow,
          further up and further in.
He meets my gaze, his eyes disappointed,
     paternal, knowing me for a Susan.
“Let’s get this over with,” he says. “Take your seat.
The question is on the board.
You have one hour.”

Oh, God! I forgot there was a test today!
And that question on the board—Christ on a cracker!
Did we have to know Greek?
And now the professor of Greek from my seminary,
     observes my struggles with sad disappointment.
I remember some Greek, surely I do,
     but who can think, with all this arguing?
More eyes turn to me, and I realize:
     I not only forgot there was a test today,
     I forgot to put on my pants.
I am naked in the hall of scholars.

Rapture me … rapture me …
     oh, why have you forsaken me?

Then it happens, my prayer oddly answered.
Gracefully I begin to rise,
     floating upward through the dusty swirls of light.
Slowly I drift, up and away.
Slowly the voices and glances recede.

Slowly I rise,
     weightless, naked, no longer ashamed,
     washed ever upward by ripples of sound from below.
The voices fade, fade to a faintness.
Hours, maybe, pass unnoticed, until
     I bump, gently and gently,
          face to face with the still, dark ceiling.

Skimming the surface of the ceiling,
     I swim toward the source of the bright shaft.
Someone has left the skylight open.
A scent from Outside reaches me, shocks me.
Surely there is peace there, a blessing of peace.
Surely the sound of a playful breeze,
     moving over the face of the waters.
2022-01-14T07:49:42-06:00January 13, 2022|0 Comments

Altar Alteration

Hello, friends,

Here’s a mostly-musical video piece I made for the annual meeting of the Illinois Conference of the United Church of Christ. (Not sure they’ll be inviting me back!) It includes a song about how hard it is to change anything in church.

May you be blessed with a merry and mystical new year!

2022-01-02T16:33:22-06:00January 2, 2022|6 Comments

Wolf at the Door

Wolf at the Door, the third book in my fantasy romance series Tales of Corwin, is now available.

I finished Wolf at the Door while on vacation in New Hampshire. Yes, that is my idea of a vacation: getting to see more of my family … a little swimming … a little walking in the woods … a little listening to the loons … and a little writing of this kind. Not all writing refreshes and sustains me, but writing the Tales of Corwin does. I like the characters—most of them!—and I’ve enjoyed discovering and telling their story.

I hope you will enjoy reading it. It’s available from Amazon for Kindle and in paperback.

2021-09-20T14:41:14-05:00September 20, 2021|2 Comments
Go to Top