Oddwalk Ministries

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Oddwalk Ministries exists to help young and old alike embrace Jesus, Justice, and Joy through fun, upbeat and interactive music and witnessing. We share a message of community, participation, and mission with every group.

Shannon and Orin would love the opportunity to share the Gospel in our unique way with the people of your diocese, parish, school, group or organization. We have presented in a variety of venues and settings (Catholic, Christian, and secular; ten people to many thousands) and are ready to be a part of your next rally, convention, mission, prayer service, concert, or retreat.

Listen to a playlist of our music from our three most recent CDs below!

Living The Justice of the Sunday Scriptures

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Hi all. Shannon and Orin both are contributors at anygivensundayproject.org once or twice and year, and in fact have back-to-back reflections on the Sunday scriptures there right now. Orin wrote a bit about yesterday’s challenging Gospel passage, and Shannon wrote about this coming Sunday’s readings. We’ve posted theme here as well. But, keep visiting anygivensundayproject.org for more great weekly reflections from our peers in itinerary ministry!



Readings of Sept. 24, 2017, 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reflection by Orin Johnson

Have you heard of “First World Problems” before? I bet you have. Those are the issues that people complain and even whine about which, in the broader overview of things, aren’t really that big of a deal. Things like “Dad, you got me the wrong color of iPhone for Christmas!” Or, “I really hate it when there’s too much pepperoni on my pizza.”

When someone tells me about how their pizza had too much meat on it, I have a go-to response. I put a knowing smile on my face, and with just the tiniest hint of condescension, I reply, “I know, that must be so hard for you, especially after having to spend that 14 hour shift in the coal mine….” That gets adapted, of course, for each various circumstance.

Now, there are probably better – and more Christian – ways to get the same point across, But it effectively makes the person realize that whatever their complain it, it is in actuality not all that terrible after all.

The Gospel for this particular Sunday seems to perhaps have some laborers who might, in their own way, be complaining about first-world problems. They were hired to do a job, see, and for a certain wage. Then, other labors come in and start work much later in the day. At the end of the day, though, all receive the same wage, regardless of how long any of them were working in the vineyard.

It’s always a bit of a trap to try to explain parables too specifically, to try to map out all the analogies and the who’s-who of the people presented in them. I think it is safe to say, however, that this parable speaks of God’s amazing and generous love for all, and that God’s ways, as we hear elsewhere in scripture, are not our ways, and far beyond our understanding.

Maybe you were a student who had to work and study for long hours just to get the same grade on a test as the student beside you who barely opened his or her textbook. Perhaps you are someone who works in fast-food, and can’t understand why your paycheck each week is a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the compensation the head of your company gets. We all long for justice in situations like these and many more, though our understanding of justice must be formed by our faith – and even when it is, it must be tempered by mercy. AND, even when it is all those things, it may still not seem to match up with God’s enacting of boundless love. We need only look to the cross to see how God’s justice, mercy, and love don’t always match what we think they ought to be.

The Kingdom of Heaven Jesus speaks of in this parable – and all the others – is beyond our fullest understanding: this is one of the reasons Jesus speaks of the Reign of God in parables. Yet we are not free to stop pursuing it; rather God calls us to be as giving and prodigious as God over and over again shows us that God is. How will you, today, be generous in the name of God?



Readings of Oct. 1, 2017, 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reflection by Shannon Cerneka

Fairness is a tricky word.

As a Christian, I should long for a world designed to be fair for everyone. A fair world would mean that none of the world’s population would lack access to basic needs like healthy food, adequate shelter, safe drinking water, employment that offers a living wage, affordable healthcare, and basic human rights. Bringing about this type of a reality would require a herculean effort, sacrifice, and a spirit of cooperation among world leaders and the world’s population. It’s the type of thing that seems almost impossible to imagine. Still, desiring and working toward a world where everyone has enough is an important part of being a disciple of Jesus.

Things change, though, when I begin to consider the word ‘fairness’ from a more self-centered point of view. I can’t tell you how often I’ve felt put out because someone landed a job I thought I should have or someone else got invited to more parties than I did. I hear it from my kids, too.

“Daaaaaad, you NEVER take us to Sonic”

“Why can’t I have a friend spend the night?

“I don’t want to clean. We ALWAYS have to clean!”

I’m sure my kids and I could create a list of these moments and statements that would be as lengthy as it would be embarrassing. My point is that there are often striking and revealing differences exposed when we consider fairness for others as opposed to our daily more self-centered sense of fairness. For this scripture reflection, I want to focus on this week’s First Reading and Gospel. In both of these passages, we are presented with a choice: see the world through God’s eyes or see the world through our own eyes.

In the First Reading from Ezekiel, we are asked to consider what happens when someone sins. Back when Ezekiel was walking the earth, it was believed that if someone experienced suffering or death on earth, it was the direct result of their ancestors’ sins, going back many generations. This belief was a great source of oppression and further suffering for many of God’s people over the centuries. God, through Ezekiel, suggests a different way: individual responsibility. If we are to pay the penalty for sin (death), it will be the result of our own individual sinfulness and not the culmination of bad deeds performed by members of our family tree, many of whom we could not possibly have ever known. Through this new understanding of sin and personal responsibility given to us by Ezekiel, God demands true justice and fairness for God’s people.

The Gospel also challenges God’s people to reconsider how they classify fairness. Combined with last week’s Gospel about the vineyard owner, we are left with many questions to consider: What difference does it make when someone chooses to begin living righteously? Is turning one’s life around by choosing to follow Jesus not enough? Must that person be penalized somehow or made to feel less than because they came to do the right thing at a later point in their life than another person? At the moment of Jesus’ ministry highlighted in this passage, Jesus is trying to make the point that these religious leaders are getting too hung up on laws and traditions, which is causing them to miss the whole reason God caused that faith (which underpins those laws and traditions) to be: Help people repent from their sinful ways and turn to God. He even needles them a bit by suggesting that tax collectors and sinners are entering heaven before them. This kind of speak would have been unheard of at that time. It’s one of the many things that ultimately led to Jesus’ arrest and death sentence.

So, what are we to make of all of this? To me, through these readings, God is challenging us to look at all laws and societal norms through God’s eyes and not our own. We are being challenged to set aside our own selfishness and focus on God and others. When we do that, when we choose to work towards a more fair and just world, we will inevitably lead lives more pleasing to God.

Sir We Would See Jesus

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I started writing songs in 1995, when I was twenty years-old. I truly had no idea what I was doing, of course. I knew I liked the challenge of creating something new, but lacked any real knowledge of poetry and/or music theory. In those days, I would simply write the best song I could and…

Does God Remain Hidden If I Remain Silent?

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Recently, I’ve ruffled a few feathers on my personal social media accounts.  While I certainly don’t enjoy making people uncomfortable, recent national and world events have propelled me to be a lot more politically outspoken than I had been before. My new mission has two parts. 1. Share my thoughts and views in an articulate…

Are You God?

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School is back in session at the parish where I, Orin, am music director. Sometime near the beginning of each school year, we gather the entire student body, PreK-8th Grade, in the Church to go over some music that we’ll be using at some upcoming Masses; that day this year was this past Thursday afternoon,…

Guest Blogger: A Christian Astronomer Reflects on the Total Solar Eclipse

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Andy Pucket, PhD

(This article was written to be published this coming Monday, August 21, but we decided to post it a few days early due to the tremendous interest in the upcoming total solar eclipse.)

My name is Andy Puckett, and I’m a professional astronomer. When I look at the world around me, I tend to see the big picture. The Sun “rises and sets” because the Earth rotates. Seasons change due to the tilt of the Earth’s axis. The position and phase of the Moon are based on the predictable motions of the Moon and the Earth. And all of these are based on the physical laws of the universe: motion, gravitation, acceleration.

I am also a Christian, so I see God’s hand in all of this. I know that He doesn’t move the moons and planets capriciously. I see the order and predictability of their motions. And I believe that God wrote the underlying laws of motion, and that he also gave me the curiosity to try to understand them.

Today (August 21st), many of you may get to see a total eclipse of the Sun. That’s when the Moon gets directly between the Earth and the Sun, and you find yourself in the darkest part of the Moon’s shadow. The Moon is 400 times smaller than the Sun but also 400 times closer, which is the happy “coincidence” that makes this amazing event possible. But the Moon’s orbital plane doesn’t line up perfectly with the Earth’s, which is what prevents solar eclipses from being regular monthly events.

It’s very rare that a total solar eclipse passes within driving distance of your house, and even rarer for one to pass directly over where you live. If you do happen to be within the 70-mile wide “path of totality” today, you’re in for a treat!  For up to 2 minutes 40 seconds, it will become as dark as night; the wind will get cooler and change direction; the solar corona will pop into view; and everyone around you will know that they’ve experienced something extraordinary.

Total Solar Eclipse

I’m a scientist, and there’s great science to be done during an eclipse, but that’s not my plan for today. I’ve been looking forward to this eclipse for 20 years, so I’m going to just take it all in. And I’m going to make sure my family gets to experience it safely, including my brother-in-law Shannon and all of our kids. I hope to help them see the big picture, and God’s hand in all of it.

A note from Shannon about this week’s article:

Andy Puckett is my brother-in-law and the Assistant Professor of Astrophysics at Columbus State University in Columbus, GA. Andy is also a practicing Catholic and is perhaps more excited than anyone else I know about the much-anticipated Total Solar Eclipse, set to dazzle us this Monday. For this article, Orin and I asked Andy to do an eclipse-related followup to Orin’s joy-themed article from a few weeks ago, entitled “Ongoing Creation”.  In that article, Orin asked the question: “What is it that you are doing these days, using the creative gifts given you, at the service of God and the Church?”  In our view, through the witness of his Catholic faith and the joyful enthusiasm with which he shares his knowledge of our physical universe, Andy is daily answering God’s call to glorify God with his life.  We thank Andy for taking the time to write this for us.

Guardians of Hope

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“Our Hope, Our Everything”

Certain current events are understandably troubling and causing a bit of concern if you’re like us. Whether it’s the threat of war with North Korea or Venezuela, or the recent events in Charlottesville, many people have heavy hearts and some amount of anxiety about what the future holds.

At Sts. Joachim and Ann, where I (Orin) am the music director, each year the day school and the whole religious education program focus on a certain theme for the year.  And, for several years now, I have written a song to flesh out that theme and help it to dwell in the hearts and lives of the students and faculty.  One of these, “Alive in Love, Alive in God” is on our most recent Oddwalk CD.

This year’s theme at J&A is “Guardians of Hope” – which happens to tie in to an anti-bullying program at school as well.  As I pondered what the text could be for this new piece of music, I started asking myself what it meant to be a guardian of hope – how we do that in any practical way.  Especially framed by current events, the question took on particular urgency and relevance.

When it comes to recognizing hope, seeing it around us, offering it to others – all this, of course, begins and ends with God: God’s creating us in God’s own image and likeness, Christ’s self-sacrificing love, and how we recognize both of these things in those around us and what it then propels us to do.

If we truly saw each human being as created in the image and likeness of the One who created all things, and if we truly believe that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was for the redemption of all who choose to accept that amazing gift and is also our model for loving one another, we would never again be able to wage war, nor would we be able to see ourselves as superior to any other human being.

In short, being a guardian of hope means we recognize the Christian dignity in those around us (and in ourselves) and loving like Christ loved.  And, that’s what my new song tries to say.

Click the picture above – or right here – to view or download a PDF of it, and click here to listen to a demo recording quickly made one afternoon late last week at Church.  If you like, please feel free to use the song – for catechesis, for prayer, for any need it might fill.

And may we all be guardians of hope this year.

Ongoing Creation

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The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: 306 God is the sovereign master of his plan. But to carry it out he also makes use of his creatures’ co-operation. This use is not a sign of weakness, but rather a token of almighty God’s greatness and goodness. For God grants his creatures not only their…

We’re writing a book!

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Hey everyone! Shannon and Orin are excited to announce that… wait for it… we’re writing a book! If you had not guessed from the title of this post, seeing some news on social media that led you here, or from this super-cool graphic, we’ll say it again – we’re writing a book!

It will be published next July by Twenty-Third Publications, a division of Bayard which specializes in books and devotionals for nourishing your spirituality and celebrating the liturgical year, as well as the newest resources to help you lead and guide your parish community.

Our book has a working title of “Praying and Living the Faith Through the Year” and is a collection of twenty interactive prayer services on various Church themes and celebrations as well as other special times during a school year. Each service has suggested music, prayers, scripture, and interactive, prayerful activities to help bring faith to life. While the “target audience” for this book is middle-school-aged youth and those that minister to them, this collection should also be useful for other ages, as well as other situations, like youth ministry and family units.

Here’s the rundown (for now) on “chapters” the resource will have:

• Welcome to Teachers/Staff/Students (Community)
• For Grandparents (Generations, Wisdom)
• At a time of tragedy (Consolation)
• All Saints (Communion of Saints)
• All Souls (Deceased Family and Friends, Tradition)
• Thanksgiving (Gratitude to God)
• Christ the King (Dominion, Sovereignty)
• Advent (Waiting in Joyful Hope)
• Immaculate Conception / Guadalupe (Mary, Dignity)
• Christmas (Incarnation)
• Discipleship (Learning, Following)
• Before an Exam (Peace, Assurance)
• Ash Wednesday (Repentance)
• Lent (Returning to God, Conversion)
• Holy Week (Suffering, Obedience, Cross)
• Easter (Resurrection, New Life)
• Mercy (Divine Mercy)
• Ascension (Church and Our Mission)
• Pentecost (Holy Sprit, Gifts of the Spirit)
• At Graduation (Transitions)

Each chapter will also include some introductory material from us, for those putting together each service.

We feel this resource will pull together strongly many aspects of Oddwalk’s varied ministries – storytelling, humor, prayer, music, retreats – and hopefully be a welcome and successful resource for many folks helping to lead the young Church on their journeys to and with God.

Watch this space for more updates, especially as the project gets closer to completion! We can’t be more excited to be working with 23rd, and can’t wait for you to be able to hold this book in your hands – and use it!

Joy at NPM

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Hi all, Orin here, continuing his usual busy summer of acronyms: a couple weeks ago was YSP, this week is the annual convention for NPM, National Association of Pastoral Musicians.  (Next week is another YNIA which Shannon and I will do together, Shannon already told you about one of those.) Anyway, yesterday was travel day, which is why this Jesus-Justice-Joy post is a day later than usual.

Just as YSP brought me a certain joy (which a tired me told you a tiny bit about in a video), every year NPM brings me a joy as well. While of course I am a church music director in addition to my Oddwalk fun, I’m here this week also as a composer of music for the Church as well.

Here’s a photo from the exhibit hall last night of a book from GIA that both Shannon and I have songs published in, called Crossgeneration.

 

Knowing it’s selfish mostly, it does bring me a bit of joy to see that music that I and Shannon have written in print – but beyond my own ego, part of that joy is it being still available to the wider Church to help them pray in song. (I hope to sneak photos of other octavos in print with WLP and OCP later today!)

Another joy this week is being able to reconnect in person with so many other composers I have gotten to know over recent years. There is a certain fellowship and camaraderie in that particular group of people, with a particular ministry to and for the Church.  Here are a few of us out to dinner last night, photo credit to Kate Basi.

 

Sharp eyes will see my wife Erin in the photo. Another joy is being able to spend a chunk of this week with her, taking a little personal time here and there to just be us, away from home and most of the responsibilities and worries there.

All of these joys are rooted in Christ and my faith in him.  It is Christ who gathers, who forms community, and gives us talents to praise him in song.  St. Augustine purportedly once said that “The one who sings prays twice.”  If so – and I think that’s right – there’s a whole lotta prayin’ goin’ on in Cincinnati this week at NPM.  Thanks for reading!  —Orin

That’s Extraordinary!

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In case you forgot…

You know what ordinal numbers are, right? Well, you probably do even if you don’t know that’s what they’re called. Ordinal numbers are the ones we put st, nd, and rd behind: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. They’re the ones that describe the position of something, usually in a list.

Ordinal numbers are the reason that the upcoming 6 month stretch of the Church year is called Ordinary Time — you know, 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time and all that. Now, Ordinary Time following Pentecost does start with the celebrations of the Holy Trinity and the Most Holy Body and Blood, but it’s still Ordinary Time.

The point is, it’s not Ordinary Time, as in something commonplace or normal; it’s not Ordinary Time because it’s not Advent, Christmas, Lent, or Easter; it *is* Ordinary Time because the Sundays and weeks are counted. That’s all.

Yet, I knew one priest years ago who insisted on calling it “Extraordinary Time.” He didn’t get into all the mumbo-jumbo about ordinal numbers, he simply referenced what is indeed true about all these coming Sundays, particularly the Gospel passages we will hear at those Masses. The Gospels are always about what Jesus said and did in this world; these upcoming Ordinary Time Gospels are all about Jesus teaching us to be disciples. That’s why this particular priest liked the expression “Extraordinary Time.” It’s a 6 month length of time where, if we pay attention and are open, Jesus teaches us still today what it means to be his follower and his witness in a modern world.

I don’t know that I personally like the expression, but I appreciate the motivation behind it. How will this summer be extraordinary for you, as a person of faith, as we count our way through many weeks of Ordinary Time? I suggest by really focusing on what Jesus teaches his faithful Sunday after Sunday, and living it each week to the best of our abilities. Happy Summer everyone!

—Orin