Posts Tagged worship music

Behold Your King

I was reading in John 19 this morning where Pilate is interviewing Jesus. There was a phrase that struck me this time reading it. Pilate brings Jesus out to the crowd and sarcastically says, “Behold Your King.” All of a sudden I had “O Holy Night” in my head which uses that phrase in a much different way. It started me on the process of writing a song about the humiliation of Jesus, in his ministry, his trial and his death. He is our king and we follow him into that same process of humiliation.

Side note: I was using a thesaurus website at points to get different ideas and I found that Christians have a very different understanding of the words humble or meek. I often take it for granted that these are positive qualities even in our culture. However, the synonyms for these words reveal that our culture hates these qualities. No wonder this world despised and rejected Christ Jesus as well.

Here’s the song in the 1st draft form. No music for it yet.

Behold your king
Behold your king
Impoverished and despised
His kingdom is not recognized
By the Spirit’s power he’s led
With no place to lay his head
Born into our suffering
Behold your king

Behold your king
Behold your king
Arrested and abused
Now falsely he’s accused
He stands refugee from
A kingdom yet to come
But now stripped of everything
Behold your king

Behold your king
Behold your king
Tortured and alone
A suffering servant to atone
He exhales his final breath
The sun is shrouded in his death
His blood becomes our offering
Behold you king

Behold your king
Behold your king
Vindicated, glorified
He has risen! He’s alive!
His kingdom now reality
Death has lost it’s victory
Hear the nations stand to sing
Behold your king

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Review: Doxa “Centered”

Gospel music is good stuff. I’m a fan. I have been deeply affect by gospel over the years. Especially the music of Fred Hammond, Kirk Franklin, Richard Smallwood, Hezekiah Walker, the Hawkins, the Clarks, Andrae Crouch, Israel Houghton, Kurt Carr, Tye Tribbett, the list goes on. Lately, I’ve been uninspired. There seems to be a very strong commercial drive to get the next hit. I realize that this is nothing new in the global marketplace of pop music and the “Christian” sub-genres have been absorbed into that same stream. In fact, after spending weeks listening to new releases, I heard a 1984 recording of Edwin Hawkins, Taste and See and it was like a breath of fresh air to hear a song so thoughtfully composed.

With that being said, it’s very refreshing to hear this recording from DOXA, CenteredDOXA is the name of the worship music ministry of Dr. Eric Mason‘s church Epiphany Fellowship. My dad recommend this to me and the first thing I heard when I previewed it was the glorious horn parts and lush changes. Yes, Lord! Looking into it more deeply through the handy lyrics link on their website, I found that several of the songs were actually written or co-written by “holy hip hop” artist, Shai Linne. How cool is that? Can we start seeing more lyricists lending their gifts to creating congregational music? There seems to be a strong sense of collaboration between the lyricist, the musical director (Aaron Johnson, I think), and the pastor who also sings on the recording. Less stars, more community. They have included a few good examples of using creativity combined with congregational considerations. Hymns and popular tunes covered and rearranged without losing their familiarity. There’s a freshness to this recording that brings to mind the music of next gen black artists like Robert Glasper, Esperanza Spalding,  or even the band-for-music-geeks, Snarky Puppy.

I’m not sure that I’ve picked on that I can use at New City Fellowship. I’m going to listen for a few weeks and see what sticks with me.

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Church Music: a functional art (revised)

I’m re-reading “Jubilate II: Church Music in Worship and Renewal” by Donald P. Hustad. I first read it in High School for a bible class (Actually, I might not have read the whole book.) I remember at the time that the book made me a little angry. It’s a scholarly text written by a guy who was obviously not happy about how church music was changing at the end of the 20th century. Now, that I’m a mature adult, I’m reading it with a little more of an open mind toward constructive criticism.

In the second chapter, Hustad presents the idea that Church music is a functional art as opposed to “pure” art. Functional art could be something like pottery which is beautiful but also fulfills a function (like coffee container). Functional are is architecture, advertising, graphic design, journalism – you get the idea. “Pure” art would be the music of the concert hall or art in a gallery or museum which exists to communicate a philosophical idea or something. One could argue that there is no such thing as “pure” art that has no ulterior “function” but I’ll not go down that rabbit hole for the moment.

Understanding Church music as a functional art helps  to keep our music focused on the goals for which its intended. Here are the various functions that Hustad postulates (the Greek makes it sound super-theological):

1. Worship (leitourgia) – communication between God and His people, a sacrifice of praise

  • “Holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty/ Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee”
  • “We lift our hands in the sanctuary/ we lift our hands to give you the glory”

2. Proclamation of the gospel (kerygma) – the call to respond in faith to God’s word and the good news of the kingdom

  • “Come ye sinners poor and needy weak and wounded sick and sore/ Jesus ready stands to save you full of pity joined with power”
  • “O Church arise and put your armor on, hear the call of Christ our Captain”

3. Christian education (didache) – teaching good theology to ourselves

  • “They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength/ they shall mount up on wings like and eagle and soar”
  • “I am free; I’m forgiven by your work on Calvary / You gave me life worth living now the chains are broken, chains are broken”

4. Pastoral care (diakonia) – the priestly, shepherding service of healing broken hearts 

  • “Heal my heart and make it clean / open up my eyes to the things unseen / show me how to love like you have loved me”
  • “I know that I can make it / I know that I can stand / no matter what may come my way / my life is in Your hands”

5. Fellowship (koinonia) – experiencing music together, sharing our songs to build our bond of unity

  • “Let the doors swing open to the house of faith / every tribe and nation; every tongue and race”
  • “I need you, you need me / We’re all a part of God’s body… you are important to me / I need you to survive”

The idea is that the songs we sing in church should fulfill at least one of these roles. You can imagine that some churches might emphasize one function over others. For example, a shoutin’ church might sing songs focused on “worship” while neglecting “Christian education” while a more bookish church might do the opposite.

Problems? I’m concerned as always with the tendency of American-mainstream folks to analyze the worth of music from non-American-mainstream through the filter of it’s own values. Using Greek words that come from the New Testament doesn’t necessarily mean that our ideas are “big-T” truth that transcends cultures. Would another culture include other functions like spiritual warfare, celebration, prophetic confrontation, etc ? Or are those sub-categories of Hustad’s functions?


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A new worship song “This Is The Day” by Forever Jones

We added this song to our repertoire this summer. I love that Forever Jones is “a family band”, and this song is a great reflection of that. It’s clearly derived from the music of the 70s – mom and dad’s culture. However, the youthful voices give it a fresh vibe, too. The words are a nice collection of scripture that celebrate the day of the Lord, a day of victory and kingdom reign, and blessings that we receive as his chosen family. It also happens to be one of the infectiously dance-able songs I’ve ever heard. I have to give credit to Joshua Saleem for sharing this tune with me; he’s always looking for tunes with amazing brass sections.

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The Songs of God

When I was in college, I was subbing for a friend in a large jazz ensemble. I was one of about 25 instruments playing together. Guitar in an ensemble that size is expected to play “Freddie Green” style – quarter note, down strokes, chords made of 1,3,7.  It’s basically like playing the cow bell. On this particular night, Wynton Marsalis  was in Knoxville playing a show, and he happened to show up with his band to our gig for some drinks. Eventually, someone convinced him to sit in with us and play a blues. So, I can say that I “jammed” with Wynton. I was not much more involved in the process than the guy mixing drinks at the bar, but still, it was a surreal moment.

God sings. God is sitting in with us. God is in the choir and the band. He sings with the same voice that spoke the universe into existence with a word. When the ransomed bride of Christ gathers together to worship, we sing and make music together. Our songs resound in harmony with the resounding song of God over us, with us and through us.

The Father sings a song of joy and mercy over us. 

Zephaniah 3:17 – The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.

 Jesus leads his holy family in songs of adoration to the Father. 

Hebrews 2: 11-12 –  Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. He says, “I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters; in the assembly I will sing your praises.”

The Holy Spirit fills us our hearts to overflowing with robust songs of thanksgiving. 

Ephesians 5:18-20 –  Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.




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