I LOVE music, but especially orchestral (i.e. Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Chopin, etc.) and jazz. I enjoy diving deep into the the chaotic order of rhythms, syncopation, melody, harmony, lyrical expression, instrumental nuance, etc. While studying music at the University of North Texas, one of the highlights of my college experience was Wednesday nights in the pub underneath the student union. Each week, students could become immersed in mind-mending jazz from one of UNT’s nine jazz bands in an incredibly intimate setting. It shaped my understanding of what music could be. You can get a sample of the experience by watching the video of the One O’Clock Jazz Band (enjoy).
As I listen to music performed as such a high level, I experience something of the Divine. It re-orients me to the transcendent glory of God as I experience a foretaste of what one day will be. This is also the fount from which I write music. However, I write music that is a response the the scripture that is stored up in my heart, primarily for congregational singing. One of my favorite theologians, Karl Barth, wrote:
The Christian church sings. It is not a choral society. Its singing is not a concert. But from inner, material necessity it sings. Singing is the highest form of human expression…. What we can and must say quite confidently is that the church which does not sing is not the church. And where… it does not really sing but sighs and mumbles spasmodically, shamefacedly and with an ill grace, it can be at best only a troubled community which is not sure of its cause and of whose ministry and witness there can be no great expectation…. The praise of God which finds its concrete culmination in the singing of the community is one of the indispensable forms of the ministry of the church. (Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, Vol. IV, part 3, chapter 16, par. 72, #4)
Last week, I wrote and made a rough recording of a new song called Redemption Song. It’s a response to our church’s journey through Ephesians 1-2 and my personal response to 2 Timothy 2:13 in particular. The title is inspired by Bob Marley’s masterful Redemption Song which expresses the longing for freedom from oppression, slavery, and human exploitation. However, rather than proclaiming self-emancipation, this new song points the congregation to Jesus who liberates us holistically from the chains of sin and death (mind, spirit, body) as we live in the tension of the already but not yet kingdom.