Monday, November 9, 2009

13 Hours of Musical Ecstasy. . . .

I experienced a wonderful and long overdue musical convergence this weekend. Sitting on either side of my Saturday night sleep were two musical moments that initially might sound like something from opposite ends of the musical spectrum, but were actually quite similar. It's not coincidence that they both took place within the confines of the New England-style meeting house that we call the sanctuary at my church.

Saturday night I stepped out of my musical box to attend a hip-hop concert at my church. I've listened to my share of rappers over the years and I've got loads of their CDs on my shelves. Those albums have sat there unmoved and collecting dust from the moment I finished dissecting them as a part of a research project. The style's just not my cup-of-tea. Which makes what happened Saturday night on the front-end of my weekend's musical nexus even more interesting.

Hip-hop artist Shai Linne was performing. . . and it was good. Shai blew me away and brought great joy to my heart as he rapped the lyrics to his song "Greatest Story Ever Told." I was reminded once again how God is not only the author of an unfolding drama that is absolutely amazing, but that He's written me into the story. I stop to think about that far too infrequently. Here's the words Shai Linne shared and a link to a clip of the song:


Greatest Story Ever Told
written by s. linne

Verse 1
Alright check it: let’s go back in time, brethren
Divine lessons always keep your mind guessing
The glory of the Triune God’s what I’m stressing
The origin of humankind was fine- blessings
Were plenteous- God is amazingly generous
Crazy benefits in a state of innocence
God told the man what he could taste was limited
Not long after came our nemesis in Genesis
He scammed well, man fell, damned to hell
The whole human race- he represented it
Fooled by the serpent, man through his work
Woman through birth- even the earth ruled by the curses
But instead of a wake immediately
God said her Seed would be the One to crush the head of the snake
Yo, wait what’s this? Whoa, a gracious gift!
In Jehovah’s faithfulness He clothed their nakedness
This was so they would know their Savior’s kiss
And bliss- but first, many growing pains exist
Suffering in the worst form, ugly deeds
Eve’s firstborn seed made his brother bleed
Indeed things got progressively worse
Every section of the earth's been affected by the curse
And though God’s judgments against sin were gory
Praise the Lord! It’s not the end of the story

It's the greatest story ever told
A God pursues foes whose hearts turned cold
The greatest story ever told
Restoring all that the enemy stole
The greatest story ever told
The glory of Christ is the goal, behold
The greatest story ever told
It's the greatest...

Verse 2
Next scene: man’s sin was extreme
God gets steamed, man gets creamed
The Lord is so Holy that He drowned them in the water
Fire in the valley of slaughter- Sodom and Gomorrah
But at the same time, He’s so gracious and patient
That from one man He created a whole nation
Eventually enslaved by the mentally depraved
They cried out to the only One with the strength that He could save
He brought them out with signs and wonders- satisfied their hunger
Then He appeared on Mount Sinai in thunder
Where He laid down the law for God-ruled government
Commonly referred to as the Mosaic covenant
Sin’s imputed- so for man to know he’s unrighteous
God instituted animal sacrifices
This was to show our constant need for atonement
And when it came to sin, the Lord would never condone it
And when His people disobeyed and went astray
He raised up prophets and kings to lead them in the way
But they would get foul with their idolatry- wet and wild
Prophecy- send them into exile
To take their punishment like a grown man
Then with His own hand He placed them back in their homeland
And while in their forefather’s land they dwelt
They awaited the arrival of Emmanuel

It's the greatest story ever told
A God pursues foes whose hearts turned cold
The greatest story ever told
Restoring all that the enemy stole
The greatest story ever told
The glory of Christ is the goal, behold
The greatest story ever told
It's the greatest...

Verse 3
After 400 silent years filled with sighs and tears
In Bethlehem the Messiah appears
God in the flesh- Second Person of the Trinity
At thirty begins His earthly ministry
Baffling cats with accurate, exact facts
And back to back miraculous acts
A stumbling block to the self righteous
But the humbled- His flock, said “There’s no one else like this”
He came from heaven to awake the numb
Demonstrated His power over nature, son
A foretaste of the Kingdom and the age to come
But the reason He came was to pay the sum
For the depths of our wickedness, our wretched sinfulness
Bless His magnificence- He’s perfect and innocent
Yet He was wrecked and His death- He predicted it
Next He was stretched, paid a debt that was infinite
He said that He finished it- resurrected so the elect
would be the recipients of its benefits
Through faith and penitence we get to be intimate
His grace is heaven sent, it never diminishes
Now the Holy Spirit indwelling is the evidence
for heaven's future residents who truly represent
Jesus, the Author, Producer, Director and
Star of a story that will never, ever end!

The greatest story ever told
A God pursues foes whose hearts turned cold
The greatest story ever told
Restoring all that the enemy stole
The greatest story ever told
The glory of Christ is the goal, behold
The greatest story ever told
It's the greatest...

After a night of rest, I returned to the same sanctuary for worship. Our congregation stood together mid-service and with accompaniment from a blaring pipe organ, we joined together to sing William Cowper's famous hymn - "God Moves in a Mysterious Way" - penned in 1774. A man who had suffered great heartache and disappointment in his life, Cowper had also been miraculously invited by God into His story, a reality that sustained him during his ongoing struggles with manic depression. Cowper, a famous poet, found hymn writing to be therapeutic. As the story behind the hymn goes Cowper was out walking in the fields on a January day in 1773 when he was overcome by a great fear that he was soon going to fall into a major episode of depression. He went home, sat down, and penned the hymn. Not long after, he fell into a severe depression that lasted several months.

I don't know about you, but knowing the back story on this hymn that has already ministered to be deeply takes the hymn, my understanding of my Heavenly Father, and my spirit to new heights. Here's what Cowper wrote:

God Moves in a Mysterious Way
by William Cowper

1. God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

2. Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

3. Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

4. Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

5. His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

6. Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

Today, I am grateful to God for the gift of music, and for the inspiration and talents he's given to people who can take us deeper into the very, very real things of life.


Anonymous said...

Awesome blog! What a klaidescope of music God gives us to express His glory. Thanks so much for coming to the concert, my friend. Kim

robert said...

Being a hymnologist (and an old guy) I can't say that hip hop is my cup of tea. But the song quoted certainly covers the essentials of our spiritual predicament and God's gracious intervention to save us.

I'm in more familiar territory with William Cowper. Today is the 278th anniversary of his birth--which is why I put an article about him on my daily blog, Wordwise Hymns. You can check today's article if you'd like to know a bit more about him.