Anniversary Feature: Rockin’ Rubbish

Happy 1st Anniversary (yesterday) of A. Church’s Article 17! The end of October also saw Rev. 21’s ‘swan song’ service (credit to my brother for this phrase), on Reformation Sunday, the same Sunday on which my father’s last sermon at A. was preached a year ago.

I thought, in honour of the date, we’d have some fun with some bits of H. CRC’s bulletin. Here’s a blurb from 21 himself:

“Today’s order of worship is pretty much just loaded with songs. When I originally decided on a Sunday-date for concluding ministry at H—, I didn’t know it was a day when [I presume the name of a band?] was leading the service. Well, it works out, because while every group that leads worship matters to my soul, this group has been my fellowship -small group from the beginning. So, [21’s wife] and I picked out a smash of our favorite songs. It might feel a little bit like a concert, but it’s really just a lot of songs to thank and praise God for His faithfulness and blessing on our life and walk, together, as a church….just for the joy and thankfulness of it. Thank-you, Pastor 21”

Typical of 21—his affection for unnecessary hyphens is unfading, undying! And of course there are the usual funny (strange) phrases: ‘every group that leads worship matters to my soul,’ and, ‘just for the joy and thankfulness of it.’ Wut.

Anyway, what is this ‘lot’ of ‘favorite songs’?  I’ll list the full order of worship for last Sunday’s service at H. CRC.  Note that I have not edited/fixed typos:

MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE – 9:30 AM

H. Christian Reformed Church

October 30, 2016

Welcome to Worship Songs:

“Flawless” (orig. MercyMe); “Oceans” (orig. HIllsong United);

“The River” (orig. Jordan Feliz); Chain Breaker (orig. Zach Williams)

“Shake” (orig. MercyMe)

“Love Will Hold Us Together” (orig. Matt Maher)

Blessing and Greeting

“Never Let Go” (orig. Matt Redman)

“Lord I Need You” (orig. Matt Maher)

Prayer

Children’s Message (Children will return to their seats)

Offerings: 1st – General Fund; 2nd – ** Ministry

“My Story” (orig. Big Daddy Weave) “LifeSong” (orig. Casting Crowns)

Words of Celebration and Farewell – Pastor 21 & wife

Sermon: Jesus In the Shape of Us

“Today is the Day” (orig. Lincoln Brewster)

Blessing/Dismissal

“Love Come to Life” (Orig. Big Daddy Weave)

**

21 & his wife and their ‘band/small group’ thingy had the congregation sing a total of 12 songs.  If they sang uncut versions with all the repeats, that probably comes to over half an hour, perhaps even 40 minutes, of singing.  I may go onto Youtube at some point and estimate total time from recordings of the songs there.  But for now, you can see for yourself, there’s evidently not much appreciation expressed in the choices (made deliberately, I assume) for ‘traditional’ Christian music, and one wonders if there’s a statement in the omission—you probably noted a dearth of hymns, both old and new (no Getty/Townend numbers, for example).

My first reaction as one on the older end of the ‘Millenial’ spectrum was that I haven’t heard of a lot of these guys in a while (MercyMe, Casting Crowns [red flag?], Lincoln Brewster, Big Daddy Weave). Because I associate big label CCM with pop culture-style transience, I was surprised to see that these artists are, apparently, still around—they were big when I was in high school. So, as we do a little research, we’ll find out if Rev. 21 is both cutting-edge and behind the times.

Now, some of these songs I had heard of before—very recently, as a matter of fact, and I’ve begun to interact with a list of CCM songs of which they’re a part on my personal blog. I’m still in the middle of the series on current top CCM songs; Lord willing I will get back to it sometime soon.

So, what are those on that (according to me) infamous list?

As I glance back at my ekklescake posts on the topic, the only two songs on the HCRC worship order I find are ‘Oceans’ and ‘Lord I Need You.’  I have also heard, however, of ‘The River,’ ‘Chain Breaker,’ and ‘Never Let Go.’ Because I’m not overly familiar with any of these songs, we’ll post the lyrics of half of them, starting with ‘Flawless’ and including every other one.   I don’t have time to fully dissect these poetic and theological messes, so I’ll just underline the possibly or probably unbiblical bits and stick in a few notes in italics.  I have copied and pasted from various lyrics sites on the web; I have not edited typos or format.

1.’Flawless’ by MercyMe [2014]

*Oops, first Google result is Beyonce’s ‘version’! Here we go; sorry, this torture appears interminable.  I have problems just with the connotations of the word of the title, which are usually matters of the superficial and/or aesthetic, such as describing a woman’s facial features, or else an athlete’s or machine’s performance—the song seems also to use it in a moral sense.

There’s got to be more

Than going back and forth

From doing right to doing wrong

‘Cause we were taught that’s who we are

Come on get in line right behind me

You along with everybody

Thinking there’s worth in what you do (Does that mean there isn’t?)

Then like a hero who takes the stage when (This is weird. This song keeps shifting back and forth to different analogies.)

We’re on the edge of our seats saying it’s too late

Well let me introduce you to amazing grace (okay, Jesus is Batman or something…)

No matter the bumps

No matter the bruises

No matter the scars

Still the truth is

The cross has made

The cross has made you flawless

No matter the hurt

Or how deep the wound is

No matter the pain

Still the truth is

The cross has made

The cross has made you flawless

Could it possibly be

That we simply can’t believe

That this unconditional (If it’s unconditional, why did we need the cross to make us ‘flawless’?)

Kind of love would be enough

To take a filthy wretch like this

And wrap him up in righteousness

But that’s exactly what He did

No matter the bumps

No matter the bruises

No matter the scars

Still the truth is

The cross has made

The cross has made you flawless

No matter the hurt

Or how deep the wound is

No matter the pain

Still the truth is

The cross has made

The cross has made you flawless (Somebody obviously thinks this refrain is good—this isn’t the last time we’ll see it.)

Take a breath smile and say

Right here right now I’m ok

Because the cross was enough (Sounds like a mint commercial for how unserious this is. And again, is this what the Bible says?)

And like a hero who takes the stage when

We’re on the edge of our seats saying it’s too late

Well let me introduce you to grace grace

God’s grace

No matter the bumps

No matter the bruises

No matter the scars

Still the truth is

The cross has made

The cross has made you flawless

No matter the hurt

Or how deep the wound is

No matter the pain

Still the truth is

The cross has made

The cross has made you flawless

No matter what they say

Or what you think you are

The day you called His name

He made you flawless

He made you flawless (Since we’re trapped in some intellectual void here, it’s perhaps pointless to ask the author[s] what is meant by this. There seems to have been a reference to the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the believer, but while I am justified, I am not ‘flawless’. Could the writers, or for that matter, the congregational singers, distinguish between justification and sanctification? Does this represent the attitudes of Paul, Peter and James on Christian living?)

No matter the bumps

No matter the bruises

No matter the scars

Still the truth is

The cross has made

The cross has made you flawless

Image result for L'oreal
Because I don’t buy that this song believes its singers were ever ‘filthy wretches.’

 

**

Take a deep breath, because now we’re going down to the river, but not with George Clooney…

2. ‘The River’ by Jordan Feliz [2015]

*This song is plain insubstantial. You’re better off just singing the spiritual. I’ll underline poor poetic technique and illogical progression of thought and especially imagery.

I know a place where we can go

To lay the troubles down eating your soul (Is this some kind of Fury- or zombie-spotting exercise?)

I know a place where mercy flows

Take the stains make you whiter than snow

Like a tide, it is rising up deep inside a current that moves and makes you come alive (Sounds like a shot of epinephrine—but is it a tide inside or is it a moving current?)

Living water that brings the dead to life

We’re going down to the river

Down to the river, down to the river to pray

Let’s get washed by the water (How do you get washed by a tide that’s rising up INSIDE of you? I know the author is maybe trying to use the water metaphor in multiple ways, but, you have to do so artfully, not clunkily.)

Washed by the water and rise up in amazing grace

Let’s go down, down, down to the river (You will leave changed)

Let’s go down, down, down to the river (Never the same)

I’ve seen it move in my own life

Took me from dusty roads into paradise (Is the opposite of dusty roads [what’s wrong with desert?] paradise? The contrast of dust, which is dry, would be something wet, or a landscape where things flourish, an oasis, perhaps. For a Christian, paradise is not necessarily physical.  What about biblical phrases like ‘path of life’, or ‘wilderness’? Though perhaps a better contrast to ‘wilderness’ is ‘promised land’… but trying to make sense of going down to a river that also rises up inside of you and comes to take you off dusty roads can make your head swim. Haha.)

All of my dirt, all of my shame

Drowned in the streams that’ve made me born again (Ick. Dirt and shame drown these days, apparently. Who knew?)

Like a tide, it is rising up deep inside a current that moves and makes you come alive

Living water that brings the dead to life

We’re going down to the river

Down to the river, down to the river to pray

Let’s get washed by the water

Washed by the water and rise up in amazing grace

Let’s go down, down, down to the river (You will leave changed)

Let’s go down, down, down to the river (Never the same)

Let’s go down [x3]

We’re going down to the river

Down to the river, down to the river to pray

Let’s get washed by the water

Washed by the water and rise up in amazing grace

Let’s go down, down, down to the river (You will leave changed)

Let’s go down, down, down to the river (Never the same)

Gotta go, gotta go, gotta go down in amazing grace [x2] (Cheap, hopped-up knock-off. Where’s my O Brother Where Art Thou? Album?)

Image result for i want my dapper dan

3. ‘Shake’ by MercyMe [2013/2014]

*Warning: these guys are apparently extremely fond of repeating vacuous and annoying lyrics.

I just can’t believe

Where my life was at

All that I know is that my heart was broken

And I don’t ever wanna go back

Ain’t no explanation (Then what’s the point of this song?)

How I saw the light

He found me and set me free

And it brought me back to life

Blame it on the transformation

Changed down to the core

His love is real

And I can’t sit still

Cause my name’s not shamed no more (Is this biblical? See 1 Cor. 1, I believe…)

Great God Almighty done changed this

Great God Almighty, He done changed me (So we keep going on about this thing God’s done to change a person, but we don’t know how or why. It can’t be explained, this transformation from a “broken heart” to… being set free and having life. Umm.)

You gotta shake, shake, shake

Like you’re changed, changed, changed (What does shaking have to do with being changed? It just makes me think of seizures and Poseidon.)

Brand new looks so good on you (Is this a joke?)

So shake like you’ve been changed

Come on and shake, shake, shake like you’re changed

Shake, shake, shake like you’re changed

Maybe He came to you

When everything seemed fine

Or maybe your world was upside down and hit you right between the eyes (The upside-down world hit me between the eyes?)

No matter when it happened (We still don’t know what ‘it’ entails.)

At 7 or 95

Move your feet ’cause you are free

And you’ve never been more alive (Well that’s good to know. Why not?)

(…And again the writers are so impressed with their nonsense that they want you to chant it like a mantra. Total earworm.)

You gotta shake, shake, shake

Like you’re changed, changed, changed

Brand new looks so good on you

So shake like you’ve been changed

Come on and shake, shake, shake

Like you’re changed, changed, changed

Brand new looks so good on you

So shake like you’ve been changed

Come on and shake, shake, shake like you’re changed

Shake, shake, shake like you’re changed

Shake, shake

Great God Almighty done changed me

Great God Almighty, He done changed me

Great God Almighty done changed me

Great God Almighty, He done changed me

No matter when it happened

At 7 or 95

Move your feet, ’cause you are free

And you’ve never been more alive

You gotta shake, shake, shake

Like you’re changed, changed, changed

Brand new looks so good on you

So shake like you’ve been changed

You gotta shake, shake, shake

Like you’re changed, changed, changed

Brand new looks so good on you

So shake like you’ve been changed

Come on and shake, shake, shake

Like you’re changed, changed, changed

Brand new looks so good on you

So shake like you’ve been changed

Come on and shake, shake, shake like you’re changed

Shake, shake, shake like you’re changed

Shake, shake

Great God Almighty done changed me

Great God Almighty, He done changed me

Image result for neptune bristol
Neptune (Poseidon), Earth-Shaker.

4. ‘Never Let Go’by Matt Redman [2006]

*Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that I like a song by Matt Redman. Kind of a lot. But not even the greats can hit a home run every inning—John Wayne made The Conqueror. It’s not as bad as the others, but to be honest, I’d never choose to sing it, because, well, it’s a bit dull, and way too long [assuming it’s not a misprint on metrolyrics.com] for what it has to say, which isn’t much. That’s all on this one.

Even though I walk through the valley

Of the shadow of death

Your perfect love is casting out fear

And even when Im caught in the middle

Of the storms of this life

I wont turn back, I know You are near

And I will fear no evil

For my God is with me

And if my God is with me

Whom then shall I fear?

Whom then shall I fear?

Oh no, You never let go

Through the calm and through the storm

Oh no, You never let go

In every high and every low

Oh no, You never let go

Lord, You never let go of me

And I can see a light that is coming

For the heart that holds on

A glorious light beyond all compare

And there will be an end to these troubles

But until that day comes

Well live to know You here on the earth

And I will fear no evil

For my God is with me

And if my God is with me

Whom then shall I fear?

Whom then shall I fear?

Oh no, You never let go

Through the calm and through the storm

Oh no, You never let go

In every high and every low

Oh no, You never let go

Lord, You never let go of me

and i can see a light that is coming

for the heart that holds on

a glorious light beyond all compare

and there will be an end

to these troubles

but until that day comes

we’ll live to know you’re here on the earth

And I will fear no evil

For my God is with me

And if my God is with me

Whom then shall I fear?

Whom then shall I fear?

Oh no, You never let go

Through the calm and through the storm

Oh no, You never let go

In every high and every low

Oh no, You never let go

Lord, You never let go of me

Yes, I can see a light that is coming

For the heart that holds on

And there will be an end to these troubles

But until that day comes

Still I will praise You, still I will praise You

Yes, I can see a light that is coming

For the heart that holds on

And there will be an end to these troubles

But until that day comes

Still I will praise You, still I will praise You

Oh no, You never let go

Through the calm and through the storm

Oh no, You never let go

In every high and every low

Oh no, You never let go

Lord, You never let go of me

You never let go, You never let go

Oh no, You never let go

Through the calm and through the storm

Oh no, You never let go

In every high and every low

Oh no, You never let go

Lord, You never let go of me

You never let, You never let go, You never let go of me

Image result for bloodhound bored
*sigh*

5. ‘My Story’ by Big Daddy Weave [2015]

*This song perhaps has more to recommend it than any of them so far. I have one big quibble in the first stanza—everything after that isn’t my cup of tea, but it could be worse. At least Jesus is named, allusions to the Gospel are fairly clear, sin and justice are mentioned, etc. I’m not a huge fan of the throwing in/stitching together lines from classic hymns, which seem like an attempt to up the song’s pedigree or add a dash of gravitas. The contemporary poetry has to be pretty good for Fanny Crosby’s couplet to fit, even tacked on at the end.

If I told you my story

You would hear Hope that wouldn’t let go (Does God hope? Because I’m assuming this ‘hope’ pertains to Him, as do the ‘Love’ and ‘Life’ below…)

And if I told you my story

You would hear Love that never gave up

And if I told you my story

You would hear Life, but it wasn’t mine

If I should speak then let it be

Of the grace that is greater than all my sin

Of when justice was served and where mercy wins

Of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in

Oh to tell you my story is to tell of Him

If I told you my story

You would hear victory over the enemy

And if I told you my story

You would hear freedom that was won for me

And if I told you my story

You would hear Life overcome the grave

If I should speak then let it be

Of the grace that is greater than all my sin

Of when justice was served and where mercy wins

Of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in

Oh to tell you my story is to tell of Him

This is my story, this is my song

Praising my savior all the day long

This is my story, this is my song

Praising my savior all the day long

For the grace that is greater than all my sin

Of when justice was served and where mercy wins

Of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in

Oh to tell you my story is to tell

Of the grace that is greater than all my sin

Of when justice was served and where mercy wins

Of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in

Oh to tell you my story is to tell of Him

Oh to tell you my story is to tell of Him

This is my story, this is my song

Praising my Savior all the day long

Nobody likes the guy that steals toys.

6. ‘Today is the Day’ by Lincoln Brewster [2008]

*I think we’ll just plunge in.

Oh, oh, oh, oh

Oh, oh, oh, oh

Oh, oh, oh, oh

(Here we go) (How articulate. These aren’t legit. And is this appropriate for congregational singing? Wait, I forgot–this is CCM.  See T. David Gordon’s Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns, esp. 95ff.)

Oh, oh, oh

Oh, oh, oh

Oh, oh, oh

Oh, oh, oh

Oh, oh, oh

Oh, oh, oh

Oh, oh, oh

Oh, oh, oh

I’m casting my cares aside

I’m leaving my past behind

I’m setting my heart and mind on You

Jesus

I’m reaching my hand to Yours

Believing there’s so much more

Knowing that all You have in store for me is good

Is good (Let’s run away together, to California!)

Today is the day You have made

I will rejoice and be glad in it

Today is the day You have made

I will rejoice and be glad in it (See comment on above song by BDW: here, we’re invoking the authority of the psalms… or something? Fishing for inspiration?)

And I won’t worry about tomorrow

I’m trusting in what You say (What does Jesus say, exactly?)

Today is the day

Oh, oh, oh

Oh, oh, oh

(Today is the day)

Oh, oh, oh

Oh, oh, oh

I putting my fears aside (Nothing to see here—skip to just past the next iteration of the mind-numbing ‘Oh, oh, ohs’..)

I’m leaving my doubts behind

I’m giving my hopes and dreams to You

Jesus

I’m reaching my hands to Yours

Believing there’s so much more

Knowing that all You have in store for me is good

Is good

Today is the day You have made

I will rejoice and be glad in it

Today is the day You have made

I will rejoice and be glad in it

And I won’t worry about tomorrow

I’m trusting in what You say

Today is the day

Oh, oh, oh

Oh, oh, oh

(Today is the day)

Oh, oh, oh

Oh, oh, oh

I will stand upon Your truth (What is the truth? I think it’s gotten lost in the fluff…)

I will stand upon Your truth

And all my days I’ll live for You

All my days I’ll live for You

And I will stand upon Your truth

I will stand upon Your truth

And all my days I’ll live for You

All my days I’ll live for You

Today is the day You have made

I will rejoice and be glad in it

Today is the day You have made

I will rejoice and be glad in it

And I won’t worry about tomorrow

I’m giving You my fears and sorrows

Where You lead me I will follow

I’m trusting in what You say

Today is the day

Oh, oh, oh

Oh, oh, oh

(Today is the day)

Oh, oh, oh

Oh, oh, oh

(Today is the day)

Oh, oh, oh

Oh, oh, oh

(Today is the day)

Oh, oh, oh

Oh, oh, oh

(Today is the day)

Oh, oh, oh

Oh, oh, oh

(Today is the day)

Oh, oh, oh

Oh, oh, oh

(Today is the day)

Oh, oh, oh

Oh, oh, oh

(Today is the day)

Image result for guru meditating

**

I think I need to take up writing songs for the Worship Mill. People make money doing this.

Well, that was half of them. Some of them are surprisingly current–from 2014 and 2015.  At any rate, I highly doubt anyone will be singing them in 100 years.  See Jonathan Aigner’s columns (especially here, here, and here), and note that the pop nature practically breeds an inherent tendency toward speedy obsolescence in CCM.  I quote from the third article by Aigner linked to above: ‘Contemporary worship is an unstable and non-theological movement. To be thoroughly contemporary necessitates a slavish allegiance to the new, the current, the hip, the cool, and the commercial. It requires a thorough rejection of what is old, passe, not current, not cool, and what doesn’t make money. The bright shiny objects that get butts in the seats must continue becoming brighter and shinier. This holy bait-and-switch tactic is wearing thin. This constant need to reinvent yourself is a pretty tough row to hoe for any church, and few besides the largest and wealthiest are able to keep butts in the seats with any continued success.’

Image result for elevation worship

The two I mentioned before, ‘Oceans’ and ‘Lord I Need You’ will get fuller treatment on ekklescake eventually, but they’re two to add to the ‘Stinkers’ list (which would include all of the above printed except for perhaps ‘(You) Never Let Go’ and ‘My Story’.  4 out of a total of 12 songs chosen by the pastor and his wife are junk—and are they representative of more of those 12? I’d say yes, just based on the other two I’ve heard before.  And again, no hymns amongst their ‘favorites’.  Or at least not here.  No ‘Great is Thy Faithfulness’ or ‘Come Thou Fount’.  Since this is their selection, it can’t be assumed a typical musical experience for H.CRC.  But if it is, I feel sorry for anyone with musical training, anyone who cares about sound language (both beautiful and meaningful), especially poetry, and anyone over 30 who hasn’t been marinating in the culture’s non-reflective sentimentality.

That brings me to one final point–given that the lyrics of some of these songs don’t even make sense, it makes you wonder whether CCM (more than traditional hymns, though anything can be done mindlessly or superficially–ask ex-Roman Catholics or people raised in a ‘cold orthodoxy’) encourages people not to think about what they’re singing.  A question then arises: can you worship biblically without engaging your mind?  When lyrics don’t matter because it’s the ‘music’ that engages and wows people, what are we saying?  See the second post in the Literacy series–we already know that many Christian folks, in spite of the fact that they are people of the Book, don’t read.

Image result for voltaire speculate a little

At any rate, HCRC on the 30th of October saw no Newton, no Wesley, no Watts, no Bonar.  No Henry Francis Lyte, Augustus Montague Toplady, no Fanny Crosby.  But are we surprised?  Given Rev. 21’s particular brand of literacy, capacity for biblical engagement, and postmodern intellectual bent (and, I infer, his wife’s support for so-called ‘gay Christianity’), we can’t really be surprised that this is his/their taste.  And I’m not judging, at least, not necessarily.  A lot of people like what I would call crap music.  But for me, the theological and emotional underpinnings, for lack of a better word, of these ‘songs’ fit perfectly with the worldview expressed directly and indirectly by this pastor.  And don’t forget to check out that sermon title: ‘Jesus in the Shape of Us’—doesn’t smack of Thomas A Kempis to me.  But perhaps he was preaching a message on the Incarnation…?  Have fun with these guys, New Church of 21 in West Michigan!

And Happy Anniversary, all!  And please pass the Trinity Hymnal.

dscf1482

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