Viña Escazú, San José, Costa Rica.
Wright opens our course with ideas related to the four echoes of God in the world. Which of these echoes most deeply resonates with you as evidence of God’s reality, and how does that particular echo reflect what you believe to be the biblically expressed personality of God?
I think justice, not in the human concept, but in God’s own terms, is the most resonant echo with me. I work with justice, seeking it every day, and even when it seems hard to reach, when everything seems to be lost, God reveals His majesty through the most amazing situations. I’ve been lost sometimes, and maybe my faith has decreased as a result of some hard times, when justice seems to be unobtainable; but when I’m about to hit the ground of my crisis of faith, He comes to my rescue, and I can feel His hand reaching me and taking me out of the spiritual hole in which I’ve been. And those hard situations are always transformed into a whole new experience and a lesson of life that I can share with other people.
Let’s think of this: justice is traditionally represented by a blindfold lady (Themis, the Greek’s mythological goddess of justice) carrying a sword and scales (truth and justice). The whole idea of blind justice is not what we see in biblical terms: God is omniscient and omnipresent, and has very defined justice objectives. For example, socially speaking, He gave freedom to the captive people of Israel (Exodus 3:7-8), He defends the oppressed (Psalm 146:7-8, Luke 4:18-19); and He orders us to share our bread with the poor, and take care of the widows and orphans (Deuteronomy 14:28-29). His concept of justice is not blind; it is a concept which has wide open eyes to be aware of the need of the world. This is what justice is about. Not something a judge or jury says we are. It is a simple but profound concept that has so many applications in our everyday life.
This is what I believe is the most accurate representation of God’s personality. Our God is there whenever we need Him, and He’s always taking care of us, and listening to our prayers, and in a most profound manner: being fair with us.
From here, answer how the four ‘echoes’ relate to the theology and worldview represented in the worship songs that you have used/sung in the past year? (Seek to be positive in your answers, but also reflective – i.e. this question is meant to engage our theological thinking related to worship songs, not to create a song-bashing session).
Well, making some relations, now that I’m clear about the four echoes of the Voice, I can tell, most of them are present in our songs. I’ll try to make this short and comprehensible. Our worship is a reflection of our spiritual life and our God-seeking quest. It is a mirror of our joy, our sorrow, our thankfulness, our broken heart, our regret, and many more situations. So, we are deeply related with all this topics, and when we chose songs for our worship time (private or public), we tend to use what defines better the specific time and moment that we (or our community) are in. Songs about justice (God will make a way), spirituality (Close) and beauty (such as God of Wonders) are in most of the worship sets of our churches. That’s why songs like: All who are thirsty or Sweetly Broken appeal to our deepest sense of emptiness, which is what moves us to seek the presence of God, and to try to keep our lives within that presence. But it is not common to sing songs (worship songs) about relationships. That is a topic that is not on the mainstream of our music today. As a matter of fact, this is the first time I think about that. A couple of years ago, some songs were sung (As for me and my house) but it wasn’t a clear allusion to the topic, it was more a statement of Joshua’s 24:2, 15 passages. We should consider giving more attention to this. I think it is a reflection of the global situation of taking out our eyes from the family (God’s established family), and we are getting into this post modern idea of family. The same is happening with other social relationship forms, such as friendship and aid to the needy. We can make a difference from here on that. We will.
Consider the second half of the question less in the light of “what songs am I doing that match these echoes,” and more in the light of “how is the contemporary worship song body of work doing at giving voice to these echoes – the celebration of creation, the longing for justice, the magnetism of relationships and the hunger for spiritual reality.”
Contemporary worship, as I said, is a reflection of our surrounding world and the everyday ideas and situations. That’s why new social ideas are reflected on the lyrics of the songs we sing. The times of the journalist-like creation’s description hymns are not here anymore. We use a simpler (but clearer) language, and we can express our ideas in a more straight forward way. The lyricists (past and present) are usually translating their own fights and/or joys over their lyrics, and we get instantly connected with them by singing, and believing those words. But, this is not always a good composition exercise. The new doctrines are spreading all around the world and subsequently influencing the composers to write their songs. And these not so sound doctrines sometimes also infect our vision. The songs born in the middle of those new ideas are in most cases, very “commercial” and very “catchy”. And it’s very rare to stop and analyze the words we’re singing, because we are singing Christian songs… but it is a good exercise to analyze everything according to the Bible. And if what you are singing is not what the Bible says, tell the worship leader about that and let him know. We are not perfect, we’re just common people and we fail. But the point here is not to be polemic, but to be objective and constructive, that’s why I can tell you, we as humans, are susceptible to be informed by many ideas and concepts and in some occasions, we can lose track. But God, in His merciful heart gives us His understanding to get back on track and restore our ideas in order to compose Biblically pondered lyrics.