What a treat it was for me.
Last week, Michael Card performed a concert in Paignton, on his only stop in the South West. Michael is for me, as I know he is for so many others, a shaper and discipler in the Christian faith.
Michael’s 29 songs in ‘The Life‘ – an account of the life of Jesus that I don’t think has been bettered, really gave me a love for the dynamic force and transcendent beauty of the Gospel. This became a life-long challenge to me that I was not to flatten the Gospel of Jesus Christ with my boring accounts of it, whether by word or deed, but to raise people to the heights that they may glimpse the glory of God, and taste and see that God is good.
I learned the beauty and story of the Old Testament through his Ancient Faith CD. Although I am a Pastor now who teaches the Bible and theology, and preaches most weeks in a church, I knew back in the 1990’s that this music was preparing me, in a way then, unknown, to be ready to be tutored in the the Holy Scriptures.
Last but not least, Michael’s CD on Revelation called Unveiled Hope – has a majestic, transcendent quality to it that raises the soul to heights as yet unimagined. A cathedral of words in music and song that soared like an eagle on the heights proclaiming the victory of God over sin and death. I played this CD to death, and behold, it still lives!
I was also pleased to make the link with Michael’s mentor, Dr William Lane, whose commentary on the Gospel of Mark I have. Michael spoke of Dr. Lane during the concert and only when I googled him afterwards did I make the connection. This is partly why I love Michael’s music so much, because he, as a musician, has worked closely theologians – if only more Christian singer-songwriters would filter their lyrics through an actual theologian, our ‘praise and worship’ scene might not be so naive in falling into triumphalism or individualism. Michael avoids both these Babylonian destroyers!
Also, during the concert, Michael spoke in between some of the songs. He encouraged us to not be so triumphalistic in our gathered worship. That we need to learn the lost art of lament: “Worship Him with your wounds, for He is wounded too.” This is something I’ve been thinking about for a few years, but it is a very hard thing to get right or do well in the Church, and I am sure I’m not alone as a pastor when I say I need help to do this well.
He spoke of an American evangelist who died in tragic circumstances in 1901 called Maltbie Babcock, who penned several hymns including This is My Fathers World, which contains the line that Michael said had had a profound and beautiful impact on him, as being the best line he’d ever known: “In the rustling grass, I hear Him pass, He speaks to me everywhere.”
Michael also spoke of Henry Van Dyke (1852-1933), a professor of literature, navy chaplain, ambassador to Holland and a pastor, who penned ‘Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee’:
“Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, God of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the sun above…”
Finally, he spoke about one of the needs of our very busy and distracted age: the need to listen and to be listened to. He said, without a trace of judgementalism or vitriol, “You want to show your kids you love them? Stop buying them things! The world is dying to be listened to – by the listener listening with all his heart.” Boom!
Michael was accompanied by a very talented young man named Moses who played magnificently on an instrument I dare not even try to name!!! I also discovered that their next concert on the Friday was with another person that has inspired my in ministry and in the Gospel, Ian Stackhouse at Millmead Baptist Church in Guildford, and I must confess to envy that Michael was also the preacher on the Sunday Morning, you can listen here:
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