I was at the county fair this morning and ran into a wonderful family from my church. Their sons were in the sheep showmanship competition and did rather well. While we watched the kids and the sheep (no pun intended) their mom gleefully informed me that there had a been a singing competition the night before and that the winners had both sung “Christian” songs.
I was delighted that the Christians had thrown down on those lousy non Christians. I was even more delighted to find out that these songs had invited Jesus into their hearts to be their personal Lord and Savior. I am so glad to know that the sins of these songs had been forgiven so that they could go to heaven when they die. Certainly this is a sign of God’s great grace because most Christian songs I know have a lot of sins that need forgiving, like generic melodies, random key changes, less than clever lyrics and annoying vocals. Still I am less excited about the prospect of these songs getting into heaven, or thinking these songs are the only ones we will sing there.
But it got me thinking about N.T. Wright and how he argues in “Surprised By Hope” that many expressions of every culture will survive Jesus’ second coming and be performed and enjoyed in the New Jerusalem. I don’t think that will be limited to “Christian” music. In fact, the lines we draw between secular and religious are weak human attempts to divide God off from the world that God wants to save.
Mumford and Sons’ album “Babel” does a lot to undo those frivolous lines. Are these songs about a religious pilgrimage or a broken romantic relationship or both? You can find scores of internet forums debating that question.
Being a pastor I have found the songs speak to my faith in ways “Christian” music seldom does. And while I could write a 2 week long series in which I review each song individually, I will stick to the one that brings that album home at the very end. After the highs (“I Will Wait” and “Lovers of the Light”) and lows (“Hopeless Wanderer” and “Broken Crown”), a brilliantly simple ballad called “Not With Haste” proclaims, “We will run and sing. You will dance with me. We’ll fulfill our dreams and we’ll be free. We will be who we are and they’ll heal our scars. Sadness will be far away.”
While many hear in those words the benefits of a healthy romantic relationship, I instead hear echoes of the New Creation. In fact this week I told my wife that it might be one of the best songs about heaven I have ever heard. For when we talk about the kingdom that is coming we are talking about being free and fulfilling dreams and sadness being far away.
And when Jesus comes we will certainly “be who we are.” God didn’t create us to bear the scars we bear or wound others the way we do. True humanity is not sinful. We were made for love. So when Mumford and Son’s proclaim, “we will be who we are” they might be talking about the freedom that arises from being and doing what you were created to do.
Beyond that the song is ultimately about hope. Both secular and religious alike agree on that. One internet comment I found proclaimed, “These are such unashamedly hopeful words. It’s not a reckless, foolish hope, but a hope that’s grounded in what he’s learned in the past. He’s not throwing caution to the wind, he’s believing with faith that the hopes that he’s clung to so tightly, even through the storms, will now come to pass.”
This week I needed unashamed hope. Over the last two weeks I have experienced a lot of pain and suffering. I have seen the scars in this battered and broken world. I have talked to abused children, spoken to heartbroken parents, seen friends use and abuse each other, and watched a church do further harm. I have been broken and on my knees (which are more beautiful lines from the song). I have been tempted to put up a guard and struggled to keep my candle bright. So I needed Mumford and Sons’ “Not With Haste.” And I believe with faith that the hope I cling to as a Christian pastor will come to pass, even through these violent storms.
In that glorious hope, I long to see God save the entire “Babel” album and let it into the New Creation. Otherwise we will be stuck singing “Jesus Freak” for all eternity and nobody wants that.
Until His Return, cling to hope.