Michael Card at ASLP: Suffering on the journey
It was a joy to have Michael Card at All Souls on Monday evening. I have to say that I don’t listen to a lot of (so-called) Christian music (and, incidentally, contrary to popular belief, I actually have listening tastes far beyond U2). But Card’s stuff is one of the very few exceptions to my rule. He has a great gift for lyrical melody; but he has an even greater gift for theological insight. Together that makes a powerful combination. I have always loved his album trilogy The Ancient Faith (which focuses on each of the 3 main OT genres: Torah, Wisdom & Prophecy). It was fun to hear some of them live. And it was evident from each spiel between songs that he has been thoroughly immersed in the Bible and so the insights just kept pouring out.
3 in particular struck me from the concert – not revelatory or new, just vital and important reminders:
- God’s greatest desire is actually our greatest need: our being with him! This is a major thread through OT & NT – as epitomised by the very name given to Christ: Immanuel (God with us)
- There will always be cost of following the one who went to the Cross for us – in the words of one of his 1993 songs, we must all leave things we must leave behind
- Then most affecting was his insight that our sufferings are an integral part of the Christian journey; what’s more they can even be redemptive; they are certainly unavoidable if we follow a crucified Master. Two songs particularly stood out. His meditation on the Book of Hosea (Song of Gomer) poignantly reminds one afresh of the amazing grace of forgiveness; and this one, inspired in part by Psalm 51. It has a slow country feel – not exactly my style of choice, by any stretch – but the integrity and thematic power are unmistakable:
COME LIFT UP YOUR SORROWS
If you are wounded, if you are alone,
If you are angry, if your heart is cold as stone,
If you have fallen and if you are weak,
Come find the worth of God that only the suffering seek.
Come lift up your sorrows And offer your pain;
Come make a sacrifice Of all your shame;
There in your wilderness, He’s waiting for you
To worship Him with your wounds, For He’s wounded too.
He has not stuttered, and He has not lied
When He said, “Come unto me, you’re not disqualified”
When your heavy laden, you may want to depart,
But those who know sorrow are closest to His heart.
In this most Holy Place He’s made a sacred space
For those who will enter in and trust to cry out to Him;
You’ll find no curtain there, no reason left for fear;
There’s perfect freedom here to weep every unwept tear.
I had the privilege of being able to interview him at the start of the concert – which was fun. As we were briefly chatting that through beforehand, he mentioned how significant one of John Stott’s books had been for him. Brought up in the Bible belt of the Deep South, he had been influenced by its pervasive anti-intellectualism and suspicion of academia. It was Stott’s Your Mind Matters which turned him round and inspired him to go to university and study.