Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Secular Lyrics Lead to Worship

Recently my digital copy of Paul Simon's album “Graceland” purchased from iTunes became corrupted, so I was online downloading replacement files, and listening to them at the same time. And I was struck by just how much spiritual content he had packed into his lyrics. And Paul Simon is a fairly secular Jew, not a Christian. The title song “Graceland” on the surface seems to be about taking his son on a road trip to see Elvis' mansion in Memphis. But buried within is a remarkable look at the brokenness of human beings – all of us:

        And my traveling companions
        Are ghosts and empty sockets

        She comes back to tell me she's gone
        As if I didn't know that
        As if I didn't know my own bed
        As if I'd never noticed
        The way she brushed her hair from her forehead
        And she said losing love
        Is like a window in your heart
        Everybody sees you're blown apart
        Everybody sees the wind blow

...and also that, somewhere on our journey there is a destination for us all, and redemption is there:
        But I've reason to believe
        We all will be received
        In Graceland

Another Paul Simon lyric (not on Graceland) that has always moved me is from the song “America”:
        “Kathy, I'm lost” I said,
        though I knew she was sleeping
        “I'm empty and aching
        and I don't know why.”
Confession is a little easier if you know there won't be judgement on the other side, isn't it? I guess that's why the Catholic priests have that little screen between them and the confessor.

Here's another one: “Say Something” by A Great Big World. Where “Graceland” was spurred by the aftermath of a marriage that had fallen apart, “Say Something” is the pain of love being offered but not accepted. While the song is quite obviously about romantic love, parts of it made me think of how God must feel when his offer of love is rejected. In Romans 1, Paul writes of how God, in the face of people who willfully reject him, “gives them over” to the sinful states that they so eagerly pursue. Paul speaks of this as being God's wrath against the godlessness and wickedness. But I am convinced that, while God is justifiably angry at people's rebellion, he is also deeply saddened – enough to make the hugest sacrifice that we could ever comprehend in order to save some.

        Say something, I'm giving up on you
        I'll be the one, if you want me to
        Anywhere, I would've followed you
        Say something, I'm giving up on you
        Say something

Lastly, Paul McCartney, accused of writing vacuous, lightweight songs, might well point to “Eleanor Rigby” in his defense.

        Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been
        Lives in a dream
        Waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door
        Who is it for?

If you actually read the words to this song and are not moved by McCartney's perceptive look at the forgotten and unnoticed people in the world, well maybe you have no soul. I'm just sayin'.

So why is this in a blog about worship music? Well, real worship doesn't only happen when you're in a church service. It also happens when you hear a song on the radio as you're driving to work and are moved to think about God and just maybe have some appreciation for what he's done for you through Jesus.

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