Tuesday, June 24, 2008


A lot of contemporary music focuses on the Cross. Accompanying graphics picture all sorts of crosses; some eloquent and others sentimental. In a conversation with a contemporary musician I asked where are the empty tomb and resurrection songs? After a while of thought he confessed that there were less he knew of resurrection than of death and sacrifice.
Shift to France. I had a conversation with our host, a retired Swiss missionary who is biblically astute. For some reason the conversation came up about contemporary Christian culture being more Cross-focussed than empty tomb focused. “Oh” she said, “It’s all about the cross and the price Jesus paid for our sins.” I replied that yes, the cross is vital, but only a part of the story of suffering, death, then resurrection, appearance, ascension, Pentecost and coming again in glory.
In working on my book “Old Stones” I spent time in a book by Anscar J. Chupungco “Handbook for Liturgical Studies: Liturgical Time and Space.” There I read a fascinating account of the early church struggle about what Easter really was all about. One voice in the church said that Easter was about the “pascha” the suffering and sacrifice of Christ the Lamb of God replacing the Passover Lamb (from Exodus 12). Easter was the Cross. Another voice said that Easter was about the “passage” from slavery into freedom through the waters of sin and death (Exodus 13-14) and it really is about a new beginning.
Over the centuries the voices emphasizing resurrection and victory overshadowed the voices stressing just the death and the blood. The church wisely put the emphasis on Easter of “Christ Is Risen…He Is Risen Indeed!” instead of “celebrate his death until he comes again.” I was taught as a yong Christian that the difference between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism was best seen in the crosses we use: with Jesus hung there and dying on the one and absent and resurrected on the other. I’m sure that is a bit of a simplification, but telling.
So what does the corpus of worship music tell us about what we stress and value today? Death or Ressurection? Listen to the music.


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