Last week I was asked to put together a message on the famous words of Jesus “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46) for a community Good Friday service. As nerdy as it might sound to many, my mind went straight to the Greek text which opens (in English letters) “Thee mou” (the “th” pronounced soft as in three). As I meditated on these words I thought about a song from one of my favorite musical acts Burlap to Cashmere, “Agape Mou” from the album “Freedom Souls”. I have no idea what the influences for this album might have been, but, as I listened to it again this week it touched me as I was able to see the liturgy of the Holy Week unfold in the songs. Starting with track 6 “Passover” the songs show connections to the services and indeed the events and characters of Holy week. This was an unexpected connection for me and I will take you through my own discoveries, perhaps they can touch someone (even someone who hasn’t yet heard the album).
“Passover” and Maundy Thursday
When Jesus sat down with his disciples for the last supper he gave them a new mandate “to love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34) This love was the basis for the new relationship between the disciples and with their God. The song talks of fear and foolishness; yet, with confidence it declares “Lord you know my heart, so won’t you pass over me.” We who dream of being people of God and live lives of loving kindness can safely call on God to pass over us, to spare us from the destruction of evil. This sums up Jesus’ message in John 13 that God will look at our hearts and that if we have loving hearts God will indeed pass over us. Jesus’ message on Maundy Thursday was that God was redefining what it meant to be Israel and that the old Passover was no longer the standard. The new standard was the life of Christ and how we lived and loved in parallel to his life. All fear of Divine wrath replaced with the simple cry “you know my heart”, I have tried to love all as you do let your destruction pass over me as your adopted child.
“Agape Mou” and God Friday
I cannot help connecting the “My God” of the cross to the “My Love” of the song. The song opens “Agape mou, agape mou don’t leave me here to die. agape mou, agape mou, don’t leave me here to die. Agape mou, agape mou, the truth is but a lie. Agape mou, agape mou don’t leave me here to die.” The despair of these words capture the same sentiment as Jesus on the cross. The song goes on to describe the deep longing of the human heart to be understood and comforted, no doubt something which Christ was feeling on the cross. “Agape mou, agape mou there’s nothing left to see. Agape mou, agape mou just hold me ‘til I’m free.” Picture Jesus crying out: “My love, I am dying in your work. Hold me as I suffer!” and despite that cry feeling lost and abandoned. Certainly, like us, Jesus wanted that moment when the suffering gives way to freedom and the pain stops, even in death. Jesus’ heart ached and yet, on that cross, he could not see the presence of his loving father. His world was crashing down just so he could build ours anew.
“Brain Fog” and Holy Saturday
“Can you find my master; can you find him?” was certainly a cry of the disciples that dark Saturday when Jesus lay in the tomb. What better words to describe what the disciples must have gone through than “I’ve been lying in bed praying to God, I’ve been lying in bed with brain fog!” The anguish of loss comes through in the song in the harsh regular beat sounding like a war going on in the background. Fear, hopelessness, and a war precisely sum up my vision of the disciples, broken by the week’s tragic unfolding. In fact, what better way to describe them then in the midst of “brain fog” unsure of how they ended up where they are and clueless as to their next step. I am sure they were lying in bed depressed, crying to God for the strength and clarity to move, to make their next step.
“River in My Mind” and Easter vigil and Sunrise service
This song starts with the sound of rain pouring down and a very somber piano, just like the mood of Holy Saturday and approaching the tomb on Sunday morning. The disciples have cried themselves out and now exhausted there is little of the energy for the anger and fear, they are left with a sorrowful walk to the grave. Then a change, a guitar comes in with a reflective and hopeful note, “Just lookin’ for a sign of orchestrated time.” Isn’t that Easter morning, the disciples almost unaware of the shift in instrument and tempo sitting there looking for a sign that God is still active, reading their lives over the last three years, potentially searching the scriptures in their brains, just wanting a sign. Then the news comes in HE IS NOT THERE and they discover HE IS RISEN, and they know “this homeless bearded man is worth believin’ in”. Now they “have a lot of love to lend”. How great, how wonderful, everyone join in the singing, play the music loud, HE IS NOT HERE, HE IS RISEN.
“Dialing God” and Resurrection morning
Let the music build and build Christ is risen and now we are all “Dialing God” in the free and open access of the savior who has allowed us all to be children of the Almighty God. Now that the work of the cross is accomplished we celebrate as we continue the work of transforming the world into Christ’s everlasting kingdom.
May everyone find the beauty of Holy Week invading their lives and may the deep meaning of the events surround your everyday, even in the most mundane and unlikely of places.