We recently came across a blogger who was addressing our song, What Do I Know of Holy. While we don't usually comment on people's personal site in regards to our music, this one intrigued us. You can find Mark's take on the song at his ambitious and creative blog: revivelutheranhymns.blogspot.com. Our base player, Travis, responded first and Mark has written back with a few more questions on his blog. I am answering the second round of questions, but my answer is way too long to fit in the comment section of his blog, so I am posting it here.
We appreciate Mark and what he is endeavoring to do with music and hymns. And, as always, we love interacting with Christians who think, offer opinions and criticism, and choose to enter into open dialogue with intelligence and respect. Thank you Mark. If you have thoughts to contribute, please leave comments on either of our blogs!
I hope you don’t mind, but I would love to join the conversation, as I am one of the writers of the song What Do I Know of Holy. We appreciate open dialogue and love the chance to explore lyrics with other believers, so thanks for allowing us to join in your community to do so.
You ask how we go deeper with Christ and how the words of this particular song encourage this? Let me address the latter part of that question.
This song is completely confessional in nature.
It is not meant to encourage people or to give them guidance on how to deepen their relationship with our Lord. If anything, what I hope people would hear in this song is a very weak girl, who often doubts, sometimes professes things that have not truly penetrated my heart, and realizes she has spent a long time paying lip service without having a clue of the true holiness God possesses. If anything, this song should give people the freedom to be honest.
As a girl who was raised in the church with two ordained parents who have doctorates in theology and ministry, listened to nothing but Christian music, and now travels the country leading other believers in worship; I was shocked to have the blinders removed from my eyes (after being touched by the reading of Isaiah 6) and to realize that after all my exposure to God, I had never grasped the holiness of the Lord the way Isaiah did in the passage.
I represent a generation that has come up with, “Jesus is my homeboy” and other slang phrases that reduce Jesus to a trendy, cool guy. God used Isaiah 6 in particular to say to me, “No Jenny, I am the Lord God. I am not anyone’s homeboy. I am Holy.”
And this song was born.
I am guilty of making God too small, too worldly. As if God was a kind grandpa who thinks I'm adorable; a best friend who only wants to tell me good things; a dad who thinks I am perfect; a mom who just wants to hold me and give me kisses.
And while I believe the Lord interacts with me in those nurturing ways; I realize that I have spent much of my life within the walls of a church (universal) that has turned the creator of the universe into pizza parties, program's, and trite worship songs. I found myself guilty of forgetting God's holiness in the midst of all that. So the answer to your question is that this song is not really meant to encourage, in any practical way, a believer in God to go deeper (though I believe that it does encourage in some mysterious way). Rather, it is my confession to the Lord.
“In what way is the fact or the message that Christ is “mighty to save” empty according to how the singer means it?”
Great question. In the same way that I can apologize to my husband but not really mean it or care. In the same way I can sing a worship song but not actually be communing with the Lord. In the same way I can participate in communion and be thinking about what I will fix for lunch and if I can slip out and beat the other moms to the nursery. In the same way I can study a passage of scripture and know the history, context, Greek, and commentaries on it, yet not apply it to my life.
God’s words are not empty. Scripture is God’s story of redemption. It is beautiful and true. And in its pages, if your eyes are open, you catch a glimpse of a very holy God. We cannot know God completely through scripture, nature, revelation, worship, etc… but I believe He allows us to get oh so close; as close as this side of heaven will allow for. And God absolutely uses the words of scripture to accomplish this.
Problem is, we lose sight of God amidst our busy, materialistic, simple-minded, “Jesus is my homeboy” sugary American church culture and we start doing what we humans do best: pretending. And that is when the words of scripture become empty inside of us.
The words themselves are not empty, but the person receiving the words is.
Scripture can become mere writing on a page that goes in one ear and out the other if our hearts aren't actively engaged.
Is God mighty to save? Absolutely.
Can those words ring hollow, empty, and untrue inside of me? Unfortunately, yes. I have found that tradition can be deadly for the soul.
When I came face to face with God through the Isaiah 6 passage, it was unlike anything I had ever imagined and far from who I thought I was worshipping. Like Isaiah experienced, I was in the presence of this holy, bright, wise, powerful, loving, majestic God whom the angels worshipped with passion. My words failed me as my eyes were opened to a God I had never known. And I fell to my knees in that worship service and thought...
Oh my gosh. What do I know of Holy?
Is he fire? Is he fury? Is he sacred? Is he beautiful? Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Of course He is.
And did I miss this? Yes. I have spent my entire life in church and somehow, I missed the depth of God's holiness. And just a taste of his glory has changed everything for me.
This song simply reflects my journey of showing up at God’s front door and being invited in. And then, much like this blog, my childlike, desperate, rambling confessions to the Lord began… including, “Lord, I’m sorry for thinking that I figured you out. I am sorry for allowing your words to be empty words on a page. I’m sorry I never worshipped you the way you are worthy to be worshipped... I'm sorry.”
And that is, from the writer's perspective, the meaning behind this song.