Same Lyrics, Different Song
In 2014 mega-superstar Taylor Swift released 1989, which produced seven number one singles, and sold (to date) 7 million copies. It was, in my humble opinion, the best album Swift ever produced.
Okay, go ahead and hate on me because I happen to like Taylor Swift. I can take it.
So, I already loved 1989, but something happened in 2015 that made me love it even more. Ryan Adams, one of my favorite singer/songwriters, recreated it song-for-song.
Adams masterfully changed the arrangements and the overall style of every single on the album, reinterpreting them musically, but leaving them unchanged lyrically.
I was listening to Adams' version of 1989 this morning and I was struck anew with the brilliance of what he was able to do. Adams took Taylor Swift's songs (which had been produced for mass commercialization and pop consumption), and tapped into the soul of her lyrics and gave the songs unexpected depth, more complexity.
What Adams was able to do was introduce Taylor Swift's work to an audience that would have never given her music a first listen because of its pop packaging. They would have assumed it was for other people.
It occurs to me that there's a lesson here for Christians. I feel like for far too long Christianity has been produced with a particular audience in mind. The dominant voices of cultural Christianity today are basically just using the same beats, rhythms, bridges, and tempo that sells to the same old crowd.
They use the same musical phrases because the echo chamber of cultural Christianity keeps telling them it's good, and not to change a thing.
Author Jonathan Merritt recently wrote that most Christians fall into these patterns because: "...it requires less energy and imagination." He calls this fossilization, which "... amounts to doing nothing, to freezing, to staying where one stands, immovable and still."
Those of us who claim to follow Jesus need to remember that Jesus was the author of innovation, and re-imagination when it came to Godtalk and faith.
Jesus would often introduce innovative ideas into the fixed religious system of the first century by saying, "You have heard the old way of saying things is this... BUT I say to you..."
Jesus took the lyrics of Scripture and put new music to them.
And when he did, the meaning of those lyrics, the stories they told about God and God's love... they became accessible to more than just a few comfortable people who had come to believe the music was just for them.
May the truth of Jesus own words fall on all of us and transform our complacency into joyful newness of life. May we always be ready to hear familiar life-giving words set to different music.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.