It’s wonderful that we get to worship God with contemporary songs written by ordinary people. But a song we sung at church today reminded me that whilst a worship song’s lyrics are the primary vehicle for helping us connect with God, there’s something else that can powerfully help us too. Let me explain.
In July 2010, a girl from our church died in a car accident. Her name was Angharad Clague. I had been working with her for a year as well as taking part in a theology training programme with her. It was so sudden. One of the positives from having had a blog for quite some time now is that I can show you the emotions from that period in their rawest state. Read about it here and here.
At the time, our youth worship team was preparing for a tour to Albania the following week. Bill and Anne Clague, Annie’s parents, had asked us to play at her funeral which would take place the day after we returned from our trip. Of course, it goes without saying that we were honoured to, but the idea of rehearsing for Annie’s funeral in the midst of a youth conference in Albania was surreal to say the least. One of the parent’s requests was a song called ‘The One Who Saves’, then a brand new track on Hillsong’s latest CD, ‘A Beautiful Exchange’. As our week of touring Albania was drawing to a close, we gathered the team together on a swelteringly hot summer’s afternoon in the room where the conference was being held. I can picture myself holding up my phone to play the track, stood with Zak (our bassist) trying to listen out for parts and chords. I can remember desperately wanting to play every song for the funeral completely perfectly (mistakes were not an option); I can remember the band’s absolute focus as we tried to play the song as best we could for two reasons: to honour Annie’s memory and to give everything we had to our Creator during this horrendous time. To the God who in all things works for the good of those who love Him. I remember that we worshipped God with such reckless abandon. It absolutely didn’t matter that it was just us. There could’ve been a million people worshipping God with us, the desperate longing for God to be with us in that moment would have been exactly the same. I remember a number of pairs of eyes welling up with tears; I remember that because they matched my own.
I remember Stuart (our guitarist) thinking about what he was going to say at Annie’s funeral on the bus journey back to the airport. It was in Pogradec, the beginning of our journey. Still, ‘The One Who Saves’ played over and over in my headphones. I had barely taken it off of repeat during that week. Zak and Stuart had been particularly close to Annie, so naturally this was as difficult for them as anyone, if not far more so.
In little more than twenty-four hours, we had gone from dusty shorts, tshirts ands a host of friendly goodbye hugs with our Albanian friends to sound-checking in our home church, Kerith Community Church, in Bracknell, wearing suits; distinctly quieter than the previous day. I remember rehearsing ‘The One Who Saves’, taking in every word and making it my own tear-filled declaration. I have no doubt that the rest of the band were doing the same. The auditorium filled with hundreds of people who had been affected by Annie’s life and we led that song in worship. God was with us. Powerfully. This is what we sung:
Come join the song, lift your voice
As Heaven and Earth give praise
Fall to your knees at the feet
Of the Son of the One true God
Turn from old ways, lift your eyes
For the kingdom of God is here
Open your heart, offer all
For Jesus Christ is here, oh now
We will find our home
We will find our peace
We will find our rest
In the One who loves
He will light the way
He will lead us home
As we offer all
To the One who saves us
Call on the name that is hope
Jesus, the Son of God
Lord over all, He is good
And His mercy endures always
His love endures
Forever His love endures
Forever His love endures
Forever and ever
The words in bold particularly moved me on that day. I’ll never forget it.
That song subsequently began to be used by our adult worship team on Sundays and today, we sung it again at Kerith Community Church. As I said at the beginning of this post, the lyrics are meaningful alone. But there’s something else that can powerfully help us too. Experience. During one of the most horrific times of my life as a follower of Christ, this song was the anthem. During this season, I truly learnt about the enduring nature of God’s love…in all circumstances. One of my friends is now experiencing all of God’s glorious fullness in Heaven. She had been led home. Every time I sing this song, I remember those painful but powerful moments and suddenly it’s much more than a song about God’s love. It’s a reminder of a first-hand experience. It’s transformational.
I thought I’d share the song itself with you too, I hope it impacts you as much as it has impacted me: