what a beautiful name

She may live in LA. She may work with Hillsong Australia, but she is most definitely a Kiwi Brethren lass from the Hutt Valley. Her father was an All Black rugby player, for goodness sake.  What better pedigree could there be?!

I remember speaking at a conference where I was responsible for the adults in one room and she was taking the young people in another (that is the best name-dropping I can do - not very impressive, is it?) and a few months later lyrics like "break my heart for what breaks yours" were travelling their way across the time zones ...

... and now Brooke Fraser has won a Grammy as song-writer and lead vocalist for the Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song. Congratulations to Hillsong Worship for your pursuit of excellence and truth in this piece of musicWhy not add to the 12 million views and listen for those lyrics one more time?

Creation. Pre-existence. Incarnation. Sin. Grace. Love. Cross. Resurrection. Eternity. JESUS. 'You have no rival; you have no equal'. So much truth in so few words. It makes me weep when I think about these beautiful words circling the globe again, finding their melodic way into the hearts of many who have not yet surrendered their lives to this Name. Thanks, Grammy Awards, for being an agent of the mission of God. [NB: If I could have a quiet word with Brooke, I'd ask her to write one more verse - especially for the persecuted followers of this Name whom contemporary worship easily overlooks - a verse where the eschatology is not totally 'here and now', or 'realised', because we are being reminded that there is this certain future hope that the Name will return to sort out the mess, once and for all time].

But this Grammy has sparked my mind in different directions...

While travelling, I limit myself to one movie maximum per flight so that I can also read a bit. On the flight right after this Grammy news came through (and another quick watch of this video), Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was the choice. Yikes. That is quite a movie. While distracted a bit by yet another thinly-disguised Hollywood sermon (not altogether a bad thing because the church's sermons can be so slow to get in first) and the desperate need among the characters for the forgiveness that can be found in the Name - it was the taking of the Name in vain, making it a lot less than beautiful, that so upset me. Does this offend anyone any more? I hate it. I wonder what would happen if Hollywood gave the same treatment to the founder of another faith that comes to mind? Even movie censors in a religious society like India will get rid of Fs and Cs and Ss - but leave the Name in there.

Speaking of religious societies, journalists in my irreligious home of NZ seem clueless when it comes to reporting positive stories that come out of the Christian world. Maybe they've been listening to Hollywood sermons for too long and been persuaded by its depiction of the church, like is expressed again, I might add, in a shameful cameo in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Maybe I have not looked far enough or wide enough ... but for Brooke to win a Grammy and then for Lorde's dress to receive a higher and bigger headline beggars belief. I know the latter (kinda) bears the name - but where is the professionalism in your profession? Maybe journalism needs a Brooke, a Christian so superb at their vocation that they rise to the top of it.

You need to know that I am a little suspicious of performance in worship. It is a bit like performance in preaching. I am suspicious of that as well. When training preachers I say things like 'you cannot be thinking about presenting yourself as a great preacher and then expect your listeners to be hearing that God is a great God and the Name is a great Saviour.' It doesn't work like that. The medium is messing with the message, as they say. Now I know there will be readers of this post who have reached this point and are desperate to tell me, "Paul, Paul, Paul - you should have linked the clip that has had 114 million views." Yes, you read that right. 114 million. A staggering number, almost Lorde-ian. Here is the link. I've watched it many times. It is so beautiful, so moving. But I didn't use that link for a reason and you know the reason before I even write it. Go on - watch the two clips and tell me which one communicates the beautiful Name of Jesus better to you. Isn't it true that in the latter we are also drawn to the beauty of the crowd, the beauty of the lighting, the beauty of the people, the beauty of the set and does this diffusion not detract from the beauty of the Name? 

I am not trying to have a petty poke at Hillsong specifically. Nah. I have not one, but two, sets of friends at the heart of that ministry. Big targets are easy targets. I have some respect for what they are trying to do. But, petty pokes aside, I do have a big beef with the 'leading' of worship more generally. I am not convinced that the worship industry has figured this one out yet.

nice chatting



Unknown said…
Thanks, Paul...right on!
Isn't it wonderful to think of people all around the world singing this song - including my father-in-law at 96 years of age who leaves comments on my blog? :) :) Much love, Paul
Randal Scott said…
It's becoming increasingly difficult to watch anything on TV or at the movies that doesn't take the Name in vain. We had to stop watching The Crowd Goes Wild last year because Mark Richardson used the Name so appallingly!

However, two of our favourite movies, The Castle and The Dish, also take the Name in vain on several occasions. What message am I sending to my kids by watching those movies multiple times?

Paul said…
Yes, Randal, it is hard to hide from it, isn't it?

We used to talk back to the TV with the kids when the Name was taken in vain. It is important not to be passive and for the children to know that a line has been crossed. Movies are more straightforward than people. If a movie does it a lot, I wouldn't be watching it 'multiple times' or letting it become a 'favourite' - as I think you are suggesting.

The bigger challenge is how we train our children to respond to the Name in vain when in conversation with people. Walk away? Quietly suggest that speaking the Name in that way is unacceptable and offensive? You know you have a strong one in the making, if they have the courage to act in this manner. After all, we are called to be distinctive light, not just mixed-in salt.

Plus, living in a pluralist society creates a space for Christianity alongside other faiths, but in NZ it tends to be marginalised, becoming the one faith that can be offended with impunity. That should not be. It is a poor application of what it means to be pluralist...

Blessings, Paul
James Franklin said…
Worship songs are known as the praise song. The Christian people sing this song when they pray in the churches. A specialized worship band or praise team lead this song with the guitar or piano. What a beautiful name chords

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