Christian rock and praise music (which are not the same thing) have never been my go-to musical styles for Christian music. I love the camp and VBS songs – the Lord said to Noah there’s gonna be a floody-floody… I love Gospel music, especially the style where there is a call and response between one or two lead voices and the big, powerful choir.

During high school and when home for summers during college, I would listen to “Gospel Flight” before the NPR Sunday morning show came on and before going to church – this was in Salt Lake City, Utah, where it was pretty hard to find Gospel music on the radio. I love the traditional classical cantatas and oratorios. And I love many of our hymns in our various hymnals. But some praise music seems thin and shallow to me.

Yet, while I was on vacation a few weeks ago, I had an ear and heart opening experience. Our family vacation was to Edinburgh, Scotland, where we visited and stayed with Markus, our good friend and our daughters’ godfather. He is an Episcopal priest and rector of St. John’s Scottish Episcopal Church in Edinburgh. His church has Evensong every Sunday at 6:00 p.m. but they get creative in the month of July when the choir and organist take the month off from Evensong. We went on the last Sunday in July. That evening, there was a 30 or so member brass band which played anthems and accompanied the congregation’s singing. One of the hymns we sang was something I’ve always considered to be emblematic of the thinness of American Evangelical praise music, Shine Jesus Shine. (I do apologize if you love that song. Stick with me for a minute.)

I’m sure that I’ve never given that song a fair listen until that evening. I’m sure that I never really listened past the first line of the chorus, the Shine Jesus Shine part.  While the accompaniment by brass band and the song being sung in those lovely Scottish accents might have been what made me really notice the words, I think it was that everyone in the congregation was singing this song. The words were printed in the worship bulletin, without any music notes, yet people sang. And I sang it as well, with no irony or guile. (Reminds me of the preschool VBS campers singing Kum By Ya in deep sincerity.)

Is there something that you’ve given a second (or hundredth) chance lately? What caused you to listen for something new? To what did God open your heart and mind? Can you share that with someone?

 Shine Jesus Shine lyrics by GRAHAM KENDRICK

Shine Jesus shine
Fill this land with the Father's glory
Blaze Spirit blaze
Set our hearts on fire
Flow river flow
Flood the nations with grace and mercy
Send forth Your word
Lord and let there be light

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