The wrong video clips of God

This note started out life as a response a post by a friend, and I then re-posted it in its own right for Easter.

I recently looked up one of my favourite songs on YouTube.  It’s called “In Christ Alone”

YouTube came up with this:

Somebody had set this moving and uplifting song to scenes of “The passion of the Christ” but my first impression was that the scenes chosen didn’t always fit too well with the song.  Uplifting lines from the song were set to altogether less uplifting scenes from the film.

Then it occurred to me that, in fact, that’s the whole point. These gorgeous songs sometimes give us a “mountain-top” experience, a real sensation of the closeness of God. But “mountain-top” experiences are not a goal. They are something God gives us to strengthen us to live in the real world as salt and light. And the real world isn’t always shiny, and it doesn’t always fit feel-good music. But God’s there in it anyway – as our pastor describes it: “The glory in the grey”

And suddenly to listen to the haunting strains of “In Christ alone my strength is found; he is my light, my strength, my song” juxtaposed against a background of scenes of the conflict and suffering of Christ’s passion makes sense.  It brings it alongside the later line

’til on the cross as Jesus died,
the wrath of God was satisfied”

What a strange blend of the triumphant and the sorrowful; the glory and the grey.

So, other than the fact it’s an Easter song set against an Easter story, am I making a point about Easter?  Well, yes.

Good Friday and Easter Sunday are deeply and intrinsically part of the same event, but so starkly different in the contrast between the death of Christ and his resurrection.  The same blend of triumph and sorrow; the same blend of glory and grey.  Easter is the baseline of our faith.  The triumph of Easter Sunday reminds us what God’s love is all about.  Good Friday reminds us what it cost.  And neither can be taken in isolation.

And our Christian lives which revolve around these two events must be equally paradoxical.  We live in the glory and triumph of a risen Christ, but called to embrace the suffering of the cross.  As well as Easter being the goal (to restore our own broken relationship with God) it is also a challenge: to be salt and light in his broken world.

A little like the quote I have on my profile: We are not set free FROM something. We are set free FOR something.

So, if you’ll allow me to move on to the final line of the song:

’til he returns or calls me home,
here in the power of Christ I’ll stand

© 2009 Paul Brownnutt

[Originally Published 12th April 2009]