Tag Archives: Francis Schaeffer

Worship Wednesday – Undivided – First Call

Photo Credit: Redeemer, New Paltz

“I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours...Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one…I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”– Jesus – John 17:9, 11b, 20-23

Years ago, on a hot summer evening, I went with a friend to a church deep in Coptic Cairo. We took on the challenge of the choking downtown traffic and dusty dry heat to hear a Christian radio team perform. “A Verse and a Story” – [“Aya wa Hekaya”] – was the name of the humorous program on the radio. The actors present a situation from life and weave Scripture through the story. As inadequate as my understanding of Arabic was, I could get the meaning of the stories and loved being a part of that group of Egyptians that evening. There was also a time of worship – singing and prayer…also in Arabic. As the ceiling fans moved the hot air around and we all glistened with sweat, there was such a oneness there…of sheer enjoyment of Jesus in our midst and the pleasure of being together.

All were welcome that night. Foreigner and local person. Varying doctrines…yet no divisions, in this moment, on style or substance. The love and unity of spirit in that great gathering hall was a sweet glimpse of Heaven (Revelation 7:9).

Enjoying a sense of unity for an evening with like-minded strangers is one thing…determining to live daily in the bond of love, as Christ-followers, is on an altogether higher order… Yet, Jesus prayed to the Father for us to live in those kind of unity…for our own sakes and for the sake of those who peer into our lives. Do they see Jesus when they see us?

John Piper, in his piece on What Is Christian Unity?, quotes Francis Schaeffer:

It is in the midst of a difference that we have our golden opportunity. When everything is going well and we are all standing around in a nice little circle, there is not much to be seen by the world. But when we come to the place where there is a real difference, and we exhibit uncompromised principles but at the same time observable love, then there is something that the world can see, something they can use to judge that these really are Christians, and that Jesus has indeed been sent by the Father. – Francis Schaeffer (Complete Works, vol. 4, 201)

My husband rides his bike on a trainer for exercise. Several evenings a week, I know what he’s doing by the playlist that filters through the house at different parts of his ride. There’s an old Gospel song (popular in the 80’s) that pops up which I love. It is First Call‘s Undivided.

Here are two YouTube videos of this group singing – Undivided with the original First Call (in 1986) and again more recently. The second performance comes 30 years after the first (and at 2:12 into the video, First Call is joined by Wayne Watson, Larnelle Harris, and Steve Green – all who gave us wonderful worship songs from early in the Contemporary Christian Music era).

Worship with me (with either of the versions above)…undivided:

We may worship different ways
We may praise Him and yet spend
All of our days living life divided
But when we seek Him with open hearts
He removes the walls we built
That keep up apart
We trust Him to unite us

Chorus
In our hearts we’re undivided
Worshipping one Saviour, one Lord
In our hearts we’re undivided
Worshipping one Saviour, one Lord
Bound by His Spirit
Forevermore

Undivided,
Undivided

It doesn’t matter if we agree
All He asks is that we serve Him faithfully
And love as He first loved us
He made us in His image
And in His eyes we are all the same
And though our methods they may be different
Jesus is the bond that will remain

Chorus
In our hearts we’re undivided
Worshipping one Saviour, one Lord
In our hearts we’re undivided
Worshipping one Saviour, one Lord
Bound by His Spirit
Forevermore

Undivided,
Undivided*

As much as I love contemporary worship, I miss the harmonies of another era – the four-part harmonies of these Gospel singing groups as well as just the corporate hymn-singing of my childhood. There is a unison of singing the melody line led by today’s worship teams, but the unity Jesus prayed for us is more symbolized in the many different voices heard in the old Gospel harmonies.

It’s not just unity longed for in the “Why can’t we all just get along?” lament. It’s a unity in Christ that is an answer to His prayer…a bond between us that transcends our many political opinions, cultural preferences, and national loyalties. It is a bond of love that begins with Christ and extends to the nations…a unity that holds believers together in an inclusive circle that opens its arms to all comers.

*Lyrics to Undivided

What Is Christian Unity? – John Piper

Q & A with a Filmmaker – Nathan Clarke on the Arts, Authenticity, and the Christian Faith

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Nathan Clarke is a filmmaker with Fourth Line Films. He is known for his documentaries and honest story-telling through film (see Wrestling for Jesus). Most recently, Nathan and team at Fourth Line, premiered a lovely and moving film. Produced through support of Fuller Seminary, this 20-minute documentary, Bono and Eugene Peterson –  The Psalms, is available to watch on YouTube.

I had the privilege of attending a preview screening of this film (reviewed it on this blog). After the showing of the film, Corey Widmer facilitated a Q & A with Nathan Clarke and the audience. What follows is taken from my notes on the Q & A and reflects some of his thinking on the arts (how faith might color them and the cry for authenticity). Here are my takeaways.

On hoped-for impact of the film “A lot of people who would only know Bono will now know Eugene and The Message. Those who only knew Peterson from the Message will now be introduced to his other books.” [The Message is a version of the Bible translated into the contemporary English language (of 1993) by Eugene Peterson. Although it’s over 20 years old, it still makes for an easier read for anyone new to the Bible. Peterson’s bold action for that very purpose has come under criticism over the years, with some calling The Message a paraphrase, not a true translation. For Bono, this version made Scripture come alive for him.]

Sidebar: I didn’t know Peterson wrote other books until watching this film. Bono praises Peterson’s book Run with the Horses as “a powerful manual for me”. Besides The Message, there are over 30 books available to us written by Eugene Peterson.Blog - Eugene Peterson booksPhoto Credit: YouTube – Bono & Eugene Peterson

This revelation reminded me of a tiny section of my bookcase, right beside my work desk, that houses the best of my “old friends”. Oswald Chambers’ classic My Utmost for His Highest is only one of several great wisdom books under his authorship. Thanks to Nathan Clarke, I will look into Eugene Peterson’s other books.Blog - Oswald Chambers Books

On making art as a Christian – Nathan told the story of making the film Wrestling for Jesus. As he filmed this documentary about Christian wrestlers, one of them, in the course of the filming, began to have his life fall completely apart. Was his “wrestling for Jesus” over? Nathan and team incorporated that story in the film. When he submitted the film to a Christian film festival, it was rejected because it wasn’t “family-friendly”. “What about David? What about Solomon?”, Nathan lamented. [The Bible is full of messy real-life struggles. Do we just white-wash those? In the film with Eugene, Bono sees Christian song-writers as being “vulnerable, open, porous toward God”; he implores them to “write honest lyrics” – about your bad marriage and…about how frustrated you are with your government. I’m suspicious of Christians because of this lack of realism in art, in life, and in music.”]

On art and the church – Nathan went on to ask the question, “Do we think of artists as just accentuating the decoration of the church?” [echoing Bono’s declaration on the arts as “essential not decorative”]  Nathan then implored, “All my work is out there – is there a place for it in here [the church building/the church itself]?” When asked how we can create Christian communities where artists could thrive and create, Nathan offered some practical suggestions:

  • Patronage – We should buy their work.
  • Offer effective and helpful critique of art – in a way that honors the image of God in who they are and still say, when necessary, “That sucks”. […this coming only out of a place of honoring…emphasizing this, as a mom of an artist.]
  • Business people can help artists with the business side of their work. Helping them learn from failures and from success; helping them to market themselves, run a business, do taxes. This is also a form of patronage.
  • Give space for artists to talk about their art, practice their art, display their art in this place (the church building). [There are just a limited number of paid positions within a church (ex. worship leader). Still, there are artists in our churches that could have a place to express the gifts God has given them…these songwriters, musicians, writers, painters, and poets.]

This was so helpful, Nathan. Thank you!

On authenticity as artists who are also Christians – “If you look at God as artist, he didn’t make art a utilitarian thing (a means to an end). He expressed art as an end in itself”. Nathan talked about how affected he was by the film In Pursuit of Silence. He quoted Greg Hindy, a student/pilgrim, in the film:Blog - Nathan Clarke - Greg Hindy on Silence - newslookupPhoto Credit: New York Post

“Silence should be explored not explained”. Then Nathan applied that to art as being best “explored not explained”. Art is better served not with the end in mind but through illumination that comes in the making of the art (as he discovered in the filming of Wrestling For Jesus). Even as Christian artists try to explain what part God played in their work, how can we really know or compartmentalize that? [As much as we would hope art could have an impact on our culture, for instance, can we shape or manipulate the art toward “making that happen”? Is that right/honest/authentic?] Nathan responded with “Art that seeks to catalyze will never affect change, but good art catalyzes change.” He talked more about the role of the artist who is also Christian as a “faithful presence” (from James Hunter’s book To Change the World) – honoring God through his craft and serving others with it.Blog - nathan Clarke - faithful presence -azquotesPhoto Credit: AZ Quotes

Christian artists, like others, walk a fine line here, and Nathan stated he felt that tension all the time. Filmmakers manipulate light, color, mood, materials, sequence… He aims to be as authentic as possible in the process – “We lie so we can tell the truth”.

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I would have kept the Q & A going even longer because of all that was stirring in my heart and mind. It was exhilarating both to see the film and to hear the process of it coming to fruition in the words of the filmmaker. I wish they had filmed the Q & A honestly (or maybe they did…who knows?). Anyway, there was one other question that struck me, given my son is a musician. Nathan was asked the difference in the craft – film vs. music. With film, he says there is a wrap. You may spend hours filming, weeks and months in production and then editing, but then it’s done. With musicians, they must get tired of singing those songs forever (I wonder, Bono…do you?) Still, says Nathan, “the filmmaker, poet, and painter all want to be rock stars.” That immediate feedback. After 15 months of working on this film, this evening, this screening, was the first time he experienced that feedback “hearing people laugh at the same time” at the funny parts.

With all the arts, there is a cost…but there is so much gain…for all of us.

Thanks again, Nathan, and Fourth Line Films.

Art and the Bible Quotes – Francis A. Schaeffer

In Pursuit of Silence – a Quiet Movie with Much to Say by Carl McColman

Faithful Presence – an Interview with James Davison Hunter by Christopher Benson