Sunday, February 5, 2012

God of the Broken

 I really enjoyed hanging out at church this morning.  I'm slowly feeling more connected with the folks there (I haven't been attending there all that long) and am loving the sense of community, and the freedom and joy that so often comes across through what is shared.

I really enjoyed the singing, too - more than I have in a while.  I haven't been finding it easy to pray or to feel "connected" with God, of late (much as I value that) & it was a time when I felt I could just reach out and trust Him, if that makes sense.  It was what my soul needed.

But there was something I just couldn't quite do.  I couldn't sing the words of some of the songs, comfortably.  In fact, I ended up staying silent for bits, and at one point changed them to my own version.  Not that they were theologically wrong, or bad at all.  It's just...

For me, the words of some of the popular christian songs that are around at the moment sound, rather than affirmations of the wonder of God, like affirmations of our own "rightness".  Declarations of the privileged place of "christian culture", if you like.  I don't know that this was ever the intent of the songwriters, and I am sure nobody is singing them with that in the forefront of their minds... but to me it is there, as an insidious subscript.  And, what's more, I think for those outside the Church, it is probably a GLARING script - nothing "sub" about it!!

The phrase that I found difficult, this morning, was the phrase "Our God".  It crops up in more than a few currently popular songs.  One they love to sing at my kids' school, has words that go

Our God is greater,
Our God is stronger
God you are higher than any other...

The one we were singing this morning, was that lovely, reverent song by Christ Tomlin "How Great is Our God".  I actually really like this song (well, both, actually) but the "our God" bit sits awkwardly with me.

As we were singing, I wanted to ask questions like:  "Our God?  Who is Us? "

Do you mean "The God of got-it-all-together-signs-and-wonders-pentecostals"?  Somehow that seems too small.

Do you mean  "The God of theologically correct christian conservatives who subscribe to right doctrine"?  Hmmm.  Still too small.

Do you mean "The God of everyone who uses the name Jesus in their worship" - Wow!  That could be dangerous!  And, somehow, I STILL think it's too small.

For me, I want to sing to the God of the broken.  The God of all who seek Him - and those who don't.  The God who gave, and continues to give Himself for the messed up, the hurting, the angry, the self-righteous, the haters, the angst ridden seekers and the blissfully ignorant.  The God who is "God with Us" - all those who need Him.  Now that's an "Us" I can feel part of.

Image Credit:    Andy Goldsworthy installation.  Image from


  1. Wow this is awesome! I really enjoyed reading this and share the same feelings towards the "insidious subscript" that is in a lot of today's worship songs and agree that to those outside the "faith" would see it in exactly that light. Food for thought ;) xox

  2. Thanks, Abs!! (& thank you so much for popping in and taking the time to comment!) xxx

  3. I really like Chris Tomlin's music but I do understand what you mean. I live with chronic illness and have for years and I love music. However, I do have some great songs that help remind me that God is with me through the good and bad times. I love the songs like: The desert song, Cry out to Jesus, Jesus Hold me now (and pretty much everything from casting crowns, Blessed be your name. I find I go through seasons with songs and that God can really speak to me through songs.

  4. Thats my God im singing to kerry, the God of the broken. The God of all who seek Him - and those who don't. The God who gave, and continues to give Himself for the messed up, the hurting, the angry, the self-righteous, the haters, the angst ridden seekers and the blissfully ignorant. The God who there for those who need him and those who dont need him , im singing to my God about the 15 year i met the other day a stunning beauty who considers suicide often and cuts her wrists to deal with the emotional pain shes feeling because she makes her self miscarriage, I sing and I think of her and know that I cannot really help her nor can others out there, but my God who is greater, my God who is stronger WHO can not only turn her life around because he is awesome in power, but he can take this burden I feel for her , how do I know? because I once was on a path as bad, if not worse than this and I know our god is healer, the best part is hes not just my GOD HE`S OUR GOD :)

  5. I have always thought of his words and the term 'Us" is mean God's creation! Whether or not we worship God or acknowledge him, he is still the God of his creation.

    However within a Congregational context, I have no qualms about singing within a communal meaning of declaring he is the God of the resent community who are praising him, and therefore within our own brokenness, we can say, God, you are my God.

  6. Hey, Rachel!

    Yes I really like CT's stuff, too - that song included. Just wary of that "us against the world" flavour that sometimes creeps in (talking about church, now, not CT particularly). The world is where we need to BE - reaching out with open arms!!

    (& yes, nothing like a good song to help you through a tough day!! The Desert song is one of my favourites!)

    1. Yeah so true! These lyrics have been in my mind a lot lately:

      "Let our hearts be led by mercy
      Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
      Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks yours"

      They are from Jesus Friend of Sinners (Casting Crowns)
      The challenge for me is that its easy to sing the lyrics but when I'm presented with what breaks God's heart how do I respond?

  7. Ohhh - Thank you everyone who took time to comment - very excited, but a little nonplussed, to find an extra 2 comments inexplicably sitting in the spam folder, this morning!! All fixed, now - & thank you for joining the conversation!

    Craig - Yes I think it really all depends on the attitude you take when you sing those words. "Our" God, or "Us" can be inclusive or exclusive.

    & thank you, Anon (Rosie??) What a lovely response!!

  8. Christianity is not unique among religions where it divides the human population into a duality of the "in" crowd, and the "out" crowd. Islam and Judaism are triumphalist as well.
    One of the precepts of all religions is "other" people, to say who is acceptable and who is not acceptable, to claim like every other religion, that they have the truth exclusively. Religion is about Exclusion, and everything that means.

  9. Hey, Stuart!
    You can debate the definition of "religion" and types of religions - and I agree that it is very often used as an "in-group" identifier (which is just a basic human sociological response, really) - but I don't believe faith has to be exclusive. More than that, regardless of the tendencies of so many of his "followers", I don't believe Jesus was about exclusion at all - in fact, just the opposite.

  10. What about the dichotomy of those with faith, and those without faith. Doesn't that mean a "community of faith" must by necessarily exclude those who express no faith. (Especially those who would be destructive to that community)

    Jesus I agree was not the exclusive type, but his apostles, disciples were - and that is also part of the tradition of the broad church. Just think about what James said about "double minded people" or the way in which Paul went about excluding homosexuals.

  11. Stu, I don't think the lines are so clearly drawn. I think there is a very great sense that some who might appear to be "in" may not be representing Christ at all... and many who appear to be "out" are, in fact, accepted by Him. This makes it impossible for us, as a "Community of Believers" to say, definitively, who belongs and who doesn't. Yes, there are times when damaging behaviours need to be challenged (but that's life, anywhere)and healthy relationship boundaries established - but as to who is and is not part of the Kingdom of God? I think that's entirely God's business!

    Jesus alluded to this at various times... think the sheep and goats, the story of the wheat and the tares... and he spent his public years blowing everybody's preconceptions about who was and was not "acceptable" to God... Samaritans, tax collectors, prostitutes... (all in the long established tradition of God's story, by the way - the OT is also full of "outsiders" who were included and important!)

    Whilst it has been a long tradition in Christian institutional circles, to view the Apostles' writings as the template for modern doctrine and praxis, I think this is a mistaken view. After all, if we follow Jesus - then HE is the template - & the apostle Paul said as much - emphatically!

    The disciples were (as many of us are now) men (& women ;) who had come from a rigid paradigm, and a particular cultural understanding of who "belonged" and who didn't - and were in the process of having that paradigm shaken. Think Peter and Cornelius... Paul's entire ministry... The letters and accounts from that time record men honestly struggling with a whole new way of looking at the world - set in motion by Jesus. We follow in that tradition - not in the sense of codifying their struggles as some kind of template for living, but in the sense of continuing the struggle - to live the Way of Love, and to allow God to break our preconceptions and let us see - and love - the "others" around us as He does.

  12. Dear Kerry. Very thoughtful. No wonder I spend so much time reading you, you make a lot of sense.

    You're one of the reasons I wont reject the church completely.

    Thank you

  13. Stu, you just brought tears to my eyes. No words.


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