Last night I was privileged to see the last date of the Art * Music * Justice Tour, featuring Derek Webb, Sandra McCracken, Sara Groves, Charlie Peacock and Brandon Heath. I'll admit that I was originally just excited to see so many of my favorite artists in one place. I've been a fan of Derek's ever since my friend Josh Petrillo introduced me to Caedmon's Call at the publications office at Grace. Derek is a prophetic truth-teller and is not afraid to tackle hypocrisy and politics and religiosity and doctrine. And his wife, Sandra... She has a voice like a young Emmylou Harris and writes gorgeous, life-affirming music. And Sara Groves... So inspired and gracious. And Charlie Peacock... He's a legend. I discovered him in 1990 with the release of The Secret of Time, and since then I've discovered all his other music. I wasn't really familiar with Brandon Heath, but he was clearly the one most of the people were there to see and hear. Apparently he is a member of the UMC church in The Woodlands where the concert was held.
As a concert, the show was beautiful. The artists all appeared on stage at the same time, backed by a superb rhythm section, and accompanied one another in various combinations. There were three large rear-projection screens behind the band. They used them to show all kinds of moving images, sometimes directly relating to the music being played. It was a lot more than a concert... Its stated purpose was to "add to the beauty, seek justice and give God praise." It started with a video of Martin Luther King Jr. on the eve of his assassination, talking about having "seen the mountaintop," interspersed with quotes by the likes of Mother Teresa, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, etc. Then the band launched into a lovely, shimmering version of Sara's "Add to the Beauty" complete with a mesmerizing video presentation...
And then the artists began to open their hearts, to tell stories and sing songs, to lead us in worship, to challenge us to live in new ways... To open up our minds and our wallets... To truly make a difference in this world for Jesus.
Derek and Sandra played for a while...
It was great to see their loving interaction on the stage. Sandra is obviously pregnant with a second child, so that's cool!
And then Brandon hit the stage. Like I said, he was a pleasant surprise. I loved how humble he was... like he was blown away to be surrounded by such a roster of brilliant artists. His guitar and vocal abilities are strong, and his songwriting was solid. I really liked this guy.
In the second half, Charlie really took on a pastoral role, reading scripture and talking about the Kingdom of God. I loved his encouraging words. Then Sara talked extensively about the ministry of International Justice Mission. We heard stories about slaves who had been freed and the role that we can play in praying and giving... She brought her husband, Troy, and boys up on stage to talk about how their family tries to make generous living a priority.
It's hard to put into words what I experienced last night, and I'm not doing a very good job. I guess they just helped me think beyond myself again... to remember that in Christ I can do all things... that I can actually make a difference, change this world for the better, show people a better, higher way to live... and point the way to Christ through it all... the Way, the Truth and the Life! These are things I know. But I need to feel them now and then. Music and art open up the soul... help us to experience God in different ways.
As Sara sang her poignant songs about meeting young girls delivered from sex slavery and asked us to pray for them, I looked into the eyes of precious young girls and saw my Emily... My eyes filled with tears as I remembered my obligation to pray and seek justice for the oppressed! It made me want to stand and fight, to rescue those sweet little girls from the jaws of death. And there is hope. They CAN be rescued. They CAN find new life and redemption. We can partner with Jesus in redeeming this world for His glory.
Sara's song, "I Saw What I Saw," made me remember the mission trip to Romania and Hungary last year.
And the powerful "When the Saints" closed her set, reminding me that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, those who have gone before us and are cheering us on until we cross the finish line and kneel at Jesus's feet.
We finished on our feet, proclaiming the salvation of Jesus, who is "Mighty to Save," and then remembering the hope of the Savior... singing together Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released."
I didn't want to talk afterwards. Sometimes silence is best. I'm grateful for the show last night and for five artists who pointed me to Jesus and reminded me of my salvation and calling.
Today was a bummer in some ways... It was back to plumbing problems and financial pressures and the never-ending challenges of parenting. But God is God, and even in the day-to-day reality of my life, I will still proclaim His truth and live in His power. He is mighty to save!