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I went to a local Chinese church today for Sunday service worship. It was okay. The pastor preached on Genesis 44, the story of Joseph and his brothers, and talked about how we ought to ask for forgiveness with a sincere heart. He was a dynamic speaker, a little nerdy (“Happy Reformation Day!” Apparently, Martin Luther possessed the prescience to staple his theses on Halloween), but clear and not too wordy, which made it easy for a passive listener to follow.

The contemporary worship was led by a rag tag group of what I believe were some extremely talented high school kids. With the exception of being a little weak in the vocal section, they kept beat and executed the bridges and all their chords quite nicely, and are a lot smoother than our own high school team of musicians back in the day from what I remember. The choice of songs were of your standard HillSong and Starfied fare, a little more contemporary than the old school stuff. They did introduce one song, “Rhythms of Grace”, at the end of service which I was unfamiliar with.

I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older, and therefore, a little more disconnected with the current music scene and whinely pining for the olden songs of yore, but I find most contemporary worship music vacuous and at times, down right nonsensical! First of all, the title, “Rhythms of Grace”, does not make a lick of sense conceptually. Does God’s grace have a rhythm to it? Does Jesus’s birth come in on the first beat, and then on the second and third beat come his teaching and general mid-age life, with the final beat as his death and resurrection? What does this phrase mean?! The only biblical reference I found for “rhythms of grace” comes from Matthew 11:28-30, and from a very vernacular translation at that. Lo, behold, The Message translation:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly”

Cringe.

And here are the lyrics to the bridge, which I find a little irritating in its unabashed borrowing of trite phrases from other songs/the Bible:

“No eye has seen
No ear has heard
The depths of Your love, Lord
No mind can fathom
The love You deserve
How great You are”

This bridge seems, to me, to be communicating that the author knows nothing about God at all. Indeed, no eye nor ear has seen or heard the depth of God’s love, nor any mind has the capacity to understand it. Perhaps he could taste or smell it, then, to get a whiff at what it’s like! Or maybe the author was so overwhelmed by God’s infinitude that he had to conclude no one could ever know anything about God at all, in which case it would be a perfect for the boundless agnostic.

Or perhaps God is indeed beyond our reach. Maybe it’s too difficult to pen down any lyric of substance because what we experience in our day to day lives does not usually hint of something supernatural. And even if we contemplate the stars and the heavens and the natural beauty of this world, we can go on and on about the beauty of the creation and wonder of it, but can only extend our praise so far to the creator of such things. I can go on and on about the craftsmanship, symmetry, and the exquisite materials that a guitar is comprised, or compliment its sweet tone and shiny veneer (my precious!), and conclude that the maker of such fine things is indeed a design genius and most likely a dexterous fellow, but can I say he is wonderful in character and being? Can I even say that she is good, beautiful, generous, kind, or loving? Mirrors are all we get in this life, I suppose. And a book compiled by men 300 years after the fact, to base genuine feeling and conviction based on a story about a person in a book, how does one do that? I might admire Abraham Lincoln for his courage and his perspicacity and want to be just like him…but I would never love him like my own father or mother both of whom I love because I can interact with them in this present and real time. I can talk with them, play with them, yell at them, feel the warmth in their hugs, and essentially, know them.

And yet our minds would like to fathom more things beyond the temporal*.

*could not find in my hazy mind a noun antonym for eternity.

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