On the Edge: A Sonnet
We do not sing lament enough.
As a Christian, I believe that the hope the Gospels offer is true: that in Christ, we can be made whole, redeemed, made into the men and women that our Maker intended us to be; that this is not a promise for some far-distant future after we’re dead, but starts now, here, in the present moment and unfolds for eternity. Because I am in Christ, my life is rooted in joy.
But this is not a “turn your frown upside down” sticky-sweet bumper-sticker “don’t worry, be happy” kind of faith, and when we allow Christianity to be domesticated like that, all sappy sweetness, we lose sight of the fact that our faith centers on the Cross, and our Lord wore, on that cross, not a garland of flowers but a crown of thorns.
Contemporary worship music tends too often to fall into the “happy” mode all the time – but the book of Psalms, the prayer book of the Bible, which is also the Bible’s great book of poetry, is full of the poetry of pain. Lamentations, Job… there is plenty of lament in Holy Scripture. We need lament, because we cannot hope for the dawn if we do not acknowledge the night. We cannot face the darkness if we deny our own pain, weakness, neediness, and fragility.
Steve is a gifted singer-songwriter as well as an amazing musician (go check out his albums here – I particularly love Devotion and Symphony Sessions but you can’t go wrong with any of them). He is currently working on a new album, set for release this fall, called Keening for the Dawn — and in it, he is putting to music the marvelous poetry of Malcolm Guite, looking at that darkness as we wait for the dawn. Having had a chance to hear some of the work-in-progress for the new album, I can say: it will be amazing.
Fortunately, my travel schedule allowed me to make it to Cambridge in time to overlap with Steve’s visit for a couple of days, and I was able to attend an “On the Edge” worship special at St Edward’s King and Martyr, in Cambridge (Malcolm’s church) with Steve as the featured musician. It was a marvelous evening of music and worship; it was wonderful. And so my own contribution (no musician, I) was to write this sonnet about the experience, interweaving the themes of the music with the feeling of that sacred space.