Thursday, October 07, 2010

In the Shelter of Each Other the People Live | Jars of Clay

This week, The Sheltera new collection of songs from Jars of Clay — catches my attention for a couple of reasons. 

1. I had the good fortune to interview the band for EdgeTV a few months after they released their first album in 1993. We hit it off and stayed in touch. 

2. This new collection reflects what Jars are thinking about how much we all need each other and then plays that out through lovely duets with friends (among them David Crowder, Audrey Assad, Amy Grant, Brandon Heath, Leigh Nash…) and a whole chorus of mates whose collective voices hint at how wonderful many of these songs will sound when we sing them together wherever we gather to worship and spur each other on toward love and good deeds.


3. A handful of friends (Sara Groves, Anne Jackson, David Dark, Nate Larkin, Padraig Otuama) wrote brief essays inspired by the central theme of The Shelter: 

In the shelter of each other the people live.

Here’s my contribution:
Killing time at the Art Institute of Chicago I view renaissance paintings of Jesus—all quite remarkable without seeming quite right.
Eventually it occurs to me the not-quite-rightness of those images is this: There’s not a Jew among them. I see Spanish-Jesus, Italian- and Dutch-Jesus; but not Palestinian-Jesus. 
Later, at a church in Houston’s Greater Third Ward I encounter East African-Jesus—which reminds me of Indonesia and Southeast-Asian-Jesus.
Of course none of these is accurate. I know this from my childhood Bible featuring Anglo-American-Jesus. 
I’m no genius, but a pattern’s a pattern.
The cynic who sublets a space in the back of my brain recites Voltaire: If God has made us in his image we have returned him the favor. I don’t think the cynic is wrong about this. Nor entirely right.
The incarnation story makes it easy to see why artists render the Messiah in reassuring skin tones. Is anyone shocked when most of the people in the sanctuary look like most of the people in the sanctuary? But there’s more to it.
In the shelter of each other the people live. That church in Houston features brass doors salvaged from the neighborhood movie house where dark-skinned patrons were pointedly unwelcome. Those doors are a portal between shelter and storm. I think I get that.
I also get that our story can’t just be about going to church; worshipping a familiar God in the company of familiar companions.
Our shelter lives and breathes and moves with the people because it is the people, set loose in the world to show how much God loves us. Beneath the skin tones and sympathies that distinguish one from another, a common blood secures us; however we look, wherever we go. 


ben angus davis said...

That's a great contribution. I will need to check out this new album from a band I greatly respect.

Whenever a bit of 'flavor' enters the doors of our way-too-same church, my heart leaps...I love the stories and perspectives that those from other cultures bring to my sadly too-narrow view of The Body.

Jim Hancock said...

Thanks Ben; I appreciate your thoughts on this.