5 Non Worship Worship Songs- Mark Atkinson

I’ve curated a list of five songs that have become worship songs for me. They were not written for that purpose.  I do not know about the spiritual life of most of the artists but they are each spiritual in their way. I’m fairly certain they would not pass our denominational doctrinal test — not that they would even want to take such a test.


Belle and Sebastian - "Ghost of Rock School”   

Belle and Sebastian is a Scottish indie band led by  Stuart Murdoch. I’m not sure what the song is about but the chorus is this repeat:  “I've seen God in the sun. I’ve seen God in the street. God before bed and the promise of sleep. God in my dreams and the free ride of grace. I see God shining up from her reflection.”  In that chorus, Stuart Murdoch recognizes God’s presence all around him.


T-Bone Burnett - “The Trap Door”  

I discovered T-Bone Burnett in college (mid-80’s).  This song is special to me as reminder to “watch out for the trapdoor.”   Listen careful—very carefully—to the lyrics. It’s as good a mini-sermon about dying to self and the dangers of pride as you’ll ever hear.   He wins the award for best name: T-Bone.

 

Leonard Cohen and the Webb Sisters - “If It Be Your Will”

This may be one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard.  It’s written by Leonard Cohen and sung by the “sublime” Webb Sisters.  I read that Cohen was sort of a Jewish-Zen-Buddhist-poet-monk. No matter what, there’s no doubt he’s aware of The Transcendent.  He made a musical comeback when he was in his 70’s, touring internationally, filling large venues include DPAC. I first heard this song then—it’s a prayer.

Sufjan Stevens -  “The Greatest Gift”  
Sufjan Stevens is a talented, creative artist.  Helen (my wife) and I saw him at DPAC a few years ago. As with all these artists, I could have picked any number of songs to profile.  This— “The Greatest Gift”— is the most explicitly Christian on my list.  He also has a wonderfully quirky Christmas album. Check it out.

Mountain Goats - “Romans 10:9”  

The Mountain Goats is mainly the lead guy,  John Darnielle. Helen and I saw him in concert about a year ago.  The crowd ranged from young lesbian goths, hipsters, and the middle-aged. He’s “into” heavy metal (I’m not), nearly died from a meth addiction as a young man, worked as a psychiatric nurse for a while, and wrote two award winning novels. He grew up on the West Coast but now lives in Durham.  This song—Romans 10:9—is from an album where each songs is (loosely) inspired by a biblical passage. I love his lyrics and word pictures. You can tell his dad was an English professor.

Acknowledgements:  I must thank my four kids (Kevin, Sarah, Will and Stephen) who introduced me to most of these artists and many others.


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Markt Atkinson is an Elder at Trinity Park. He lives in Cary with his wife Helen.