Saturday, April 20, 2013

Michael Card - A Violent Grace: Meeting Christ at the Cross (Book & CD)




Inspiring meditations on the cross of Christ for any time of the year

A Violent Grace: Meeting Christ at the Cross (Book & CD)
Author & Artist: Michael Card
Publisher: IVP Books (www.ivpress.com) & Covenant Artists
Length: 182 pages & 16 tracks/60.08 minutes

Whenever my reading takes me to the crucifixion account, I sense that it will add a wonderful solemnity to my life. I have no fear of it making me morbid. Rather, I imagine it making me more fit for the daily grind. It puts my trials in perspective. As the author of Hebrews writes, “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” (Heb. 12:4 ESV).

The different glimpses that I get of Christ’s sufferings make A Violent Grace possibly my favorite of Michael Card’s books. Each of the 21 brief chapters focuses on a different aspect of what Christ accomplished through the cross. Each thought on the subject sets up a contrast, beginning with He was born to die, so I could be born to new life.

If you are familiar with Card’s music, you know that his songs are informed by insights gleaned from Scripture. It’s no different with his books. It’s the little details, background information and insightful reflections that make this rewarding.

Reading one chapter a day, I finished the last one on Easter morning, which was entirely appropriate. I want to quickly add, this is worth reading any time of the year, regardless of where we are in the church calendar. Being in touch with these momentous events throughout our days will help us to live in light of them.

Card’s closing thoughts in the last chapter confirm and echo an application made by mature Christians:

Jesus dies a slave’s death on the cross, not so He could somehow ‘lord it over’ His disciples. He suffered to serve. He endured the humiliation because that is what servants do (180).

Obeying. Suffering. Serving. Christ left us an example to follow. A watching world will note this kind of life more than one that asserts itself, finds self-fulfillment, or attains that which is highly esteemed by our culture.

This book is the product of an ongoing relationship with IVP Books, which started with a commentary series on the gospels that is still in process. With every commentary, and with this book, Card has produced a companion CD of music reflecting the book’s theme. The book and CD are separate purchases.

I was surprised to discover that A Violent Grace CD is a live recording. I imagined Card reworking a number of his songs on the cross in the studio. This does include a number of Card’s past songs, but here they have a timeless quality because the only accompaniment is Card on piano (occasionally guitar) a choir and strings. I see the wisdom of letting lyric and melody be heard in a pristine setting. There’s no production that will date this anytime soon.   

This resurrects such Card classics as “Know by the Scars,” “Why,” “This Must be the Lamb,” and “Love Crucified Arose.” This also includes the hymn “O Sacred Head” as well as some new material.

Each track is meticulously arranged and performed with the attention to detail characteristic of Card. The depth in the lyrics and softer sounds make this ideal for considering again what Christ did in dying and rising from the grave.

The subject matter along with the beauty and excellence might provide solace for those who are afflicted. I find the “Death of a Son,” a mournful lament that includes cello, strangely comforting. Christ’s agony gives meaning to our own suffering. As much pain as we might experience, Christ’s triumph means that it is not the end. Suffering and death do not have the last word.

Love crucified arose
And the grave became a place of hope
For the heart that sin and sorrow broke
Is beating once again

Michael Dalton
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