In a world where the visual holds sway, Card remains word-oriented, concerned more with substance than style.
Matthew: The Penultimate Question
Artist: Michael Card (www.michaelcard.com)
Label: Covenant Artists
Length: 9 songs/34 minutes
Leave it to cerebral Michael Card to title his latest recording, Matthew: The Penultimate Question. For the group of Christ’s followers addressed in Matthew’s gospel, the penultimate (the next to the most significant question) as stated by Card, is “Who Am I?” The ultimate question is “Who is Jesus?”
“This is Who You Are” beautifully answers the former while being carried by a gorgeous piano melody. Listeners may see themselves in the opening lines: “Misunderstood and undefined, a stranger to myself / Incarnate contradiction, I am poverty and wealth / I can believe and disbelieve / I can bless and damn / I’m dying in the darkness / Of not knowing who I am.” This is classic Card in every sense.
The chorus puts attributes drawn from the Beatitudes into positive affirmation: “You possess the kingdom / You’re the sorrowful, the meek / The gentle starving ones / Who are the strongest when you’re weak.”
It’s these scholarly but devotional ruminations, which highlight themes in Matthew’s gospel that make me a lifetime admirer of Card’s work. In a world where the visual holds sway, Card remains word-oriented, concerned more with substance than style.
The production is a model of restraint. Those looking for something that rocks might be disappointed. Simple and uncluttered instrumentation leave room for words to breathe.
Once again Card demonstrates that we are better together. Our work can be more than just the sum of individuals. Like the loaves and fishes freely offered, God can multiply our combined talents.
It’s indicative of Card’s humility that he shares the spotlight with friends that include Phil Keaggy, Ashley Cleveland, Steve Green, Kirk Whalum and John Catchings. These contributions expand on Card’s talents and become highlights. A fine example is the blues/gospel hybrid, “Go Find Out What This Means,” where Card and Cleveland trade lines. I surrender. Let me learn what it means to show mercy.
From the man who gave the Church a modern classic, “Immanuel,” comes three successive takes on the incarnation. It shows his continuing fascination with the subject and the Christocentric focus of his theology.
Speaking of theology, this CD is a companion to Matthew: The Gospel of Identity, the third of a projected four commentaries, each on a different gospel. The series is worth having for its readability and quick summation of pertinent points. A companion CD is available for each commentary. Next year (2014) will see the release of the final volume covering the Gospel of John. It’s no small testament to the grace of God and his commitment to community that Card has produced at least one CD and commentary in each of the last three years.
Card’s music has somewhat mellowed from the days of his bigger production CCM releases. Recent offerings, including this one, reflect a more mature style. They are not lacking in any way. Rather, they may enjoy greater longevity than earlier titles, being less dependent on passing fashion.