Yes, it is true that much of contemporary worship is quite limited in its metaphorical scope when it comes to Jesus’ death, but the same could be said of our traditional hymnody. So I’ll also try to point toward some lesser-known music that brings us closer to the rich variety of biblical imagery.
- Be Merciful To Me – Written by Randall Goodgame and recorded by Caedmon’s Call, this beautiful prayer displays a heartfelt gratitude for the depths of God’s mercy.
- God Be Merciful to Me – Recorded by Jars of Clay, the union of such upbeat, almost bouncy music and penitent lyrics actually matches the paradox of the cross. I could see doing this at a pivotal moment of a dark Good Friday service, adding a surprising element of hope.
- Give Us Clean Hands – Charlie Hall invites worshippers to cry out not only for themselves, but for an entire generation.
- Kindness – One of my favorites, this early Chris Tomlin gem doesn’t get the attention it should. Wrapping in baptismal language, this song reminds us that it’s God’s first step, not ours, that leads to forgiveness.
- Lord, Have Mercy – This song of repentance popularized by Michael W. Smith was actually written by Steve Merkel.
- Since I Am So Sick – Yes, the title of this song from Enter the Worship Circle seems depressing, but it acknowledges our utter dependence on God, “since I have no healing within me.” And it continues with a powerful proclamation that God comes through.
- You Have Redeemed My Soul – Another great song from the Worship Circle, this song is more thanksgiving than request. But I love the imagery it uses: “I was a burned out forest…but to my blackened branches you brought the springtime green of new life.”
- We Will Run – Penned by Lisa Gungor (wife of Michael), this song begins with the classic prayer of the Psalmist, “create in me a clean heart,” and turns into a communal plea that both we and “all things” would be made new.
- The Fall – This song from Gungor – one of the rare songs of lament we have available to us – acknowledges universal guilt while pleading, “How long will you wait…how long ‘til you save us all?”
Discipleship: During the 40 days of Lent we focus on Jesus’ call to take up our cross and follow him. These songs help to extend that call into our entire lives.
- Blessed Be Your Name – Matt and Beth Redmans’ classic is a call to discipleship and worship, in both the good times and the bad.
- Desert Song – Similarly, Brooke Fraser brings praise, even in the midst of trial and need, when victory is still to come. And she finds renewal in giving herself away.
- You Alone Can Rescue – I include it here because it puts the focus of discipleship back on the action of God in Christ. “You alone can lift us from the grave/You came down to find us/led us out of death/to you alone belongs the highest praise.”
- Wholly Yours - David Crowder seamlessly weaves together human depravity, divine holiness, redemption, and response, all in one song. Warning: includes “Alleluias,” which some congregations give up for Lent.
- Songs with themes of “surrender” also work well here.
The Cross: While especially appropriate for Good Friday, these songs can be sung anytime during the Lenten journey.
- Draw Me Nearer – Diane Sheets revised this classic hymn, and Caedmon’s Call did again when they recorded it. A powerful prayer to be brought closer to Jesus and the love displayed on the cross.
- God Who Saves – Written by Aaron Senseman and recorded by Caedmon’s Call, this song praises not just the Son, but the God whose life was “poured out” at Calvary, keeping the triune God united at the pivotal moment.
- In Christ Alone – You are probably more likely to use Getty and Townend’s now-classic on Easter, but you could also sing the first two verses during Holy Week, and then do the whole song on Easter. To avoid placing the blame on God the Father for Jesus’ death, change “satisfied” in verse 2 to “set aside.”
- Lead Me to the Cross – Brooke Fraser leads us to sing of how “everything I once held dear/I count it all as loss,” for the life that is found in the cross.
- Oh Great Love of God – “…who takes away the sin of all of us/gone forever” sings David Crowder on this song that works equally well after Easter, or anytime.
- Wonderful Cross – Chris Tomlin added a chorus to Isaac Watts’ classic hymn, giving us a great anthem for Good Friday.
What songs are you using this Lent? For more ideas see my song list by theme and look under Lent, Holy Week/Good Friday, and Confession. Blessings to you and your community on your journey of discipleship.