October 20, 2018

Dan Jepsen: The Restless, Raging Fury that They Call the Love of God

Note from CM: We’re focusing on music this week, and today we turn it over to Pastor Dan to remind us of one of the freshest and most honest voices that ever participated in the contemporary Christian music movement.

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The Restless, Raging Fury that They Call the Love of God
by Daniel Jepsen

I miss Rich Mullins.

I was listening to his song, The Love of God, today, and searched for the lyrics. I guess I had never seen their beauty and power before. Mullins understood more than many that God’s love is merciful and joyful, but it’s also a reckless, raging fury. Here are the lyrics and a video.

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy
I cannot find in my own
And He keeps His fire burning
To melt this heart of stone
Keeps me aching with a yearning
Keeps me glad to have been caught
In the reckless raging fury
That they call the love of God

Now I’ve seen no band of angels
But I’ve heard the soldiers’ songs
Love hangs over them like a banner
Love within them leads them on
To the battle on the journey
And it’s never gonna stop
Ever widening their mercies
And the fury of His love

Oh the love of God
And oh, the love of God
The love of God

Joy and sorrow are this ocean
And in their every ebb and flow
Now the Lord a door has opened
That all Hell could never close
Here I’m tested and made worthy
Tossed about but lifted up
In the reckless raging fury
That they call the love of God

I love how the dominant theme is both powerful and powerfully expressed. That theme is the summed up in that phrase, “the reckless, raging fury that they call the love of God” and is repeated three times (though modified in the middle repetition). The intensity of a fire hot enough to melt a heart of stone (not ice) in the verse one gives us the first notion of the power and fury of this love. This strength of this consuming fire leaves those who experience it with both aching and yearning, both anguish and gladness. They long to be refined, even as they acknowledge the fire’s pain.

The bands of angels in the second verse are also the soldiers marching with love over them and in them. They are the invisible vanguard of God’s love, marching into creation with song, and widening His love everywhere they place their feet. Here his love is seen as a marching army, “terrible in might”, who defeat those things that finally stand in opposition to the spreading love of God. The imagery and wordplay of this verse make it my favorite.

Though the metaphor of the final verse becomes awkward at one point (how does an ocean open a door?) it nonetheless serves the larger purpose well. The wideness of God’s love is like the wideness of the sea (I believe Mullins based metaphor on a hymn by Frederick Faber) in its vastness, wildness and inscrutability. The ebbs and flow of its great swells cannot be grasped; one can only float and be lifted up. But here we must go beyond the metaphor, for unlike the swelling sea, the ebbs and flow or our experience of God’s love in our life are purposeful and cleansing. They test us, and make us worthy. God’s love is seen not only as wild and uncomfortable, but also the very thing that saves us from the depths of destruction.

The idea of God’s love having a wild, raging dimension may startle our Sunday school sensibilities, and it should. We need to move (or be pulled, kicking and screaming) from a childlike and childish notion of “Jesus loves me, this I know” to a defiant scream against the absurdity, pain and frustration of life, a scream that hurls these words into the mouth of the hurricane: GOD IS STILL LOVE.

Reckless. Raging. Full of fury. But love all the more for that.

Comments

  1. “I miss Rich Mullins.”

    Amen.

  2. senecagriggs says:

    I had no idea Rich had died – tragically. A great loss

  3. Rich Mullins was the real deal. His producer told a story about having a conversation as they were driving somewhere and he asked Rich how his ‘quarters’ were (royalties from songs). Rich said he didn’t know. Puzzled, the friend questioned him and Rich said all the money goes to a board, who puts some back for his retirement and gives him a salary (it was about $24,000 I think). The rest of the money went to charity. Not the typical CCM rockstar lifestyle. The video, ‘Homeless Man’ (1998) is great.

  4. Christiane says:

    “Joy and sorrow are this ocean
    And in their every ebb and flow
    Now the Lord a door has opened
    That all Hell could never close”

    powerful words . . .
    ‘ocean’ seems symbolic,
    even transcendental in meaning (?)

  5. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    The idea of God’s love having a wild, raging dimension may startle our Sunday school sensibilities, and it should.

    Aslan is NOT a tame lion.

  6. john barry says:

    Daniel, Thanks for the video , we expand our horizons in many ways and music is one of them. It is great when someone uses their God given talent so well. One of the blessings of this age is that an artist can leave their talent and message as a legacy that will still carry on in their absence.

    I do not keep up with the music world as I am still waiting for Snooky Lanson to make a come back. Patti Page was the singing rage. Maybe I will add this song to my collection if I can find a 45 rpm record or maybe the 8 track.

  7. Dana Ames says:

    From all I ever heard, Rich had integrity. Memory eternal.

    “The Doors of the Sea” is a D.B. Hart book on theodicy. The phrase comes from Job 38.8.

    Sometimes I miss singling contemporary worship music; some of it is very good music, and truthful, and healing in its own way.

    Dana

  8. Iain Lovejoy says:

    “How does an ocean open a door?”
    Like this:
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Xpgpf6Abiiw

    • Daniel Jepsen says:

      dude…

      • Robert F says:

        But this is it. This is the mouth of the hurricane that one would have to hurl any defiant GOD IS STILL LOVE into if one were inclined to do so, nothing less. I’m personally not up to it; I have neither the energy nor the conviction for that heroic gesture of revolt against the manifest indifference-that-feels-like-malevolence-coming-to-break-you of the world. I can only wait for grace to pick me up in its own surges, carry me already broken, and cast me at last into the arms of the loving God who is not the sea. Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Lord has told me so.

      • Iain Lovejoy says:

        This is how the furious ocean of God’s love breaks down the doors of death and hell. It doesn’t knock politely and ask to get in.