November 22, 2017

A Musical Primer on the Ancient-Future Path

By Chaplain Mike

If I were to design a course to teach about spiritual formation from an ancient-future perspective, my soundtrack would be the new album by John Michael Talbot, called, Worship and Bow Down.

Remarkably, this is Talbot’s 53rd (!) record, but it is different than most of his previous releases. In light of the publication of a new Roman Missal (the Catholic book of liturgy), Talbot has put together an album that combines new pieces for the Mass with settings of great texts used in other services and yet more songs that speak of spiritual disciplines and practices.

Together, this song set forms an excellent primer on the ancient-future path of following Jesus and living in the Gospel.

The album begins with a traditional call to worship from Psalm 95, “Worship and Bow Down” and is followed by a new song for communion, “In Remembrance of Me.” Then comes the exuberant “Hinds Feet on High Places,” which speaks of the place of suffering in the life of those who follow Jesus. This may be one of the most profoundly celebratory songs I have heard from JMT. I love that it speaks of God’s victory, not in a triumphalist way but realistically, as God meets us in the very midst of life’s hurts.

Then comes a section on the album that speaks to spiritual practices.

“The Jesus Prayer” sets this ancient Eastern prayer of contemplation to a new tune and urges us to present ourselves to our Savior for continual mercy and grace.

In “Hail Mary” JMT gives a new rendering of the traditional Catholic prayer venerating Mary, with a concern to keep Mary’s Son central.

“Nothing Is Impossible” is chant-inspired interpretation of the Annunciation, encouraging us to faith and devotion.

“Lectio Divina” and “Breathe” reach back to ancient Orthodox sources to encourage prayerful, contemplative reading of Scripture and spiritual meditation.

Finally, “Sacred Silence” takes us to the place of quiet solitude.

Talbot then includes his “Mass of Rebirth,” a new setting for the Liturgy in what he calls a “contemporary chant” format. As he did in 1979’s “The Lord’s Supper,” JMT brings a fresh interpretation to the ancient service of Word and Table, enlisting us to join the story of salvation in Jesus it tells.

The last song on the album is “Open My Eyes,” a simple prayer for God to draw the worshiper closer to him and to be made more like him in love.

This album provides an excellent overview of the ancient-future way of spiritual formation:

  • Cloisterphoto © 2008 Boon Low | more info (via: Wylio)The centrality of worship
  • The sacraments
  • The necessity of suffering
  • Contemplative prayer to Jesus
  • The communion of saints
  • Faith, Scripture, meditation, silence, and solitude
  • The corporate service of Word and Table
  • A hunger to grow deeper in God’s love

John Michael Talbot talks about his new album and the unique place he has had in bridging the worlds of contemporary music and ancient liturgical practice, evangelicalism and Roman Catholicism, in this recent interview at CT.

Thank you, Brother John, for pointing us to the way, the truth, and the life through this original and thoughtful music. May your tribe multiply.

Comments

  1. black cat says:

    A new album by JMT? Great news! I’ve not listened to him for years. About time I changed that! Thanks for the update.

  2. Want.

  3. David Cornwell says:

    Well, the samples from Amazon have convinced me to purchase this. It is beautiful. Thank you.

  4. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    JMT sure has aged since I saw him on album covers in the Eighties. With that beard, he looks like either a Wizard of Middle-Earth or a Church Father from an old icon.

  5. Mike, thanks for bringing this to our attention. I will be buying this.

    When I was stuck in a fundamental baptist Bible College in the south, God brought two (very different) musicians into my life: Keith Green, and John Michael Talbot. Both modeled a spirtuality quite different than what I had been exposed to before. I still listen to JMT a lot (especially Troubadour of the Great King).

    Again, thanks.

  6. re: TROUBLES IN REFORMED LAND

    reason?

    exposure of not sincere.

    left over affects of shepherding doctrine

  7. I love JMT. His work is wonderful.

  8. Adrienne says:

    This is in regard to the IMonk Bulletin Board today. I read Rachel Evans post on Mark Driscoll. His statement is almost unbelievable. What is scarey is his sphere of influence. The redeeming fact is that apparently so many people “called him on this” that the quote was pulled from his Facebook wall.

    I know I am showing my age here and I don’t apologize. I was exposed to what I consider some of the Giants of the Faith like Spurgeon, F. B. Meyer, Martyn Lloyd-Jones etc. Pastor/Teachers who had dignity and preached the word with reverance and power.

    I fear for this generation if Driscoll is an indication of one of their “renowned” pastors. God help them.

  9. Love the picture of JMT… and it makes me wonder what a ZZ Top worship album would look like.

  10. Clay Knick says:

    Thanks for the reminder, Mike. I’ve been meaning to order this for weeks and keep forgetting…until now!

  11. I went on a silent retreat, and part of the spiritual direction I got from the nuns was to listen to JMT in my hermitage. I was pretty skeptical, I’m not a fan of the ‘guy with a guitar’ form of worship, but wow. Truly God does work through him.

  12. Thank you Chaplain Mike for this wonderful and thought provoking review on behalf of John Michael Talbot (I am JMTs PR/Marketing “Guy”). I would like to invite all to come on down to JMTs Facebook page and say hi to John. He posts daily Gospel reflections, responds to his fans and we give you all a first hand shot of news! May God richly bless your efforts Chaplain! Peace all! Back to ZZ-Talbot!