Prime Cuts: Knowing You Jesus, Shine Jesus Shine, Love Each Other
Graham Kendrick is not one to treat Jesus as a transcendent boyfriend of the church. While many worship songs these days can easily pass muster if they were vying for a spot on secular radio, Kendrick is not content to treat worship songs as one of those sanctified mushy love songs. Decades before Hillsong Worship thought about setting the Apostles Creed to music, Kendrick has had already been setting the great truths of Christian doctrines to music in ways that are memorable and palatable. Thus, it's no exaggeration when songwriter Stuart Townend prophesies, "I have no doubt that in 100 years' time the name of Kendrick will be alongside Watts and Wesley in the list of the UK's greatest hymn writers." Yet, one doesn't have to wait a century to see the fruition of such a prophecy. How many hymn books today have included Kendrick's "Shine Jesus Shine" right next to the works of Watts and Wesley? And how many churches today still sing to the compositions of Kendrick such as "Knowing You Jesus" and "Amazing Love" with the same gusto as they would those ancient hymns?
"Ultimate Collection" is a "best of" collection of some of Kendricks' more notable songs garnered from his previously released albums up till 2013's "Worship Duets." Just like the other volumes in this Integrity Music designed series, there are no new songs on the set. However, it does contain 15 of Kendricks' finest compositions in one disc. So, if one could decipher two reasons why Kendrick is indispensable to worship music as reflection in this collection of songs, here they are: first, as aforementioned, Kendrick is not afraid to go deep in his worship. Often Kendrick goes deep to expound on Biblical themes with forethought, poetry, and unction.
Take "Shine Jesus Shine," as a prime example, each verse in this hymn-like anthem takes the Biblical idea that "Jesus is light" and expands on it in three different contexts over the flow of its three verses. Starting off with how the light of Jesus breaks forth like a beam across the darkness of creation in the first verse, Kendrick moves along redemptive history to how Christ's light exposes sin at the Cross in the second verse before anchoring on Christ's second coming where his light will illuminate all of heaven and earth. Further, Kendrick doesn't shy away from (sometimes) thorny theological issues. "Servant King," for instance, finds Kendrick handling the tension between the Lordship and the servant nature of Jesus judiciously.
Second, Kendrick never sees a divide between hymns and "choruses." Way back in the 70s and into the 80s, worship songs were also known as "choruses;" they were often short, repetitive and many do not have more than a verse and a refrain. Many of these "choruses" were pithy, over simplistic and at times shallow. Even though Kendrick was at his prime during this era, Kendrick fought hard against turning his songs into ditties. Songs such as "Love Each Other," "We Believe" and "Meekness and Majesty" are in fact so erudite that they almost function like theological treasties with memorable lines one can chew on for days. In fact, his acumen for songs with great hymn structures have paved the way for later writers such as Stuart Townend and the Gettys.
Thanks to Integrity Music, "Ultimate Collection" takes us back to some of Kendrick's greatest moments. One can't help but give thanks to God as these songs certainly provide the church with invigorating vocabulary in her worship in ways that are Biblically responsible and melodiously pleasing.
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