Friday’s sorrow anticipates Sunday’s joy

Publisher: Andrew Peterson under exclusive license to Centricity Music
Length: 5 songs, 20 minutes

Resurrection Letters: Prologue by Andrew Peterson tarries on Friday on the way to Sunday. As important as the latter in relation to Easter, Friday makes it all meaningful. Without the suffering, there is no resurrection. That’s not to say this recording is dour. God forbid! Joy is deeper than sorrow, and listeners catch glimpses here.

In the Winter 2107 issue of Image, author Joy Kogawa concludes an interview with this thought: “These days the words that mean the most to me and that seem most helpful are Jesus’s words on Good Friday: ‘Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ I think the call to forgive and be merciful is Christianity’s best contribution to the conversation among the faiths.”

“Last Words (Tenebrae)” opens with those words of Jesus, Peterson singing a cappella. Banish the thought of the music conveying heaviness. This saunters along with a combination of programming and conventional instrumentation. All the words, sung in rounds, are the last ones spoken by Christ from the cross. They are introduced gradually until you have layer upon layer. Repeated listens make it easier to distinguish phrases that are more in the background or chanted. It’s a tapestry of sound conducive to meditation.

“Well Done Good and Faithful” is set in a minor key. It’s a lament drawn from Psalm 22. The poetic verses, which are hymn-like expressions, are punctuated by two repeated piano notes. It’s as if they are driving home the severity of the situation. It’s sparse, stark and as unyielding as the grave.

It reminds me of the portrait of the suffering servant in Isaiah 53. How fitting that the chorus commends Christ as the good and faithful servant. The suffering servant is the good and faithful one. Contemplating the connection adds richness.

“The Ninth Hour” is a brief keyboard and string-laden interlude bridging these first two tracks to the final ones.

Songs like “Always Good” make me glad that I am still listening to music. It personifies being vulnerable, and the music is beautifully tender. It opens with gentle finger picking, and later when the delicate sounds of a hammer dulcimer are added, the sound is sublime.

Has Peterson ever done a more gorgeous song? It may be his daughter that adds the perfect harmony on the chorus.

When he sings, “Arise, O Lord, and save me/There’s nowhere else to go,” it strips me of my defenses. No pride left. He gives voice to desperation.

Delightful turns of phrase abound.

Can theology be thrilling? I find it so on “God Rested.” Here God’s work and subsequent rest in Creation is linked to Christ’s death and resurrection. What solidifies the link are the words, “It is finished,” which Christ spoke from the cross. Just as God rested from his works on the seventh day, Christ, in a manner of speaking, did the same after that last utterance.

The brief flourish at the end is exhilarating. Rather than spell it out, Peterson closes with an upward flourish that anticipates the climax of history. It’s a wordless rush.

Don’t overlook Prologue on the way to the companion recording, Resurrection Letters, Vol. 1. The former puts the latter in context.

Michael Dalton