Sunday, April 19, 2015

35: Let Mercy Lead - Rich Mullins

No, no hammered dulcimer on this one.

Rich Mullins was an enigma to a lot of Christianity - mainstream and frankly inspirational in a lot of his songs, he was also willing to challenge the establishment and prevailing thinking, while struggling with a lot of personal issues, particularly alcohol. His understanding of the gospel as being about grace and mercy is still discussed and interpreted in such a way that he may become the next G.K. Chesterton or C.S. Lewis, where people say "yeah, but Rich Mullins said such-and-such" as a way of settling a discussion.

But this isn't about theology, it's about the song. None of Mullins' most well-known songs made the list because while they're musically very strong and usually interesting lyrically, they don't stand out quite enough to make the top forty at forty. No disrespect to Mullins - Mozart falls into the same category - except, except, except this one. "Let Mercy Lead" was written for his friend's son (the 'Aidan' named at the beginning of the song) and while the verse is nice, acoustic and gently driving, the chorus hits a crescendo I don't hear elsewhere in the Mullins catalogue. The lyrics are clear in the soaring melody and the phrases of words cross freely the phrases of the music: "Let mercy lead - let love be the strength in your legs, and in every footprint that you leave there'll be a drop of grace."

I don't hear the poetry of that elsewhere in the work of Rich Mullins, or anyone much else frankly, and when you throw it on top of the relatively simple melody the whole thing catches together and grows in your mind until nothing much can dislodge it. And the message? A message for our day, irrespective of your belief system or personal opinion on just about anything, one that really could change the world if we'd let it:

Let mercy lead.

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