City On A Hill: Songs Of Worship & Praise
Essential Records, 2000
REVIEW BY: Michael Ehret
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/11/2000
Lately, worship music has become a more recognized genre within the contemporary Christian music market. Everyone is releasing music and putting the "worship" label on it. Some of it is truly worship music and some isn't.
Essential Records will soon release (Aug. 22) City On A Hill. Of all of the worship music produced so far this year, this project is the finest. From the opening song "God Of Wonders" through the closing "This Road" there is one cohesive, unifying theme: worshipping God.
One indispensable element of corporate worship is the idea of the community coming together in adoration of God. All voices and all hearts striving together to reach that place where singing songs of praise transcends the human and becomes infused with the Divine. When that happens, the Spirit of God descends and inhabits the praise of His people.
This is rarely captured on recordings. But God's Spirit is ever present on City On A Hill. He is the underpinning upon which it is built and the canopy under which it is performed. He is the East and West of this project and the Center of it.
The concept of community is expressed throughout as the various artists and bands combine and recombine, intermingling their talents and expressions of worship. Some write. Some sing. Some pray. Some play. Some produce. Some encourage. This one sings on that one's song and the other one wrote the song that this one sings. The logistical details of the project must have been enormous.
However, the involvement in "community" was integral to the project. As the producer put it: "It was truly a community endeavor, reflecting our common desire to live in holy communion with our heavenly Father and with one another -- by the unifying miracle of God's Spirit in our midst."
Opening with the modern psalm "God Of Wonders," the disc unabashedly proclaims the holiness of God. The singers create just the right mix of awe and adoration for a "God of wonders beyond our galaxy:.
The universe declares Your Majesty You are holy, holy Lord of Heaven and Earth Lord of Heaven and Earth Early in the morning I will celebrate the light When I stumble in the darkness I will call Your name by night
Worked into the song are the recognizable strains of the traditional hymn "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty" -- and the blending of old and new only gives the song more depth.
From proclaiming the holiness of God, the project moves into acknowledgement of the centrality of Jesus Christ, in the song "The Stone," built upon the Scriptures which proclaim "the stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone (Ps. 118:22; Matt. 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; 1Peter 2:7). From there comes the admonition that "everything that has breath" ought to be praising the Lord -- even when things aren't going so well ("With Every Breath").
Following comes two songs working together to lead the listener from remembering the sacrifice of Christ to remembering God's triumph over death -- and the salvation that single act brought to all who call upon the name of Christ. Melding the deep sadness and melancholy of "I Remember You" with the ever increasing joy of "Precious Jesus" takes the listener from the despair of the Crucifixion to the exultation of the Resurrection.
Despondency gives way to ecstasy as the realization of just what Christ's triumph over death means for the believer slowly becomes apparent. We are moved from remembering the broken body of Christ to remembering our own brokenness and the healing God has brought into our lives.
Mighty King of the universe, merciful Lamb For my sin You suffered and bled Still Father, forgive them, they don't understand Sweet Savior, I heard what you said As we drink from the cup of salvation, Your blood We remember Your sacrifice We remember the way that You suffered for us
Subsequent songs deal with the omnipresence of God in our lives ("You're Here"), speaking to God through prayer ("Where You Are"), experiencing God's mercy ("Merciful Rain"), the unity that should, and will one day, be found in the Body of Christ, the church ("Unified"), covenanting with God to be His people ("Covenant Song"), and adoration of God's luminescence ("Marvelous Light"). The title song based on Matthew 5:14 ("a city on a hill cannot be hidden") encourages believers to share the Light of God that is within them with those who are still searching for that Light.
And I know that our salvation isn't in the things we do But it's only given by the grace of God By the sacrifice of Jesus, and if we really did believe We would want to share this message with someone
Finally, the disc ends with "This Road," a prayer of benediction asking that God travel with us on the road we're on, giving us peace and grace and shelter.
This project was the work of these fine artists (in alphabetical order): Caedmon's Call, The Choir, Gene Eugene (in his last recordings before his recent death), FFH, Peter Furler, Christine Glass, Steve Hindalong, Jars Of Clay, Sixpence None The Richer, SONICFLOOd, and Third Day -- among many others. They showed, by their participation in this project, their own commitment to be that "city on a hill" -- showing the light of God to the world and drawing all people to Him.
You are the light of the world A city on a hill cannot be hidden Shine your light before all men That they might see your works and then Praise your Father up in Heaven