Sunday, August 27, 2017

"LORD, my Lord, I need Your helping hand." + Gary Clark, Jr., "Church"




Experiencing the Beauty, Pain, and Hope of Gary Clark Jr. in Concert at Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, Friday, August 25, 2017


Back when Gary Clark Jr.'s album, The Story of Sonny Boy Slim, came out, reviews discussed this modern-day soul revival within Clark Jr.'s blues framework, comparing the eclectic work on Sonny Boy to how Kendrick Lamar approached his award-winning hip hop album, To Pimp a ButterflyThere's a wonderful infusion of soul in all of Gary Clark Jr.'s music, and he continues to unveil a needed bleeding heart and prophetic voice for "contemporary black innovation."

Personally, I think Clark Jr. is one of the most inspired and talented musicians working today. Yet sadly, I could never seem to catch him in concert. Every time he came to Boston, it was a major event in my life. When he was brand new on the scene, and his concert was only $12, he came the night my first son was born. The next time he came was when we were moving into our first house in Worcester. And then he came in the fall of 2015. On Halloween. This is the one night of the year our entire beloved city of Worcester seems to come out and be neighbors to each other. So I didn't make it to the show.

Until now.


On Friday, August 25, 2017, I, along with two good friends, was able to witness one of my favorite modern artists wield his instrument and voice like a maestro of classic and progressive guitar gods at the Casino Ballroom in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire. You can check out a good chunk of the setlist here.

I applauded and cheered him on every chance I could for bringing a stirring combination of blues and soul to the forefront of our attention during a time when our country once again is being ravaged by conflict, misunderstanding, and racism.

And I was left surprised and smiling when the first song of the encore was Gary on stage alone with a guitar and a harmonica singing, "Church.LORD, my Lord, I need Your helping hand. Indeed, Gary. 




The Story of Sonny Boy Slim begins with Gary singing with a weathered and world-weary friend the words, " ... Lord, I'm a hard-fighting soldier, and I'm on the battle field. I'm a hard-fighting soldier, and I'm on the battle field. I'll keep bringing souls to Jesus ... " To anyone who's hearing these words or reading this post, there are many Jesus is pursuing in the world that we need to bring into our lives so they can see, hear, and feel that Jesus loves them in a time of chaos and injustice. Particularly people who live the words Gary sings in "Church" when he says, "I worked long hours. Now I'm drunk and I'm stoned. I'm all alone miles from home. Lord, my Lord, I need Your helping hand." It's telling that "Hold On" is the song right after "Church," further sharing the plight of those who are losing their children and don't know where the next meal will come from.

Are we willing to listen to and sit in such searing blues like Jesus did with God and others?

In Al Dayhoff's own revelatory story, Church in a Blues Bar: Listening to Hear, he shares about a new friend he met one evening who challenged him not to give answers, but to listen. "If you all could just shut the h**l up," he said, "maybe you could hear what we have to say about our lives." (Al) answered, "Tell me more." The man then shared with me his own long cycle of suffering, admitting that he had never told anyone this before. I was glad to see him later, at the Easter service we held in the blues bar. There he would hear another great, true story about suffering. In Luke 23, Jesus suffers more than any human being ever will. But he speaks to the crucified thief who is without hope, lost in his pain. Then the saved thief begs him, "Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom." Jesus answers, "Truly, I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise." Remember me: the message of the blues.

We have the privilege to go with Jesus to the "blues bars" in every part of our city instead of expecting those who sing the blues to come to us. We need to listen to The Story of Sonny Boy Slim and the cries of the disregarded and unvalued that Gary has listened to, and is now sharing with us. And we need to come together to remember the One who can meet us in our pain and bring the reconciliation and restoration those cries are longing for. If we truly understand His redemption for us, then we know we've been redeemed to redeem.

LORD, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. We want to see. Help our unbelief. Remember us. Remember our city. And redeem.

Gary Clark Jr.'s "The Healing" Lyrics from The Story of Sonny Boy Slim


Emmaus City Church Worcester MA Soma Acts 29 3DM Christian Reformed Church Transcultural Kingdom Multiethnic Network of Missional Communities

I'm a hard-fighting soldier, and I'm on the battle field. Lord, I'm a hard-fighting soldier, and I'm on the battle field. I'm a hard-fighting soldier, and I'm on the battle field. I'll keep bringing souls to Jesus by the service – the service? – the service, that I pray. The service is the heart of ...  

(Yeah, yeah, yeah! Hey!)

I got something in motion.
Something you can't see.
It requires devotion
From those who truly believe.
This is something you can't touch.
This is something you feel.
For some people it's too much.
For some people it heals.

This music is my healing.
This music is my healing.
Lord knows I need some healing.
'Cause when this world upsets me
This music sets me free.

We stand in formation 
While they test and they see.
They compile information 
And try to make us believe 
That there is something we can't touch,
Something we'll never be.
But when I feel like it's too much. 
This music always reveals.

This is our healing.
This music is our healing.
Lord knows we need some healing.
'Cause when this world upsets me
This music sets me free.

God only knows who will save us,
Who will save us now
While they sit back
And watch flowers turn to stone.

We got this music ... healing ... 


Emmaus City Church Worcester MA Soma Acts 29 3DM Christian Reformed Church Transcultural Kingdom Multiethnic Network of Missional Communities

LORD, my Lord,
I need Your helping hand.

I'm in love with a woman
Who's in love with a man.
And I can't be; it ain't me.

I was taught to be patient.
And I was taught to be kind.
I don't whine.

LORD, my Lord,
I need Your helping hand.

I've worked long hours.
Now I'm drunk and I'm stoned.
I'm all alone miles from home.

LORD, my Lord,
I need Your helping hand.


Emmaus City Church Worcester MA Soma Acts 29 3DM Christian Reformed Church Transcultural Kingdom Multiethnic Network of Missional Communities

I would go, too, with you.
We've got everything to lose with you.
So what are we gonna do with you?

I'm not out to steal your money.
I don't want to take your time.
I do deserve a little respect
So I'm going to get what's mine
'Cause it seems like old news.
The whole world gone crazy.
What am I going to do?
What am I going to tell my babies
When they don't understand
My pressure, my struggle, my demands?
Back then I didn't understand
When my pops came home 
Saying that he couldn't take it.
But it's hard to be a good man
Knowing that another man's plan
Is to take what you're making.

Hold on,
We're gonna make it.
Hold on,
We're gonna make it.
Hold on,
We're gonna make it.
Hold on,
We're gonna make it.

Seems like the new news
Is the old news from a different angle.
Another mother on TV
Crying because her boy didn't make it.
She's say, "What am I going to do?
What am I going to tell these babies?
Y'all don't understand.
Y'all don't understand.

What are we gonna do with you?
Hold on,
We're gonna make it.
Hold on,
We're gonna make it.
Hold on,
We're gonna make it.
Hold on,
We're gonna make it.

Emmaus City Church Worcester MA Soma Acts 29 3DM Christian Reformed Church Transcultural Kingdom Multiethnic Network of Missional Communities

Christ is all,

Rev. Mike "Sully" Sullivan



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