Written by: Laura Chambers (3/9/2015)
I can feel the struggle between perfect and imperfect even as I write this review. Instead of giving all my time and attention to it, I am browsing Facebook, Fanfiction. Twitter and various other sites. Losing my train of thought. Becoming dissatisfied with the prior introductions I composed for this review (one of which had a reference to The Emperor’s New Groove). It’s a small thing, really, but the truth is this; we are somewhere in between sanctified and unholy messes. We intend the best, but do the worst. By recognizing this makes us no different than anyone else, we can destroy walls that are only in our minds and embrace each other.
Matt Maher reminds us in Saints and Sinners that no matter which one more closely describes us, we are more alike in our weakness than anyone at first glance would suspect. God is the difference; everything changes when we call on Him. Beginning with discouragement and ending with fresh energy, “A Future Not My Own” is as much an assurance of as a plea that we may perceive we are leaving a legacy. We may never see the point of the service we are doing in His name in our lifetime. We are asked and should seek to trust Him regardless. Someday we’ll meet the people whose lives our obedience to God touched.
“Deliverer” exuberantly testifies to changes salvation has made in the life of an aimless sinner. It is as well written a prodigal son song as I have heard; nonspecific enough to be everyone’s story, and triumphant enough to capture the joy of being free in Christ. “Glory Bound” uses the metaphor of a train to extend an invitation without reservation to anybody who’s listening. He has forgiven Your sins already, no matter who you are or what you’ve done; by accepting it your ticket is punched and you’re well on your way towards eternity in His presence forever. It also includes a gentle admonishment to we who are already passengers; don’t hog the seats (no manspreading or taking up two chairs with your backpack, please!) – freely welcome anyone who boards.
“Land Of My Father” casts a tender gaze on the beauty of our final homecoming, envisioning praising Him in His dwelling. Another joyful reverie for the redeemed, but one that is wonderfully grounded in reality. “Everything Is Grace” turns trials on their heads by focusing on the sweetness of being sustained by a faithful God. Anything is endurable – nay, overcome-able – with God’s help. Ironically, pain is a gift that allows us to experience love and care on a deeper level. Matt’s resolve to believe sounds like a desperate clinging looks. “Sons And Daughters” encourages us to come together as siblings in God’s family, as he meant us to. Instead of dividing along a million different lines, we should be holding out our hands to the hurting. It also poses an interesting “food for thought”; as long as anybody remains imprisoned by guilt, prejudice, or sin, are we as a whole truly liberated? Cooperation in Christ is only possible when we see others as belonging.
“Firelight” earnestly pleads for Jesus to illuminate the darkness that surrounds both our understanding of Him and our view of ourselves and what’s possible in our lives. Furthermore, having been given this gift of hope, our new desire ought to be carrying it anywhere there is despair. There’s no time to waste. “Instrument” makes an offer that God will always accept from a sincere heart; myself as your arms, hands, feet, anything needed – use me however You desire, no strings attached, completely Yours. All we should strive to do is be willing to let God use us for His purposes in the world, sacrificing our comfort in favor for that of others in the process. Yet by some miracle of grace, we receive it by giving it.
In “Abide With Me”, Matt makes a simple enough request; Jesus, walk with me every day of my life. After all, You know what it’s like to be human and face trouble. Firsthand. But the more you think about this, the more it hits you; He is willing to do this if we ask. “Because He Lives (Amen)” uses a portion of the Gaither song as a jumping off place to rejoice in God’s saving grace. Reducing this to its barest bones (what were/what He did) is far from diminishing it; rather, I’ve often found limiting yourself to a spare description can create simple beauty. “Rest” closes this album with a peaceful take on Psalm 23, the musical equivalent of rambling down a country road in the middle of a summer’s day. We can find rest in His presence, no matter where we are. It is absolutely impossible to be 100% perfect unless you’re Jesus. That being said, it doesn’t stop us from trying to stand taller than the next guy or shove our way to the front of the crowd. I would offer this piece of advice to you (and me): stop. Let Jesus live His life through you instead. It’s far less exhausting and far more gratifying to walk side by side with Him and others than trampling them into the dirt.
Saints and Sinners pulls us off the beaten path for a humility lesson, before turning us loose again to use our newly opened eyes to change hearts and the world.
Released: March 17, 2015
Label: Essential Records
- A Future Not My Own (3:18)
- Deliverer (3:26)
- Glory Bound (2:56)
- Land Of My Fathers (3:32)
- Everything Is Grace (4:00)
- Sons and Daughters (5:20)
- Firelight (4:14)
- Instrument (4:23)
- Abide With Me (3:18)
- Because He Lives (Amen) (3:20)
- Rest (4:41)
11 Tracks, 42:28
More from Matt Maher:
- The End and the Beginning (2001) (I)
- Welcome To Life (2003) (I)
- Overflow (2006) (I)
- Empty & Beautiful (2008)
- Alive Again (2009)
- The Love In Between (2011)
- All The People Said Amen (2013)
- Saints and Sinners (2015)
Links for Matt Maher: