Introduction for Sara Groves – The Gathering 2011

Two years ago I heard a teacher of the psalms remark that our modern worship songs and the choruses we sing are full of praise, hope, thanksgiving and God’s love for us. In fact, he went on to say, maybe there is so much emphasis on God’s love and care for us in every detail of our lives that we have excluded hymns that reflect our own laments, complaints and petitions. In doing so, have we unintentionally taught that all of our burdens, problems and questions should be resolved by focusing only on those songs that encourage and inspire us? Something like the power of positive psalms. I don’t think that is what God desires. I think He wants to hear from every part of us. Someone told me recently that the third verse in the old hymns is what they called “the trouble verse.” It was where the writer gathered up all the hardships, cares, doubts and obstacles and put them to music. Those hymns sang about the whole of life – the joys and the sorrows. The laments and the hallelujahs. In that sense, I would call Sara Groves a full gospel artist. She brings the whole of the songs of Scripture in her writing and singing. She writes for lives that wrestle and box and where God is sometimes silent. Isn’t that really more like our lives after all? As she said in an interview, “These songs are real experiences. I hope to unveil the things we feel but don’t always say…about life, about our relationships with each other and with God…and basically to say it’s okay.” I met Sara and her husband Troy for the first time when they were volunteering their time and talent for Donald Miller and Blood:Water Mission on their 2008 bicycle tour raising support for water wells in Africa. Three years ago we found ourselves at lunch together in Kigali, Rwanda where they were giving their time to Food For The Hungry. They have just opened a new Art House America in their home city of St. Paul. Each time my path has crossed theirs I’ve been reminded of how much I wanted them to be with us again. I am so pleased they are here with us this week-end. I think Sara said it best in her song Love Is Still A Worthy Cause

In the midst of passing bravery
In the face of our own injuries
Is the constant generosity of grace.

It’s the only beauty in the tales we tell
It’s the pressing on and ending well
It’s the joy that comes when we give ourself away.

I had lunch recently with a friend who has spent the last 20 years in difficulty. He surprised me when he said, “Fred, I think I am on the verge of happiness.” I think we are on the verge of happiness and joy tonight as we welcome Sara and Troy Groves back to The Gathering.

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