A quick search on Google tells me that I’m a little nervy to call this series “Soul Songs.” (Soul Songs 1 is here.) Apparently “soul” is it’s own brand of music combining blues, Gospel, and the African American tradition. Well, this month’s song gets two parts of that right. It comes from the isiXhosa tradition, and it highlights the painful reality of the Gospel.
Coming into this series, I knew I wanted to share this song soon. As a song out of Africa, it serves as a tribute in Black History month. As a song of lament, it softens our hearts in a season of Lent.
I first met “Indodana” in a college choir. Singing first soprano, I sang simple high “Ooo’s” which floated in the background like tears flowing gently down cheeks. Because of this, I could listen more while I sang.
I heard the Altos give words to the lament (English above, Xhosa below):
Ngob’umthatile eh umtwana wakho
Uhlale nathi hololo helele
Indodana ka Nkulunkulu
I could listen to the Bass sob “Zhem, zhem.”
Only when the whole choir cried, “Oh, oh, Ba! Oh, Baba, Ba!” (Oh, Father) did I need to do anything but listen and sing tears.
The song cleansed me to the core: it called me to repent, to weep for the wrong I have done to my Saviour, to lament for the ways we God’s people have strayed from and betrayed the Lamb of God.
Fellow Anabaptists, we really aren’t good at confessing. We pride ourselves in doing the right outward thing. We stoically confess our wrongs at night in our prayers, but rarely have I seen us feel the agony of our own sin. We place boundaries around ourselves to keep us from temptation: this is good. Unfortunately, it can leave us with the allusion that we mostly have it all together, that our church has it all together. We can become trapped in pride and shame, because we don’t have the courage to confess our guilt.
Our brothers and sisters of Africa have something to teach us in this lament. It’s an old lesson King David, the man after God’s own heart, knew well. Confession cleanses our souls.
Confession is truth speaking.
It’s saying what’s true about God. He is holy. He is just. He is almighty. It’s saying what’s true about myself. I am sinful. I am unfaithful. I am weak.
As I listened to “Indodana” multiple times this past week, I noticed that it could be divided into four movements of about a minute and a quarter long. Within each movement, a musical idea is repeated twice.
In response to each of these movements, I wrote four short stanzas that can be read and meditated on as you listen.
I. Hear This Son, only begotten, not created— the Lamb, calling from the crossing of wood on wood, the living now the dying; when forsaken He forgives, gasps out grace. II. Confess This self, created, not begotten— the sinner, crossing dark and light a shadow of the shadows, the dying lacking life; the coward and betrayer grasps for grace. III. Cry This wrong, we have been doing— we children wandering from the Father’s heart, misplacing love, striving, vying for the glory that is His; with pride and lust and envy trampling over grace. IV. Heal Our hearts, Father and Physician— only Creator, bring the dead to life; cross the void of shame, displace the destitute pride, replace it with Your wholeness, glorify with grace.
Let us confess what Christ has done.
Let us confess what is true about God.
Let us confess what is true about ourselves.
Let us be cleansed and healed and remade to the glory of God the Father.