First Call Soars In Message And Harmony

by Kevin Burton

    Even people unfamiliar with the Bible are aware of Lazarus, the man Jesus raised form the dead after four days in the grave.

   You see it in articles about unlikely sports victories, “greatest comeback since Lazarus!”

   Imagine the amazement and joy of Lazarus’ family and friends to see him brought back to life. Others on the scene believed in Jesus after witnessing this miracle. The story is told in the book of John, chapter 11.

   But what about Lazarus himself?  Did you ever think about his life after this chain of events?

   The story of new life and freedom through Jesus and community with fellow believers is told in the most beautiful a cappella song I have ever heard.

   The song is “Lazarus Unwound” by First Call.  The band’s 1993 album “Sacred Journey” is the focus of my 18th album challenge post.

    If you love harmony you will love “Sacred Journey” and everything else by First Call. This is harmony you can eat with a knife and fork. You’re going to want seconds!  “Lazarus Unwound” being a cappella just heightens your awareness of this.

   In New Testament days the dead were wrapped like mummies and placed in tombs. Pick up the scene just after Jesus has commanded, “Lazarus, come forth!”

    “And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave clothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, “Loose him, and let him go.” John 11:45 KJV).”

   Brand new Christians are in the same fix metaphorically. Saved absolutely, but still at times tied up in bad habits, bad thought patterns, spiritual grave clothes.

   Cue First Call for a brilliant lyric:

   “On a bright new clear blue morning,
what a crazy sight to see. Wakes up trippin’ over his grave clothes, boy, that sure sounds a lot like me. Lazarus unwound, what a day for a true believer.”
   “Follow the voice of my salvation, I’m still tied up head to toe. God send me brothers and sisters to loose me and let me go…”

   What a word picture of real life as a new Christian and what a sound to dress it in.

   The other song to focus on is “95 Reasons.” The title alludes to a document nailed to a church door in 1517 by Martin Luther, Professor of Moral Theology at the University of Wittenberg in Germany.

   The “Ninety-Five Theses” spelled out Luther’s objections to teachings of the Roman Catholic Church which contradicted the written word of God.

   The church was ignoring the grace of God through belief in Jesus spelled out in the Bible and was profiting financially from a system of selling “indulgences” which they said shortened the punishment of loved ones who had died. It was a monopoly-esque “get out of purgatory sooner” card. Purgatory, a temporary place for souls that was neither Heaven nor Hell, was an invention of the Catholic church, not spoken of in the Bible.

   If the church didn’t quite write God out of the script, they relegated him to a much lesser role.

   Luther risked everything to tell the truth. In the song’s introduction you can hear the sound of a hammer pounding a nail into that door.  First Call then launches into a celebration of grace.

    “I’ll give you 95 reasons to change your mind. Could not live one more hour on the borderline. Lord, it was rattling my sleep
to hear the truth poundin’ at my door.”
   “I’ll give you 95 reasons to celebrate.
Not drivin’ one more nail through the hand of grace. Oh, the evidence is steep, wake up, the truth’s poundin’ at your door.”

   Those are two exceptional songs and the rest of the set is good as well.  I’ve never figured out what “Box Of Glory” means, but it’s a great song title and it sounds like a Supertramp song.  The song “Freedom” is a verbal celebration like “95 Reasons” with encouraging lines such as “you can move any mountain” and “there is strength you can count on.”

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