There's much to contemplate this Holy Week, from Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday to Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. Many artists have traveled this path, creating sonic accompaniment for the varied emotions evoked during this sacred week.
Here are a few tracks that move us, and that we’ll have in heavy rotation throughout until Easter Sunday and beyond.
The Welcome Wagon – Up on a Mountain
In the final week of Christ’s life, he travels through the Garden of Gethsemane to think and pray. “Up on a Mountain” is a snapshot of what that moment of solace might look like, the things Jesus might be feeling, as he prepares to endure what lies ahead.
Gillian Welch – By the Mark
Gillian Welch and David Rawlings write a solemn folk tune that reflects an earthy, hollowness of the crucifixion. Welch’s alto is at its best, singing the piercing chorus, “By the Mark of where the nails have been… I will know my savior when I come to him.”
U2 - Wake Up Dead Man
For many of us, Holy Week is a confounding, dark time of self-reflection. There is a certain despair — for our fallenness and cruelty, for violence and hatred, for knocking away the hand of Love when he walked among us. U2's song echoes all of the above, and a desparate hope that the "story" is true, that redemption is real, that grace prevails and Jesus leaves the tomb empty.
Yim Yames – My Sweet Lord
Jim James, front-man of the American rock-and-rollers My Morning Jacket, recorded a handful of George Harrison covers shortly after the Beatles icon's death in 2001. Here’s his heartfelt take on “My Sweet Lord,” which shows an honest man yearning for something more set to some ghostly reverb and layered vocals.
Sufjan Stevens – O God, Where are You Now? (In Pickeral Lake, Pigeon? Marquette? Mackinaw?)
The day between Friday and Sunday is a day of mourning, wondering, mystery. These words “O God where are you now? O God, hold me now,” perfectly compliment the mood of uncertainty and sorrow in times where a divine being seems furthest away.
Iron & Wine – Jesus the Mexican Boy
Sam Beam’s storytelling is especially poignant in this tale of one who deliberately tries to “hide the more unholy things” he does toward another. But despite dishonesty, the Mexican boy shows mercy as he stands by a welcome sign. “Naked the Judas in me / Fell by the tracks but he lifted me high / Kissing my head like a brother and never asking why.”
Gungor - Beautiful Things
"You make beautiful things, you make beautiful things out of dust," husband-and-wife team Michael and Lisa Gungor sing in the title track from their 2010 album, Beautiful Things. God made humankind from the dust. God makes beauty out of ugliness, life out of death. Through the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God makes beautiful things out of us.
Over the Rhine – Idea #21 (Not Too Late)
It’s fitting that a gospel song should be included in this list, and on the last track of their double LP “Ohio,” Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist belt out an anthem of triumph: a call to an end of war, hatred, and violence; a rise for peace, restoration, resurrection.
Mukteshwar - Aradhna
The name of the band, Aradhna, means "Adoration," in Hindi, and its members — vocalist Chris Hale, sitar/guitar player Peter Hicks, and bassist Travis McAfee — are Yeshu Bakhti or "Devotees of Jesus." Their iconoclastic blend of Christian themes with India's bhajan style of singing bhakti (or devotional) music is intoxicating. In their song "Mukteshwar," these followers of Jesus sing in Hindi the words of the Beatitudes and the Lord's Prayer, ending with the refrain: Praise the name of the God of Liberation/Praise the name of Jesus/Sing my soul, sing my soul...
Roll Away Your Stone – Mumford & Sons
"It seems that all my bridges have been burned/ But, you say that's exactly how this grace thing works/ It’s not the long walk home/ that will change this heart/ But the welcome I receive with the restart." Oh YES! Preach it, boys! Amen and Amen.
Joshua Witchger is an online assistant at Sojourners. Read more from Joshua on his blog hail fellow well met. Sojourners' Web Editor Cathleen Falsani
contributed to this report.