While attending seminary in the mid-70s I was introduced to Ken Medema. Ken has a marvelous gift for creating fresh interpretations of life and the Christian walk. His lyrics and music provide a commentary on social issues while simultaneously stirring hearts to follow God’s call.
I first heard Ken at a conference on ethics, where he interpreted a speaker’s message. As was often the case, his musical interpretation was more moving and meaningful than the speaker’s exposition.
I inquired into having Ken do a concert at our church. We were a small congregation and had little money to pay for Christian musicians of his fame, but I wanted our people to experience his life. I fully expected his honorarium to be out of reach, but Ken graciously accepted our invitation for the small amount we could pay. He rocked our world with not just his music, but with his humility and compassionate spirit.
Based on one of Ken’s improvisations, “Christian is as Christian Does,” my wife and I wrote a play for the youth in our church. His composition served as a musical refrain. The play called Christians to not just carry the label of “little Christ,” but to live in such in a way that the lives of others are impacted. We had t-shirts made with that title. I
wish I still had the shirt and my blue leisure suit. Better yet, I wish they still fit.
Followers of this gifted musical prophet cannot forget his composition of Moses. Just like this hero of our faith, we all have felt inadequate to do the task before us. Our false self tells us we’re too young, or too old; we’re not ready, or not competent enough; or we’ve made too many mistakes for others to follow us. God speaks into Moses’ life by asking the old man to pick up a snake by its tail. When he did, the snake turned into a shepherd’s rod. Ken sings,
Do you know what it means, Moses? Do you know what I’m trying to say, Moses? The rod of Moses became the rod of God. With the rod of God, strike the rock and the waters will come. With the rod of God, you’ll part the waters of the sea. With the rod of God, you will strike ol’ Pharaoh dead. With the rod of God, you’ll set my people free.
His lyrics conclude with these personal questions: “What do you hold in your hand this day? To what or to whom are you bound? Are you willing to give it to God, right now?” His final line offers this encouraging challenge, “Give it up, let it go, throw it down.”
As I enter my last chapters of ministry and I reflect upon the life of Moses and the challenge of Ken Medema, I pray that I will not allow the voices of fear, insecurity, or inadequacy keep me from completing the tasks before me. Thank you, Ken Medema, for allowing your gifts to become the rod of God.