The Blues

Holy Trinity Church Huddersfield, Friday 15 June – Sunday 17 June 2018

What we did on our Church Weekend

I’ve always been into the Blues. So much so that I spell it with a capital B. The Blues is not just a music, not just a feeling: The Blues is more personal than that. One misconception about the Blues is that it is songs about feeling bad, but it is not. The Blues is about lifting people out of their humdrum existence. A song which sums the Blues up for me is Out of bad luck by Magic Sam. These words are repeated during the song:

“I’ve been down so long,
But I’m on my way up again.”

The Blues came out of slavery, originally based in field hollers, the rhythmic chants slaves worked to whilst picking cotton, and other menial tasks. After emancipation there was no freedom. The Blues is the music of a segregated society told by the people on the wrong side of the divide, the common theme of You’ve gone and left me for another man stands in for the persecution and prejudice that was felt in their lives. It is the song of the oppressed, yet they can shout this to the oppressors:

“When I reach the top this time baby
you gonna wanna be my friend.”

The British Blues Boom was very different. Middle class white kids, with no knowledge of being oppressed formed bands in high school and tried to get into the blues (small b). The Blues was not the music of people trying to get into the blues but of people trying to get out of the Blues. It is a music of joyfully standing up to the oppressors.

So what has this history of the Blues got to do with Holy Trinity Church’s weekend in Derbyshire? Richard Pennystan gave an example of one of those downbeat complaining Psalms. I cannot remember which one it was, there are many of them, but I am using Psalm 43.

Psalm 43

Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause
against an ungodly people,
from the deceitful and unjust man
deliver me!
For you are the God in whom I take refuge;
why have you rejected me?
Why do I go about mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?
Send out your light and your truth;
let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill
and to your dwelling!
Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God my exceeding joy,
and I will praise you with the lyre,
O God, my God.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.

Richard told us that the Psalm was like the psalmist moving between two stories, the story of the Blues and the story of Gospel. The story of the Blues he said, quoting Bono of U2, I think, was one which wallows in depression, it is the story of the world which says “we’re doomed.” The story of Gospel is one of trusting in God, a story of proclamation of the Good things of God. While Richard was wrong about the Blues, he, and Bono, were talking about small b blues, he was spot on about the Psalm. Pouring out your troubles to God are a way from moving from the negativity of the world’s story and into God’s story.
Psalm blues

The photo above shows a few of these psalms, choose one and ask yourself these questions:

  • What story does the Psalmist believe at the start and what story is he beginning at the end?
  • What recent experience do I need to process with God?
  • What am I feeling?
  • What story am I living in?
  • What will take me from that story to God’s truth?

Please ponder this.

But back to the Blues, Here’s Magic Sam.

Just an aside, I keep wanting to call Richard Pennystan Richard Penniman, but he is far too tall. Wop bop a loo bop.

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