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Josh Seligman and Jon Seligman discuss singer/songwriter Jon Foreman's newest album, Departures. Going through the songs one by one, they especially focus on the album's theme of seeking Heaven on earth and the tension between despair and hope.
- Jon Foreman's website
- Video of Switchfoot visiting Jon Seligman's music class
Below are excerpts from today's Forecast. This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and concision.
'Jesus, I Have My Doubts'
Jon: In both the lyrics and also the music, there is a rawness and an emptiness...There is a lot of empty space. I would have loved for him to have added more empty space. But the silence of God is something I feel that a lot of people have experienced the past couple of years, and this definitely hits on that note, for sure.
'Thanks Be to God'
Josh: He's experienced victory, or he's at least acknowledging that victory will come. But he's also in different points in time. In the verses, he's describing his challenges and singing as though he's in the fight, but in the chorus, he's singing as though he's already attained victory.
Jon: Yes, I think you're entirely on point in terms of the chorus is not in the present tense. And you don't have the sense of victory in the way the music is constructed. You don't have the horns blowing, you don't have the archetypes of what would be a deliverance motif. It is very much an individual in the fight but the recognition that God has delivered in the past, and it's a hope...of deliverance based on the faithfulness of who God has been and who he believes God will be. So right now, in this fight that he is in, he recognises that God has delivered him, even though he doesn't feel delivered. It's this tension of recognising, 'This is who I believe, this is where I'm at, but I also recognise this being, God, who I am also side by side next to, I recognise that God will still save me.'...
Josh: He's alluding to St Paul in Romans 7, who says 'What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord.' So, thinking about it on another level, it's as if the chorus is the Church Triumphant singing the song of victory, and the verse is...us...recognising our limitations, our failures...and that reminds me of another song later on...'Love Is the Rebel Song.' He has that phrase, 'Let us sing tomorrow's song.' And I think that's another expression of this. 'Thanks be to God who delivers me' -- that's tomorrow's song. That's the song that, by faith, we believe that we will be singing tomorrow, tomorrow being the age to come, the new creation. That's the song that Church Triumphant is already singing. He's hearing tomorrow's song being sung today.
'Love is the Rebel Song'
Jon: The hope is in our action, almost. Maybe not in our action, because as you mentioned, hope is towards 'Thanks be to God.' But it's not a despondency of letting go. We still have agency in this as well. We still have a part in this. It is what we do from here on to push for that hope as well.
Josh: Yeah, and I think that's one of the strengths of this image of a fight, because in a fight, you can't just sit on the sidelines. You're involved in it...entering the kingdom of God is not just something we do passively, or we wait around for it to come. It's something we need to seize and take by force. Not in the sense of physical violence, but in the sense that we need to give it everything we've got and commit ourselves fully to seeking the kingdom of God, that God's will is done on earth as it is in heaven. It's that tension of waiting but also seeking and seizing it as much as we can through how we live our lives, how we love God, how we love our neighbour...
Jon: You're right, we are given a task, and it's not just something to be given passively. And as we see with the frustrations of this world, there's a lot of work to be done, and to expect that God's kingdom is going to happen just by 'We'll watch on the sidelines and let God take care of it all'...that's true, but I think that removes what our goal is, what our job is. Our job is to be active as well. We are co-creators with God as well, so we need to make sure that, what God has given us, we...do properly. We aren't just someone who buries our talent in the sand, but we actually do something with it. The question goes, 'OK, what is our task?' That's for another podcast. But specifically in this song for sure, whatever it be, let it be of love. And love is such a nebulous term, so it's hard to know, but I think the hate that we hear is definitely not what it is at least.
Jon Seligman is an elementary school music teacher in Chula Vista, California. He holds a Bachelors in Music Composition and an MA in Teaching from Point Loma Nazarene University, California.
Josh Seligman is the founding editor of Foreshadow and a co-host of its podcast, Forecast.