Release Date: February 8th 2019
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- As a Saint
- What are we Waiting For?
- The Work (It Ain’t Easy)
- Less of Me
- Do Not Be Afraid
- This is Holy Ground
- The Simple Truth
‘…Tim Keller explains that worship is the “act of ascribing ultimate value to something in a way that energizes and engages your whole person or being.” Worshipping God takes place in the active redirection of our love away from ourselves or our ideologies and towards Christ — including emotions, but also will, intellect, action – our whole selves! This is true when we sing, but also when we sit to learn, or shake the hand of a brother, or take communion. Christian worship is incarnational (God-on-earth to redeem) not transcendent (we escape this troublesome old world to find God elsewhere). It is formative (God changes us through our embodied practices) not just informative (we change ourselves as a result of God’s good ideas). It’s embodied, not just expressed. The fact is that as we gather together God’s presence transforms our lives, our spaces, our minds and hearts and our very selves from toe-to-top. Our meetings and liturgies in their entirety — and our shared mission when we leave — are like Kingdom trenches in a world at war with itself and badly in need of redemption. And so our ‘worship’ should reflect those same holistic values. The moment we intentionally or unintentionally prescribe a hierarchy of experiences (mind over matter, emotion over mind, actions over either) – we teeter dangerously on popular heresy…’ I love this quote above by Elias Dummer, formally the lead singer of the now disbanded The City Harmonic, and currently a solo artist. It is true though, that worship is an everyday life activity, rather than just a transactional experience that people often partake every Sunday, nor is it a genre of music. Worship is so much more than what we as Christians in Western society have reduced the word to, and thus, the first album by Elias Dummer (without the rest of his band but still sounding like The City Harmonic in almost every way!), titled The Work, Vol. 1, is in some ways, a revelation and a realisation that worship is far bigger and grander, far more reaching and pivotal, than we can ever dream it could be. It is the work we do on a daily basis, the people we interact with, the songs we sing to our Father, the priorities we place over others, it is the overall daily existence we live, because if we boil everything down, it’s this- that worship is how we respond to what Christ has done for us. It can be through song on a Sunday and it can be through music, but often, worship is expressed through ways that the traditionalist view (singing songs on Sundays) may find it hard to reconcile. And this is why I reckon Elias’s The Work, Vol. 1 is an album that is as much needed amongst people who may find it hard to comprehend the concept of worshp in any other way than on a Sunday; as it is needed in society in general.
‘Enough’, the first single from the album, dropped at the end of November 2018, and is the embodiment of what we know is true about God, and who we are in light of who He is. From the very first verse, with the accompaniment of light acoustics and keyboards, Elias tells that ‘…I am not what I make, I am who You have made me to be, I am not what I’ve done, I am loved unconditionally, I am not loved by the measure of love that I bring, I am not who I know, I am known by the King of all Kings…’, and that it is in light of this lyric, we can rest knowing that it is not about the work we do for God, but rather the work He has already done for us, that we can declare these truths about us. As Elias himself shares a bit about the theme of the song and what he wants people to receive from hearing this emotive and confronting melody, we are met with the understanding that ‘…the world is constantly telling us that we need to have ‘more,’ spend more, do more. It’s exhausting, isn’t it? It leaves us with the feeling that ‘the good life’ is always just out of reach, and that the next thing will be the thing that makes the difference. I fight this feeling all the time, we all do. ‘Enough’ is one of those songs that I’ve needed to sing myself. It’s a reminder that our worth isn’t found in what we make, what we’ve done or who we know, but in Jesus. We wrote this song as an antidote to the lies we’re told about the ‘good life,’ so we could rest in the truth that Jesus is truly Enough for us…’ A song that continues to bring about hope and inspiration as we hear what I reckon is the best worship song that 2019 has ever produced (alongside Cody Carnes’ ‘Heaven Fall’ and Passion’s ‘Step into the Light’), ‘Enough’ paves the way, thematically and musically, for the rest of an album that I reckon will become a personal standout of mine as 2019 continues to roll along!
As the album progresses, Elias continues to bring to the fore issues that we otherwise may have missed had we not open our eyes and become aware of what the Lord is pressing upon our hearts to hear and receive. ‘As a Saint’ sadly suffers from tremendous amount of repetition, and despite the overall sincere intentionality about the melody, Elias fails, in my opinion, to make this song more than what it really is reduced to- sadly a song that could be akin to anything The City Harmonic has done, or even akin to anything current in the worship music scene at the moment…not that there’s anything bad about it, but for me, if you have ‘As a Saint’ following ‘Enough’, the song needs to be half as good…which because of the constant repetition, I’ve failed to connect as much to that track, regardless of the passion, energy and the intention behind the song. Regardless, someone will feel greatly connected to ‘As a Saint’…but for me, this song sadly isn’t the one. Still, despite such a misstep, Elias hardly ever makes one again. ‘Heartbeat’, with just electric guitar picks and light percussion, alongside whistles and a subdued musical atmosphere; presents a longing for the singer to ask the Lord to give him His heartbeat, His passions, what breaks His heart, so that his intentions and desires can be worthy and pure, helpful and encouraging. It is a prayer we all should partake in, understanding that we as Christians always want to tap into what is stirring in the Lord’s heart, as we understand that God Himself cares for and champions people who lift up the sick, broken, hurting, confused and unsure to Himself as we act in genuine concern and compassion toward our fellow man and woman. ‘What are we Waiting For’ is an upbeat melody that could easily fit into a City Harmonic album, as Elias joyously declares for us to stop waiting for a perfect time to express our own ways of worshipping the Lord, and to just take the plunge and to share our own adoration and affection to the Lord in a way that may look different, but could be as equally valid. Worship is so much more than what we often perceive it to be, and thus this song aims for us to get outside our comfort zones and to worship freely without judgement, knowing full well that how we show worship isn’t as fundamental as to who we worship!
‘Less of Me’ allows the listener to peer inside the idea and notion that we as Christians ought to be less and God be more, as we realise that it is for our own benefit- to exercise humility and to understand that there are just some things we don’t know, and that’s ok. A subdued and quiet verse and chorus that gives way to a resounding bridge- ‘…Your perfect love is all I need, You are enough, and You will always be, the Son of God, the great I Am, once I was lost now I am found in Him…’; Elias continues to present themes of comfort and at times confrontation, as The Work, Vol. 1 becomes a standing discussion point for issues needing to be addressed when it comes to the topic of worship and all its facets. ‘Free’ presents itself as a quasi-modern hymn as light percussion and a strong keyboard presence highlights the necessity for us to listen primarily to the lyrics as Elias reminds us that because of our freedom, we are free to live in the way God calls us to- to incorporate and encompass worship in everything that we do. ‘This is Holy Ground’ is the last remaining pre-release track (aside from ‘Heartbeat’ and ‘Enough’) to release prior to the album release on February 8th, as Elias presents a song that reminds us all that because of the presence of God within us, wherever we stand is holy ground, and that we carry God’s presence wherever we go, thus making us carriers of God’s grace, love and power to whomever needs it. A song that reminds us so much musically of ‘Holy (Wedding Day)’, Elias also delves into the album closer ‘Invisible’, the slowest song on the album, but also, one of the lyrically richest. Elias reminds us all that God Himself is invisible, but it is through the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ that we can truly know the heart of the Father. It is through Jesus’s presence here on Earth that we can see an accurate portrayal of God our Father in heaven. What a wonderful picture that is painted by Elias through this keyboard and string instrument prominent melody, one that I’ll continue to listen as each time, I’m amazed at the number of lyrical gems and powerful imagery that is found!
Lastly, Elias offers up some of his own personal standouts, ‘The Work (It Ain’t Easy)’, and ‘The Simple Truth’. And with this, I’ll quote from Elias himself, because what better way to discuss these songs than to seek wisdom from the writer? And upon reading these two quotes, I know I can’t do much better in explaining, so I’ll just step out of the way, and let you read the quotes below- inspirations behind both ‘The Work’ and ‘The Simple Truth’.
The Work (It Ain’t Easy) is a song that sort of picks up on the theme started by the opening track, ‘Enough’. In the song – and in life – I’m really wrestling with the idea that Jesus tells us to come and rest, and yet here we are hustling to become something out of our own effort – our own goodness. At the end of the day, Jesus won’t look you in the eye and say “I resurrected…but did you hustle? Were you the best?! Did you work hard and prove your worth? Did you vote for a particular political party?”. No, I don’t think so. Grace goes both ways. We’re forgiven of our sins, yes, but grace, by its nature, also means that we can’t earn the incredible gift that we have in Jesus. We didn’t work for it. We don’t deserve it. Yet, here we are… alive in Christ, who has done the work for us once and for all… if only we’d learn to come and rest… [The Work (It Ain’t Easy)]
I think it goes without saying that we live in a complicated time in terms of truth – a time when many can’t even agree on the objective facts around a situation. Forty years ago, folks trusted that the story they were told was true – and that simply isn’t the case anymore. But “truth” still has this really interesting connotation to us as being a fixed, objective thing that exists outside of ourselves. Now, I don’t believe that truth is less than that. But I do think we need to remember that truth is more holistic than that – it’s more than facts that exist outside of ourselves. The word itself comes from “troth” — “betrothed” shares its roots. In fact, a word that (five hundred years ago) was translated in the KJV as “truth” or “true” – emeth – is now most often translated as “faithful” in modern translations. We’ve lost an important part of what it means to be true and have settled for “facts about things”. It’s cheap and allows us to say we “believe” something to be true, without being faithful to it. So, I’d like to think that truth isn’t just about facts, it’s about faithfulness, too. It’s believed, yes, but also lived and honored. It’s a noisy world and truth seems hard to find sometimes. It’s incredible that we can hold onto the faithfulness of God – truth that’s more than just facts alone – and respond in the only appropriate way I can think of- love. These past couple years have been crazy, and I sat down with Kory and Emily from Red Rocks Church and that was all we could talk about! How noisy and confusing it all seemed! What has never been noisy to me, is that God is faithful- true. That’s the simple truth… [This Simple Truth]
So there you have it- The Work, Vol. 1, meaning that The Work, Vol. 2 will be Elias’s second studio album, whenever that may be. And while for me it can be a bit saddening to know that The City Harmonic are no more, Elias is still making music, and this album is a great testament to the fact that musicians don’t just float off into the ether whenever their project, be it with others or by themselves, die, for lack of a better term. They move onto something else. The City Harmonic was great and influential for the Christian worship landscape, and though The Work may take some time getting used to, as a whole, it’s a great follow-up to Benediction. Elias’s heart to compel others to live like worshipping is for everyday, is very paramount in this album. Through songs liie ‘Heartbeat’, ‘Enough’, ‘The Work (It Ain’t Easy)’ and ‘This Simple Truth’ are great standouts in an otherwise great album. Kudos to Elias for such effort and emotion placed into this album, can’t wait for the next one, whenever it arises!
3 songs to listen to: Enough, Heartbeat, What are We Waiting For?
RIYL: needtobreathe, Rhett Walker Band, All Sons and Daughters, The City Harmonic