Monthly Archives: April 2012

Note from John Mark:

In keeping with my theme of resurrection, today I’m posting commentary of my song “Dress Us Up” by Dr. John Hurtgen of Campbellsville University.

I love how Dr. Hurtgen can move from lighthearted banter to plumbing depths within in a single line.  Loved this and I hope you guys enjoy this as much as I did.


Dress Us Up Commentary 

Dress Us Up:  words by John Mark McMillan . . . other words by John Hurtgen, Dean, School of Theology, Campbellsville University ( &!/cutheology)

Dress us up in your righteousness:   ever since Eden—and the failed fashion show—Adams and Eves have been trying to dress themselves in clothes to impress the Maker.  The prints always clash, colors ever condemning, tree-leaf briefs not quite permanent press.  The Maker dressed Adam and Eve once.  Animal skins, blood shed for life clothes (Gen. 3:21).  But we didn’t take the hint.  Outside Eden:  same prints, same colors, same tree leaves.  Until the Maker’s Son had his garments shed from him, and from Jesus’ crucifixion the Tailor made clothes that were just right, just righteous.  Dress us up in those clothes, God.
Bring us in with a ring and a kiss:  the son who squandered, who lost everything (Luke 15:11-32), never had a thought that his father would place a ring on his finger (the equivalent of handing his broken son a new credit card), nor that the affection of his father—in the form of a kiss—would ever again be his.  Authority (ring) and Affection (kiss) from the gracious God who loves to give, we can dare ask this Father, “bring us in.”
When you walk into the room you know we can’t resist:  the sad fact is that sometimes Jesus does walk into the room, has even been invited there (Luke 7:36), but no bottle of perfume wasted . . . and, even better(?), no mess on the floor.  Yet Jesus knows when the heart is civil, and definitely when the heat is not right.  He tells the story of two people, two debts, two inabilities to pay, two debts graciously canceled:  “Who do you suppose loved him more than that?” (Luke 7:41-42).  Just think about the massive debt (personal, relational, Godward) that you and I have been forgiven.  When he walks into the room, we can’t resist, no matter the cost, no matter the smell.
Every bottle of perfume always ends up on the floor in a mess:  Broken.  Most things work best that way (2 Cor. 12:8-10).  The crucifixion itself was another bottle of perfume poured out.  The bottle broken, the fragrance released.

You make us sparkle and you make us shine:  as in the first line (“dress us up”), there are things we just can’t do for ourselves.  He makes us sparkle and shine, only because of what’s on the inside.  “We have this treasure in jars of clay . . . so that everyone can see that the glorious power is from God and not our own” (2 Cor. 4:7).  Even clay sparkles and shines, if you heat it up enough.

Like the stars who sing on your chorus line:  everything shines, everything has its own glory (doxa, Grk.).  Sun, moon, and stars all shine in different ways, each with their own glory (1 Cor. 15:40-41).  There is no greater affirmation than this:  God is both Creator and Re-Creator, Designer and Re-Designer.  The same God who sent his Son is the same God (and Son) who placed each star on the chorus line.  The Star Song Revue has showtimes each and every night (Psalm 19:2).
Through space and time we’ll harmonize: 
A nice take on an old hymn text:  “Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest, Sun, moon and stars in their courses above Join with all nature in manifold witness To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love” (“Great is Thy Faithfulness,” 1923).  The nice twist is we get to sing right along, harmonize even, with sun, moon, stars.  Of all places, the Book of Revelation teaches us about the “four part harmony”:  “And then I heard every creature (1) in heaven and (2) on earth and (3) under the earth and (4) in the sea.  They sang:  ‘Blessing and honor and glory and power belong to the one sitting on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever’” (Rev. 5:13).

Where deep meets deep like the ocean meets the sky:  “no, no line on the horizon” (U2)?  Deep meets deep, mystery beyond our limited minds.  Voices merge, unity in the universal chorus.  Everyone knows the words.

The sun and the moon
They come out of their grave just for you:
  Without the sun, the moon has no light.  Look for the moon during the “new moon” phase.  It’s there, but unilluminated (“It’s not that the colors aren’t there/It’s just imagination they lack,” Paul Simon).  In creation, the greater and the lesser, the sun and moon.  That’s just the order in re-creation, the greater and the lesser:  the Son and the many lesser satellites, who derive their light from the Son.  Jesus first up out of the grave (Col. 1:18); and then the “lesser lights” will come out of their grave just for the great God who breathes new life into them.
The dead man and the cynical too
They’re coming out of their grave:
  The gospel is not about us having a hard time swimming in the storms of life and Safeguard Jesus throwing the life-line.  Grab the rope and hold on tight!  Well, a lot of life is like that.  But the gospel is about “sinking deep” in the waters of sin (think Mafia and concrete shoes), and Jesus taking the dead man, the dead women and working the miracle of second birth.  One
And it’s just for you: 
for who else?  Soli deo gloria

Cause the love of God is stronger
The love of God is stronger
The love of God is stronger
Than the power of death: 
God is love.  All you need is . . . God.  Paul says that there is nothing more powerful than the power of God, his love, his wisdom.  And how wise he is.  He uses the weak, foolish, despised things of the world to show his strength (1 Cor. 1:27-28).  “Watch this,” God says.  I am going to take a crucified, Jewish, itinerant, charismatic rabbi (from the sticks), and I am going to lay the foundation stone for a whole new world.  Many have stumbled over this stone.  Yet, the dead man and cynic too have found life, light, love in him.

Dress us up in the blood of a son:  denizens of the twenty-first century may have hard time with this line?  But we live in the “Twilight” zone, where vampires roam and blood is life and life is blood.  And we still know, to the core, that deep stains aren’t easily removed, or are ignored to our own peril.  When God dresses us up in the blood of his Son, two things happen.  First, our sins are forgiven.  Blood usually is a tough stain to remove, but Jesus’ blood removes the stain of sin.  We are forgiven!  Nothing like it (Rom. 4:7-8) . . . except to turn around and forgive someone else. 
Who opened up his veins so that we would overcome
Hell and the grave in the power of his love: 
Second, the dress up begins to overcome the sinful patterns of life, the ones that usually lead to hell and the grave.  Jesus showed us how it’s done, in life and in death and in resurrection.  The dress up is dress rehearsal for opening night, when kingdom comes.
After three dark days he showed us how it’s done
And he still does: 
Thank God for his patience.  He still does.

You make us sparkle and you make us shine
Like the stars who sing on your chorus line
Through space and time we’ll harmonize
Where deep meets deep like the ocean meets the sky
This word needs to be accepted into the Christian hymnal, right next to “amen.”

Cause the love of God is stronger
The love of God is stronger
The love of God is stronger
Than the power of death

Blessed Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Resurrection Sunday!    John Hurtgen, Campbellsville University


Note fromJohn Mark:

This week I’ve ask some close friends to comment on the theology of my “resurrection songs”. Today I’m posting comments by someone who may be my biggest influence: My Dad!

Robin McMillan is the senior pastor of Queen City Church and also has a sweet blog.  Be sure to check it out:

Theology in “Skeleton Bones” by Robin McMillan

John Mark writes authentic songs, personal expressions reflecting his insight into the heart of God. He communicates his own brand of faith with nonreligious language that makes sense to him and deeply touches his generation and others.

Skeleton Bones is one of those songs. Some have found the term skeleton morbid or negative nevertheless the Lord Himself commanded the prophet Ezekiel to speak to a valley of ‘skeleton bones’. It didn’t seem to bother the Lord or, hopefully, the prophet. Ezekiel said that when he prophesied to them they literally rattled as they came together (Ezekiel 37:7). That’s the sound resurrecting dead people must make, especially those dead for hundreds or thousands of years.

‘Peel back our ribs’, a heart cry for intimacy, describes accurately the act of God in Genesis when He operated on Adam, peeled back a rib, and made a woman from it (Genesis 2:21-23). How could Adam not love her. She came from him (Adam), and Him (the Lord).

Who would not want the Lord to ‘peel back the veil of time’ so that we can see Him, the timeless One (see Isaiah 64:1). Those who love Him want to see Him so they can love Him more. Its the desire to love God more that sneaks into John Mark’s songs over and over…’we just wanna love you, we just wanna love you‘.

The phrase, ‘skeleton bones stand at the sound of eternity on the lips of the found’ speaks of the resurrection of the dead for those upon whose lips are the confession of faith in Him and His salvation. It takes a mouth and a heart. ‘For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation’ (Romans 10:10).

‘Separate those doors and let the sun of resurrection in’ is a plea for each of us to open the doors of our hearts to the light of the One who died for us and was raised from the dead for our justification.

‘We want your blood inside our bodies’ reflects the song writer’s desire for intimacy based on the very intent of Jesus the night before He was betrayed when He instituted the mystery of communion: Eat my body, drink my blood, He said (1 Corinthians 11:24-26).

‘We want your wind inside our lungs’, expresses the desire to be a ‘God-breathed’ person; like Adam in the garden of Eden (Genesis 2:7), like the disciples on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:2) when they breathed the rarified air of heaven. In both cases God released a supernatural life that changed Eden and changed the world. God…breathe into your people again. That’s John Marks song! That’s my prayer for His church too.

Skeleton Bones 
Peel back our ribs again
and stand inside of our chest.
We just wanna’ love you
 We just wanna’ love you
Peel back the veil of time
And let us see You with our naked eyes
We just wanna’ love you
We just wanna’ love you
Skeleton bones stand at the sound of eternity
On the lips of the found
And gravestones roll
To the rhythm of the sound of you
Skeleton bones stand at the sound of eternity
On the lips of the found
So separate those doors
And let the sun of resurrection in.
Oh let us adore the
Son of Glory dress ed in love
Open up your gates before him
Crown Him, stand Him up
We want your blood to flow inside our body
We want your wind inside our lungs
We just wanna’ love you
We just wanna’ love you

Robin McMillan
Sr. Pastor, Queen City Church
church website:


A note from John Mark:

At the end of the day, I’m a songwriter who dabbles in theology.  I don’t sing about Jesus because I want to spread a message.  I don’t sing about Jesus because it’s the Christian thing to do.  If I sing about Jesus, it’s for one simple reason, and that’s because I believe he’s worth singing about.   While it’s never been my intention to communicate theology through my music, my heart’s fascination with certain subjects have carved out a good bit of space for it in my songs over the years.

I thought it would be fun to comment on some of that theology this week (specifically in my “resurrection songs”) but being more of an artist who dabbles in the subject, I decided it could be a better idea to employ friends who have an extensive knowledge of these matters.

Today’s guest, Ray Hollenbach, actually made me understand my own song in a way that I never imagined I could.  I hope you enjoy his words and be sure to check out his blog: 

The Theology of “Murdered Son” by Ray Hollenbach

Murdered Son should be on your playlist this holy week. Last year John Mark broke down his thoughts and the Bible roots of Death in His Grave. Perhaps there is room to explore Murdered Son as well. Here are some of the things John Mark’s song stirs up in my heart:

Murdered Son . . .

The title phrase is compelling because it expresses at least two characters in the passionate drama of resurrection: There is a father, and there is a son. God’s son was murdered. The suffering of Good Friday is not for Jesus alone–a father looked on and watched his son die. The pain was multiplied by two.

God’s son chose the public role of victim. The son knew the father’s pain and positioned himself the bridge between Creator and creation.

Together, the Father and the Son suffered the injustice of hatred, torture and death. They faced their enemies with a determination to pave the road home even when no one was interested in the journey.


The father delights to raise people up. Resurrection was God’s method a long time before Easter morning. I like to imagine that the same God who stood back and spoke the universe into existence then chose to kneel in the mud and raise humanity up from the dust. The very creation of Adam is a resurrection. The very act of new birth in Jesus raises us up, daughters and sons, into the heavens at his side. It is the resurrection that comes before resurrection day. That same God has raised us up, and he will again.

Scattered our debt upon the waves:

I don’t know what John Mark had in mind with this image, but I have scattered my father’s ashes across the Kentucky hillside behind my home. I have scattered his memory onto the land where I live. But in John Mark’s lyric I see the a father who pile my sins together like so much deadwood, and sets it ablaze. And after he incinerates my sin he gathers the ashes and takes them to the farthest reaches of the sea, and scatters my debt upon the waves. Just try to find my sin, resurrect it and use it as evidence against me. Good luck with that.

Hidden ours faults even from Your own face . . .

Who hides the faults of others–from themselves? Some of us sweep the faults of others under the rug because they have embarrassed us. But we know what they have done, and we don’t forget. Some people hide the faults of others because they, too, have the same faults–they don’t want to face themselves. But the father–the one who has nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to hide, hides our faults from himself. The one who knows everything chooses to no nothing of us except his love.

Who paid for my resurrection:

How much money does it take to raise the dead? As a pastor I’ve presided over the funerals of rich and poor alike. No one has what it takes to pay the price. It turns out the price for resurrection is the willingness to suffer injustice and give yourself to the very people who want to see you dead. It’s a chorus I can sing over and over: Who paid for my resurrection. On the day he raises me up I am debt free.

The artist is entitled to all the meaning he puts into the song and whatever meaning find there as well. I don’t know all John Mark intended to say, but I know he intended that I should see resurrection wherever I look.