So Sweet (Artful Devotion)

Tongue Gilding by Lauren Kalman
Lauren Kalman (American, 1980–), Tongue Gilding, 2006. Digital print, laminated on acrylic, 32 × 23 in. (81.3 × 58.1 cm). Still from a 12-minute short film. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

“The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the LORD is clean,
enduring forever;
the rules of the LORD are true,
and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.”
—Psalm 19:7–10

“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!”—Psalm 34:8a

“How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!”
—Psalm 119:103

 

“Jesus Name So Sweet” was written in 1977 by the Jamaican musician Bobby Aitken (early vinyl pressings had his surname as “Akins” or “Atkins”) after his conversion to Christianity. The song was internationally popularized by Donnie McClurkin in 2000, who performed it in London as part of his “Caribbean Medley”—but as it turns out, I discovered it through a trio of car-riding nuns! I sourced the embedded audio excerpt from the Caribbean Gospel YouTube channel; the names of the performers and the year of the recording are not given, and efforts to track down this info were unsuccessful.

Of the short patois refrain “Every rock we rock upon Jesus,” musicologist Melvin L. Butler writes,

This phrase does not translate easily into Standard English. However, Jamaican churchgoers explained to me that the repetition of the word rock and the idea of rocking “upon Jesus” suggest the idea of “movement” with Jesus—literally, through holy dancing, and metaphorically, through life’s ups and downs. The chorus thus celebrates the “sweetness” of Jesus, who serves not only as a spiritual dancing partner during collective praise but also as a guide and comforter amid the “rocky” road of everyday life. [“Performing Pentecostalism: Music, Identity, and the Interplay of Jamaican and African American Styles,” in Rhythms of the Afro-Atlantic World: Rituals and Remembrances, p. 46]


This post belongs to the weekly series Artful Devotion. If you can’t view the music player in your e-mail or RSS reader, try opening the post in your browser.

To view all the RCL scripture readings for Proper 22, cycle A, click here.

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