Wheaton College Chapel Service
Wheaton, Illinois
April 11, 1997

Steve Ivester, Assistant Director of the Student Activities Office introduces Rich:

"For the past three months, I've had the exciting opportunity of being closely acquainted with Rich Mullins. Mostly this has been in the context of producing his recently written musical, 'Canticle of the Plains,' which is a story based on the life of St. Francis of Assisi. This musical is being premiered next Friday evening during part of his concert, and that's here in Edman Chapel.

I liken my opportunity to get to know Rich almost as an opportunity to glimpse through a pinhole toward the extraordinary land of Oz. There's so much color there, yet there's only a small scope of time in which you can gather it and ask about the vividness you're peeking at. And just as an encounter in Oz leaves you-or the visitor-changed forever, a session with Rich leaves you with a fresh focus. You almost find yourself repeating, not "there's no place like home," but "there's nothing like holiness." In my interactions with Rich, I've found that he is funny and serious; he's quick to point out his own humanity, and he's surprised when you spot something lofty in him. Undoubtedly Rich Mullins is infectiously awe-filled about the God he loves, laughs, writes, and sings about. Please welcome to our chapel program Rich Mullins."


[Sing Your Praise to the Lord]

Rich Mullins: (takes sip of water) "Thank you. Everyone always says you shouldn't drink milkshakes before you sing... and I didn't... I just think morning is worse for you than milkshakes, so if you have your options, I would rather be hoarse because of a milkshake than because of morning, if you want to know the whole truth about it."

[Here in America]

Rich: "Well, I have a couple of announcements I need to make. First of all, the Men's Glee Club is going to be playing here Saturday night-singing here-and uh, I have a ticket, so there must be some seats left cause they surely wouldn't have given me one if there weren't. Also, there's gonna be a Chocolate Fest at Traber (audience yells and applauds) at 8:00. But they forgot to tell me what day (someone from audience yells, "tonight"). Oh, tonight... this very night, yes. So, my understanding is this is as close to a kegger as you can have at Wheaton (audience laughs), so uh, eat up. (Rich laughs.)

So it's really-this Internet thing is really upsetting to me because uh, people write in stuff that I say in concerts, and, you know, I don't have a computer. In fact I barely have a phone. I can't get a credit card, you know, because you have to have touch tone, and where I live, we just got touch tone-always before, it was that pulse dial thing. Which takes longer to dial, but that's OK because where I live there's not a whole lot to do anyway. So you-it's kind of fun to punch a bunch of nines and just see if you can count as they pulse by (audience laughs).

Anyway, so-you know, people, I think, used to think that I was real spontaneous and stuff because I-I come off as if I don't really know what I'm talking about. Which is-I do that to disarm the heathen, you know. They don't get all defensive if they think that you're just a bumbling idiot. And uh, which is part of my charm (grins). But then you know, these people write in the Internet and say what I said and then the people at the next concert say, wait a minute-you know-he just said that a week ago. So, you know, I had a panic attack actually and uh, decided, oh wow, I've got to come up with, you know, several different things to say because if I don't, everyone will know I'm not really as spontaneous as I appear to be. But, then I realized that that's why pastors are so boring is because we hear them every week, and they're always trying to come up with new material. And, I think everybody only really has one sermon in them, if you want to know the whole truth. Everybody only has one song in them-all songwriters. That's the thing that cracks me up when people say, well, all his stuff sounds alike. Well... yes... duh! Try to listen to a couple hours of Mozart. Which I've never gotten is, why is it that a few people in Austria a couple hundred years ago got to decide what was gonna be classic? And what is classic rock? And what is alternative music? I don't get that either. Like how can it be alternative. You know, the minute it's accepted, it's not alternative anymore. And rock can't be classic. These are all things that disgust and disturb me.

So yeah, but you know, I'm at an academic place so I need to speak highly of serious stuff. Although I have trouble with serious stuff, I have to admit, because I just think life's too short to get too heavy about everything. And I think there are easier ways to lose money than by farming. And I think there are easier ways to become boring than by becoming academic. And I think, you know, the thing everybody really wants to know anyway is not what the theory of relativity is, but I think what we all really want to know anyways, is whether we're loved or not. And that's why I like the Scriptures, because you get the feeling from reading them that we might be. And, if we were able to really know that, we wouldn't worry about the rest of the stuff. The rest of it would be more fun, I think. Cause right now we take it a little-so seriously, cause I think of our basic insecurity about whether we're loved or not. And uh, you know I think you should study because your folks have probably sunk a lot of money into this. And uh, it would be ungrateful not to. But your life doesn't depend on it... that's what I loved about being a student in my 40's as opposed to in my 20's, is I had the great knowledge that you could live for you know, at least half a century and not know a thing, and get along pretty well. So all that to set up this song, which is really not one of my favorites, but that's why you work that hard at setting it up (audience laughs).

[The Love of God]

(in the middle he stops... "joy and sorrow are this ocean... " "Oh no, that's not the words... hold on one second." Stops and mentally goes through words. "OK, it is the words..." Laughs and finishes the song. Giggles.

"OK, I'll do a more recent song, cause I might remember it better. It's the closest thing to a love song I've actually written in the last several years, because I don't date anymore, so I don't need to write many you know love songs cause... they never worked very good anyway. But uh, let's see, this is-it always worries me, you know, listening to Christian radio, occasionally you get a little worried about how, uh, if you were really tuned into that stuff all the time, it would warp you... (applause) and, uh, I became alarmed at the lack of good break-up songs on Christian radio (laughter). It's as if we were all part of Focus on the Family or something. We didn't do that. So uh, me and Beaker decided to write one, and it' really hilarious you know, because of this Internet stuff-you know, I get all these letters now from people trying to console me over my divorce. I'm going, geez, I haven't even had a date in a decade, how can I get a divorce? so, it's not really a personal story, it's you know-it was just an exercise-we decided to try to make it hard for the other guy to rhyme, and that's how we wrote it. But anyway, they played it on the radio, so it must be OK, so it goes, uh, boy I'm having a hard time this morning. I'm not a morning person. You may not know this, but musicians generally tend to be nocturnal. And the world is set against us, so we do our best to adjust, but this one goes, uh,

[We Are Not as Strong]


Well, that's a little grimmer than most stuff I write, but only because the grim stuff doesn't sell well, and people often ask what inspires songs, and I always hate that because you know, I have all my pagan friends and you try talking about the inspiration of the Scriptures, and I think when you just throw the word 'inspired' around loosely like that, it becomes very confusing to them, so I always like to say that my songs are not particularly inspired-the Scriptures were inspired-my songs are provoked. And I know God gives a lot of people their songs, but you know I hear a lot of those and I understand why He gave them away (laughter).

I've never gotten this Christian thing about always blaming God for everything. God told me to do this or do that. Well, gee it's a shame that you're so stupid He had to tell you to do that. Just seems like the sensible thing for you to do. Why don't you just do what makes sense and stop waiting for God to tell you to wipe your nose when it's running. But there's a lot in the Christian culture thing that I don't think I get, and it's made it kind of awkward because I've been really pretty successful overall from Christian audiences. But I don't know why cause I don't think I get all this stuff. And I was-you know, I think I was raised Christian, but once I left home I began to find out how unchristian my family was. Cause we-I think our big problem was my folks underlined all the wrong passages of Scripture. And none of the right ones. Like the born again thing, which is a total crack up to me. Cause Jesus only said that to one guy one time. And then there was that whole born again movement. You know where everybody said you had to be born again. And I was going, 'why, am I Nicodemus?' What happened to the passage that said, 'if you want to follow Me, give up all you've got and give it to the poor and take up your cross?' Do we all have to do that too?

The Bible is such an interesting book to me, because it says so many things that you can't really follow it all, I don't think, can you? So I guess that's why God invented highlighters, so we could find the parts we especially like and mark them up and just follow that, cause I think if you follow any of it, you're doing pretty good, except for the part-my favorite part-did you know the most reiterated command in the whole Bible is the command to sing? Now there must be a reason for that. And uh, that's why I sing. I don't really enjoy it, I think it's hard work. I like writing, but I sing because I figure if you find a command that easy to follow you should do it a whole lot. Cause the rest of them are kinda rough, except the first command, the one to be fruitful and multiply. Most people I know have trouble not keeping that command. That's the thing that cracks me up about you know, proof-texting too. Everyone's proof-texting this book about Christ and Christ Himself said, you know, You search the Scriptures to find life, and you're not gonna find it there. But no one underlined that part, not even my folks, because we live in a time when we have come to believe that there are answers... and I don't know why we believe that. And even more worrisome, is I'm not even sure why we ever came to believe that questions are all that important.

I love when Jesus was-you know, in Mark-in all three of the synoptic gospels in fact-the story of the rich young ruler comes right after the story about Jesus blessing the children. I think there might be some significance to that. And Mark, who is briefer than the other writers, includes 3 details in his telling of the story that the other 2 guys left out. And in case you're not familiar entirely with the story, it goes that Jesus was blessing little kids. You know, I'm trying to think through this thing and I'm going, well how do you bless children? Cause I find them barely tolerable, let alone something you'd want to bless. So I'm thinking I've got all these nieces and nephews and stuff, how have I blessed them, and the only thing I could think of is, you know you pick them up and you throw them as high in the air as you can and you catch them right before they splat. Or, you get down on all fours and you know, they ride you and you try to buck them off, and that kind of thing.

So I'm trying to picture Jesus doing this and then the disciples they come up and they see Jesus who-you know they're good monotheists so they're really I'm sure struggling with His claims to be equal to God. And they see Him you know, and they're kinda going, well you know when you put on that really straight academic face of yours and charge us with a lot of information, we can kinda buy it then, but here you're acting like an idiot. And it's hard enough to believe that smart people could be the Son of God, let alone this-this-bumbling idiot, that's rolling around in the dirt with the children. And Jesus says, 'hey guys, knock it off. If you want to come into My kingdom, you have to come in like one of these. You have to come in like a child. You have to let me throw you up in the air and catch you right before you splat. You have to ride on my back and let me buck you off. We have to wrestle a little, we have to play a little.'

And there's this guy who's a great student and probably a politician-the rich young ruler. And he's standing by, waiting for his big photo op because that's what politicians do. And he's doing what all students do during lectures-he's trying to think of some great stump the teacher question. Some question that would be so impressive to all of his peers that they would all go, man you're so smart to have thought to have asked that. So Jesus just gets done saying 'you have to be a little child or you can't come into my kingdom,' and then this guy goes up and asks the stupidest and most repeated question in the history of Christianity-'Good Master, what must I do to have eternal life?' And, uh, Mark then says these three things I find amazing.

First of all, I find it amazing that Jesus had just answered his question before he even asked it, and it wasn't about what you do, it was about what you are. Jesus had just said, 'if you want to come into my kingdom be a child,' and who doesn't find it easy to be a child. I mean what else are we gonna be? And this guy was so arrogant that he didn't listen to God when God spoke. But Mark tells us something about God in his telling of this story that I find amazing. He says that Jesus looked at the man, which says this must be the beginning of the good news-that even though we're so arrogant that we don't even listen to God, God is so humble that He looks at us, that He takes note of us. He's not impressed by our questions and by our answers, but He's quite taken with us. And having looked at the man, Mark tells us that He loved him, which I find amazing. Cause this guy was using Jesus as a photo op. And Jesus loved him. And after He had looked at him-after He had considered him-and after He had loved him, then Jesus told him what to do, if there was such a thing. And the thing that I find wonderful about what Jesus told this guy was, I have a feeling like his security was all wrapped up in his possessions. And so He told him to get rid of his possessions-something He didn't tell Nicodemus to do. And I have a feeling maybe Nicodemus was all wrapped up in his religious heritage, and in his genes, and Jesus told him to forget it and be born again. Cause maybe it's more important that we know Jesus than anything else in the world. And maybe all our questions, maybe all our answers don't amount to a hill of beans. But they're fun to ask. And it's always impressive to have an answer even though they don't ever amount to much. Sometimes we think that Christianity will be communicated when we become really intelligent or really articulate. But Christianity is communicated the same way diseases are-it's communicated through touch, through breath, through life, not through information. And Christian vitality does not come from having a great head, but it comes from being connected to a great God who really is life, and uh, that's what I more than anything wanted to say to you this morning. So thank you for listening. I will play another song now.

[If I Stand]

Thank you all for listening, you're dismissed.

Copyright 1997 by Wheaton College

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