I have played this song about Jesus’ prayer in the Garden and abandonment on the cross every Good Friday since 1983 when I wrote it as an 18 year old.  Often that has been in a church service, but sometimes just for my own spiritual engagement with this time of year.  

In 1996, I finally got around to recording the audio.  My good friend Ian Baldwin helped me record a solo album (No Secret Message).  But this song took some effort.  Through another friend, we were given access to a beautiful grand piano (can’t remember whether it was a Bosendorfer or Yamaha) at the Hills Centre.  Ian set up our portable studio (on permanent loan from one Fraser Tustian), played around with getting a bunch of microphones to capture the tone, and then I sat down to play.

The entire song was in my head, with a little room for improvisation.  However, when I played a technically correct take, it ended up sounding too tame.  If I went for emotion and power, there would always be a bum note or slip that ruined the recording.  

That night Ian won the Nobel prize for patience and my wife Ruth won the Nobel prize for encouragement.  With both of them urging me on, I kept going for it until finally we captured something that more or less did the song justice.

So the song has been around in a recorded form since 1996.  It’s now 2020 – so time for a lyric video that might be useful for churches gathering online for Easter during the Covid-19 pandemic.

My in-laws, Ron and Margaret, provided the main photographs of olive trees at Gethsemane taken during their visit in 1991, including the one that appears to have a manic face in the trunk.  They also provided the photo of the cross and stone tomb.  These were supplemented with a picture I took of the fists in the air at a Prophets of Rage concert, and a fire lit for my team by the wonderful folk of Wagga Uniting Church. My friends Rev Dr Ian Robinson and Rev Dr Rob McFarlane also generously provided images of olive trees from Gethsemane, and I hope to one day join one of their expertly guided tours of the Holy Land.

I hope you encounter something of the historical Jesus and the living God as you listen to the tune.

One note about the lyric.  The chorus, Eli, Eli, lema sabacthani means “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” and reflects what Jesus is recorded to have shouted while on the cross. This version is from Matthew’s gospel, and there are quite a few variants in different Bible translations.  Biblical scholars would not pronounce the phrase as I have done here, but no one knows – and I didn’t know any Biblical scholars back in 1983 or 1996!  So I’m not losing any sleep over that…

I have never felt completely comfortable writing songs for others to sing. There is a particular skill set in writing songs for corporate singing and it has never come naturally to me.

However, as my wife has led worship in our congregation, the difficulty in finding songs on some themes became really clear. There are gaps. Not complete vacuums perhaps, but some themes are much more common than others.

Then our pastor preached five brave sermons in a row, which provided inspiration. I found myself inspired and scribbling lyrics on the back of church bulletins.

That triggered my recent attempts to write for collective singing in worship.
Some songs are simply worshipful. For example, a favourite Psalm is Psalm 121.

Other songs are intentionally written into ‘theological gaps’. For example, I think we live at a time when God is calling us from a focus on personal salvation by ‘grace through faith not works’ (Ephesians 2: 8-9) to salvation into lives formed around our God-given purpose: ‘we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do’ (Ephesians 2: 10). Good works may not save us, but given we are saved into a life of God-intended good works, it is disastrous to believe they should be avoided.

Songs which aim to address this gap created by a focus on our personal salvation without enough attention to the life of good work that we are saved into, include Citizens of Heaven and Trinity of Love, while The Way By Grace draws attention to the message of Ephesians 2:10.

Similarly, there are parts of the Church which tend to withdraw from ‘the world’ – while other parts envisage engagement with the world as the role of individual disciples rather than the corporate Body of Christ. Jesus came to establish an ekklesia – an outward focused purposeful gathering, not an oikos – a private household. But churches tend to be more like the latter, with the work of mission left up to individual disciples.

The gospel of the New Testament was about being saved into a world-saving movement where we, the Church, participate with Christ in God’s reconciliation of all things rather than being saved from the world (e.g. 2 Corinthians 5: 11-20). While individuals can testify and witness, there is a role for the collective voice in confronting today’s powers and principalities.

All are Welcome is a song which welcomes visitors and newcomers into the body of Christ and its mission as world-changing movement rather than a private worship club in fearful retreat.

Unbreak Your World is another song that addresses these themes, as well as the above-mentioned Citizens of Heaven

Light a Candle is a Christmas song which works as a Christmas carol but expands the focus from ‘cute baby who will save us from our sins’ to one which emphasises the world-saving movement of reconciliation which we are saved into.


Christmas 2019, my wife Ruth gave me the gift of a website for my songs. She has invested a huge amount of time, love and effort to give me a place to upload some of the songs that I’ve been writing since I was a teenager. She also dug into her secret archive and found a few artefacts – from beer coasters with lyrics on the back, to scraps of paper with scribbled chord charts.

I wrote a lot of songs on beer coasters. Most of them – like this one – never saw the light. Although I don’t mind the line “I’m not going to put my faith in wishful thinking”.

There’s a few different sections – and different categories of song. Audio files, lyric sheets, chord charts, some lead sheets and a few videos. Also a bunch of photos snapped along the way, either by us or by people in an audience.

In recent times, I’ve been writing songs for churches to use in collective worship. This is my current hobby – trying to write songs that can be sung by congregations, experimenting with different genres and exploring themes which are less common in the Church. Some of these are ‘works in progress’ and will evolve and be updated over time.

There are songs that were performed by the band I spent more than a decade in with my siblings. Other songs have only ever been performed live, or are from the solo album I did in the 1990s. (There are also songs in Ruth’s archive that should never have been written and never made it as far as a performance.)

The site will grow over time. I hope you enjoy it and feel free to drop me a line with comments, questions, or requests.