Word Six / 2006 / Finished / Steve Whitby

I can’t remember what I ate for breakfast yesterday. There was probably an egg involved, and maybe some orange juice. But, I really, really can’t remember my breakfast from 24 hours ago. Frankly, I struggle to remember the details of my daily experiences — the mundane, normal, and sometimes even grand moments that should be easy to recall. I just, well, forget.

As Dusti can tell you, I almost always forget the lyrics to the songs we sing — especially the songs I write.

So, it seems surprising to me that I can remember the shoes Dennis Hopkins was wearing when I taught him the melody to this song, “Finished,” back in 2006. Actually, I remember what shirt he was wearing —  a black golf shirt with the logo of his employer and dark jeans that had been torn from laying tile. I can remember that work session clear as a bell, even though it happened 13 years ago.

When I sat down to write on this word (John 19:29-30) — which represents the near completion of the emotional process of Jesus actually yielding to death — I was really unclear about how to unpack this moment.
A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.”
The soldiers tending to him interacted with him one last time by feeding his thirst with a terrible concoction of cheap wine and vinegar, which surely wouldn’t have quenched the thirst that he had just cried out.

This moment marks the end of the ways he is described to suffer. His sufferings were now finished, both those of his soul, and those of his body. His next and final word is a moment of release, but this sixth word is the clear marking that everything that had been promised was now finished, and it is a simple moment. Jesus simply says out loud, “It is finished.”

So as I wrote this song I wanted to create an incredibly quiet instant that is relentless, completing, and powerful. I needed to hear Jesus’ tiny request for a sip of the wine and his crushing cry to be done with this brutal execution.

The guitar is in a deep, open tuning that allows for an incredible amount of clear space that can be filled by the repeated words — “Oh God, one sip. Oh God, take me now.”

Each time I’ve taught someone this song, first Dennis Hopkins, then Dan Warren, and finally Kristin Randles, I have been overwhelmed by the power and strength that they bring to this vocal part. It is not complex, but it is extremely difficult to sing, requiring a range most normal singers just don’t have. Dennis, Dan, and Kristin have all brought the house down as they screamed Jesus’ final release, and I’ve been awed by the way they interpret so few words.

Prior to recording the song for this album, I had never sung these words. I was humming the melody when I wrote it and taught it to Dennis. After that moment, I simply sat next to the singer and played the droning guitar part. Every time I played it, I knew the right person was singing, and that wasn’t me.

So, when you listen to this track on the album, you’re hearing the very first time I ever sang this song. Dusti and Bryan encouraged me to try it, and it wrecked me — both physically and emotionally. I sang it through twice in the studio, and that’s what ended up on the record. It’s raw, it’s different, and it’s everything I’ve got.

As I was recording it, I thought back to Dennis’ shoes that night. They were brown leather, and he had taken them off so he could feel the floor under his feet as he sang. He was attached to the earth and soaring.

Lyrics:

Oh God
One sip
Oh God
Take me now
Oh God
One small mercy
Oh God
My time is now

I will come to you
I will come to you
I will come to you 

Call me home
Call me home
Call me home
Call me home
Call me home
My time is now

Oh God
One sip
Oh God
Take me now
Oh God
One small mercy

Call me home
Call me home
Call me home
Call me home

Your time is now

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