Resurrection Letters: One Album, Three Parts, Ten Years

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Ten years ago, I had a crazy idea. I was in the studio working on an album that was, more or less, about the resurrection of Jesus. This was due in part to a fresh reading of C. S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce and a first reading of N. T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope. Album titles are tricky, and I happen to think that finding the right one is crucial—something that ties together all the lyrics and evokes the proper vibe for the sound of the record—so when I noticed the songs were unified thematically by the resurrection, I mentioned it online somewhere. A listener in Oklahoma named Tim posted a comment that said, “Really looking forward to these resurrection letters, Andrew.” Thus, an album title was born. High five, Tim.

Once we started really digging into the songs, though, I had the feeling that they were more about the way Jesus’s resurrection plays itself out in our lives rather than the resurrection itself. What if, I thought, this was part two of a larger work, and part one was specifically about Jesus rising again? Since we were already entrenched in that album and I couldn’t exactly stop everything and write a bunch of songs about the greatest moment in the history of the universe, I hatched the dubious plan to stay the course but title it Resurrection Letters, Vol. 2. “It’s weird, so it’s great for marketing,” I told the label, and bless their hearts they went with it.

So I found myself for the next few years explaining again and again why there was no volume one. By then I realized my folly. Not only was it a weird idea, partly inspired by George Lucas’s Star Wars prequel stunt, but it set up high expectations for volume one. And then, of course, I remembered that things didn’t exactly go so well for the Star Wars franchise and the awful prequels we all love to hate. I was genuinely worried that my own prequel would be the Phantom Menace of my career. Not only that, there was the daunting prospect of writing a body of songs about the Christ’s resurrection—daunting mainly because I didn’t have a clear sense of how to go about it. Should it be narrative, like Behold the Lamb of God? Should it be avant garde, like an artsy Bon Iver record? Or should it be a bunch of corporate worship songs about Easter? All that to say, I found a lot of good reasons to put it off, and released a few books and four albums between the release of volume two and now.

Not only was it a weird idea, partly inspired by George Lucas’s Star Wars prequel stunt, but it set up high expectations for volume one. And then, of course, I remembered that things didn’t exactly go so well for the Star Wars franchise

Andrew Peterson

Listeners asked me again and again about volume one, and I would wince every time. Honestly, as the centrality of the resurrection became clearer and clearer to me, from a theological standpoint, the less I felt up to the task. If God gave me any talent as a writer, it was ultimately for the purpose of bringing him glory, of drawing attention to his goodness and his gospel, for the building of his kingdom. That can flesh itself out in many ways, vocationally speaking, but for me it means writing the kind of songs I’ve always written—wannabe mashups of Rich Mullins and James Taylor, with a bit of Paul Simon, Toad the Wet Sprocket, and Marc Cohn thrown in. The birth of Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” is of utmost importance, and I did my best to write about that with the Behold the Lamb of God album—but it’s only part of the story. The gospel, after all, isn’t just about the birth and death of Jesus—it’s also about his victory over death and his promise to return. For the early Christians, the resurrection was central to the story. And it’s no overstatement that if Jesus didn’t rise from the grave then there would be no Christianity. But again and again the apostles staked their lives on this crazy fact: their friend had been tortured, murdered, and buried, and then one day he showed up again in the flesh, complete with the scars to prove it. How can you explain the birth and propagation of the church apart from this fact? Why would these people have been willing to die unless they had seen, in the flesh, the defeat of death in the resurrection of Jesus? I can think of no other satisfying answer than this: it happened. And if it happened, I must do my best to write about it.

Sooner or later, I had to step up to the plate and take a swing. Earlier this year, with fear and trembling, I told the label it was time. We put it on the calendar, thereby imposing that great and terrible motivator called “a deadline.” We secured my old pal Ben Shive as the producer, which was fitting since he was also at the helm of volume two. And then time marched me inexorably closer to the first day in the studio, in October of 2017.

My last two albums, Light for the Lost Boy and The Burning Edge of Dawn, were autobiographical, dealing in large part with a long, dark journey into—and just barely out of—what was a three-year depression. They’re not sad albums, necessarily, but they’re heavy. Having survived that valley, I was ready to stand in the sunlight on the opposing hill and sing out with joy to the God who had carried me through. It’s not as if everything is groovy all the time now, but as far as I can tell, that particular gauntlet has been run. That winter is over. My depression (or whatever it was) didn’t really end in an obvious, definable way, but one day I realized I was talking about it in the past tense. I’ve been aching for songs that reflected my own resurrection from that season of death, good and beautiful and necessary though it was. In that sense, I’m glad it took ten years to write this album, because I understand the resurrection better now, and long for it more than ever. My dream for Resurrection Letters, Vol. 1 is that it would be the kind of record people turned up to eleven on Easter Sunday, when the world gets its first blush of spring after the long winter, when the cherry trees are in blossom and daffodils are bursting from the ground and Christians all over the world celebrate something that happened—it really happened—two millennia ago.

But again and again the apostles staked their lives on this crazy fact: their friend had been tortured, murdered, and buried, and then one day he showed up again in the flesh, complete with the scars to prove it.

Andrew Peterson

But it felt odd writing about Christ’s victory over death without spending at least some time on his death itself. That led to the idea of Resurrection Letters: Prologue, which is—let’s face it—a prequel to the prequel. (I can already hear the jokes about me waiting another ten years to release a prequel to the prequel to the prequel, called Resurrection Letters: Title Page and Contents.) In the spirit of Lent, the season of fasting that precedes Easter, we put together Prologue, a collection of five songs that take us from the last words of Jesus on the cross to his interment in the tomb. And then comes the long wait for spring.

My hope is that the listener would use those five songs during Lent and Holy Week to dwell on the terrible road Jesus had to walk in order to conquer not just sin, but the grave. My hope is that they would defer listening to volume one until the breaking of the dawn on Easter Sunday—and then that they would sing them out at the top of their lungs, loudly enough that the world would wonder what all the fuss is about. The hope proclaimed by Scripture is that Jesus, now at the right hand of the Father, is making all things new, and that includes you and me and all of creation. My hope is that these songs, however they’re used, would wake up a bright longing in peoples’ hearts for the coming kingdom, for our resurrection, prefigured in Christ’s.

This is our hope, and I’m still surprised by it. The stories are true.


February 9 – Resurrection Letters: Prologue

March 30 – Resurrection Letters, Vol. 1

As a singer-songwriter and recording artist, Andrew has released more than ten records over the past fifteen years. His music has earned him a reputation for writing songs that connect with his listeners in ways equally powerful, poetic, and intimate. He has also followed his gifts into the realm of publishing. His books include the four volumes of the award-winning Wingfeather Saga.


24 Comments

  1. Kara

    @karajanechase

    Move over Don Francisco, right?

    Your story seems to echo David’s in Psalm 40.

    Thank you for these new songs.

  2. Dan

    I’m mostly upset because, with 4 Easter services, I won’t be able to listen to the album until at least 2pm. 😉

  3. Jeffrey Shanks

    Last year it was Fernando Ortega’s The Crucifixion of Jesus and now finally Resurrection Letters Prologue and Volume 1.  Loved the songs we heard from the project on the BTLOG tour.  Projects like these are manna to keep a pastor type like me nourished as we pour ourselves into the Lenten/Easter journey.

  4. Laure Hittle

    @mrs-hittle

    Andrew, i am so grateful for this and for you. i’m so glad you’re ALIVE, and i’m glad you’re singing, and it’s no exaggeration to say that i love the Gospel better because of your constant pointing to it. (An arrow pointing?) Thanks so much for your shepherding.

    Somebody commented on one of your social media posts to ask if there would be a Vol. 3. So in ten years i’m going to come asking you for an album about New Creation. 🙂

    Preorders, please? @pete? @kaitlynluce?

  5. Elia Tyson

    @eliatyson

    Wow. My excitement factor, which was at 12 on a scale of 10 already, just doubled. Thank you for writing these songs. I can’t wait to hear them.

    And @mrs-hittle: Yes! Volume 3! We have Behold the Lamb of God, which tells the story of the Old Testament and Jesus’ birth; and then the albums coming out soon, which talk about Jesus’ death and resurrection; and then Resurrection Letters Vol. 2, which tells of the outome in a believers life. New Creation album in 10 years?

    And yes! I will certainly pre-order this album if the option is made available.

    Also, Mr. Peterson, should I attempt to hold off on listening to the album until Easter Sunday?

  6. gllen

    Okay. How to keep this brief & precise.

    Andrew, I am so blessed by the way you are blessed in your unpredictable/undeniable journey as an artist, in Christ.

    These words touched me strongly,

    ”If God gave me any talent as a writer, it was ultimately for the purpose of bringing him glory, of drawing attention to his goodness and his gospel, for the building of his kingdom.”

    Yes!

    That is the prayer of my life as an artist as well. A prayer which has been deeply nourished, encouraged, and challenged by the continuing work of the Rabbit Room.

    One quote from my own present journey –

    “Today, my thoughts from many years congealed in this way – references to “spirituality” make me uneasy & uncomfortable because they so often, so easily, and so detrimentally confuse two things – a life in which the self is at the centre, and a life in which Christ is at the centre…”

    My experience is that the Rabbit Room does not confuse the two.

    Blessings upon you as you birth these songs of/about our Living Lord.

     

     

     

     

  7. Ben Kunz

    I am highly anticipating like 30 albums this year and this is far and away the one I’m looking forward to the most. I’ve been through a lot the last few months and I need a good soundtrack to keep ushering me through the sorrow.

  8. Laure Hittle

    @mrs-hittle

    @eliatyson Yes, definitely wait until Easter for Vol. 1. Get the Prologue and do the whole Lent thing with me. 🙂 (Ironically, i have made Vol. 2 my core Lenten practice for about four years now. i am going to have to figure something out here.)

    Now we’ve got the OT portion of salvation history, and Jesus’ entombment and resurrection, and life as we now know it, and in ten years we’ll have New Creation. So all that’s missing is Jesus’ earthly ministry. How about it—Sermon on the Mount, signs, journey to Jerusalem. It could be called—i don’t know, something like Walk, maybe?

  9. Elia Tyson

    @eliatyson

    @mrs-hittle I’m thinking I’ll get up early and listen to “His Heart Beats” while the sun is rising on Easter morning. 😃

    And yes, I’m definitely getting Prologue as well. Less than two weeks!

  10. Grace

    @theterrethian

    The day we’ve all been waiting for! Vol. I comes out on my birthday. What a nice birthday present from my favorite songwriter. Inexpressible thanks – The Terrethian

  11. Grace

    @theterrethian

    The day we’ve all been waiting for! Vol. I comes out on my birthday. What a nice birthday present from my favorite songwriter. Inexpressible thanks – The Terrethian

  12. Grace

    @theterrethian

    The day we’ve all been waiting for! Resurrection Letters Vol. I comes out on my birthday – what a nice birthday present from my favorite songwriter of the century! For Lent this year I plan to fast from video games, so maybe I can spend my extra time listening to the Prologue.

  13. Josh S.

    I had to come here and comment on the prologue….this is quite possibly one of the finest pieces of not only Christian music, but all music that I have ever heard. These songs speak to my heart so much and I cannot wait to hear Volume 1 when it comes out! God bless you Mr. Peterson- the Lord is using you so much to speak to the hearts of his Sons and Daughters.

  14. George Love

    Prologue is great. Looking forward to Volume 1.  Specifically Final Words and God Rested which is you firing on all cylinders are amazing.  The mixing of Holy Saturday and Sabbath is perfect on God Rested.  Thank you for all you do.

  15. Derek Chastain

    Beyond pumped about this album! I loved hearing the call and response of “Is He Worthy” during your time with Walter Wangerin, Jr in Indiana. Looking forward to the other songs and the inspiration that’ll come from them.

    Any chance you’ll be releasing this one on vinyl???

  16. David Brainerd Pritt

    @babyalbatross

    So far I’ve “gifted” 5 of the Resurrection Prologue & Letters Vol 1 & II to several pastors & friends. I hope it blesses them, as it has me.

    Thank you Mr Andrew.

    Christ has Died. Christ has Risen. Christ will come again!

  17. Amy

    @awfreer

    I have been following you since Clear to Venus. Your music continues to inspire and impress, and this album is blowing me away. In the midst of a difficult season I awoke with the sure knowledge of the undeniable GOOD of Easter morning…with these songs to stoke those embers. I too, have seen too much. Thank you for your work.

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