A few days ago I went to a concert in Nampa. The Flying M. A very cool place. The band, Come Gather Around Us, a husband and wife duo, were electric. Singing into the same microphone, while belting out, whispering out, emoting out captivating lyrics was at first a bit unsettling - their faces eight inches apart. But in a few minutes their loving gaze and obvious comfort on stage and in close proximity put me at ease and became like another instrument of their music. They sing-
"If you drink the blood of Christ and it makes you feel superior... then it's just wine..." And then they look at each other coyly, slyly.
Here's a sample from a live recording. A song called How Convenient.
The show was a beautiful, memorizing, earthy, haunting experience. I woke up the next morning with one of their songs stuck, no lodged, so directly in my brain that the force of it kept me from going back to sleep. "God is calling (s)He's never satisfied. God is calling, (s)He's never satisfied."
(Check out youtube video. Loud pub, but notice how quiet it gets when they sing the chorus.)
After the concert I talked with half the band - Sebastian. He is a long hair, bearded Brit with a contagious smile that disarms you from his philosophically provocative lyrics and ideas. The last time we had met he was trying to evangelize my wife and a few other people to Universalism.
Sebastian is one of these guys who thinks of you as his friend after meeting you once and begins telling you stories even though you just met him. He touches your arm for emphasis and has so much energy and Charisma that you (read I) feel boring and uninsightful in his presence. Compared to how he seems to fully experience life, I felt like I was just going through the motions. I liked him immediately.
I began to tell him about some of my struggles in/with my church and he launched into an inspirational lecture(?) about not being discouraged and having resilience. Funny, this is usually the kind of talk I would expect (and mildly resent) from a seasoned pastor, but from him it was so fresh and unexpected that it just kind of worked.
He said, "You think you have it rough here, try starting a progressive church in England where nobody goes to church and there is an open hostility toward Christianity. Secularism is just so dominant." Then he told a story about when he was visiting his family a few years back. It was Boxer day (you know, the day after Christmas?) and he and his wife decided to visit this church near their family's home. It was beautiful and huge and historic. The grounds were pristine... picture perfect. They walked in and the priest (Anglican) was blessing his robes (his description). They seemed to have surprised him. "Did we come at the wrong time," they asked. "Oh, no, come sit down, we're just about to begin. Sit in the Choir loft so you can be closer." Then the Priest went about his liturgy- readings, sermon, etc. as if they weren't even there. He never made eye contact or acknowledged their presence. Sebastian firmly believed that the priest would have gone through the ceremony exactly the same even if nobody had shown. Afterward, he came up to the priest and said, "So, like, how are things going." The priest responded by saying how hard things are. Sebastian asked what things he had tried to reach people. His response was that he couldn't, he wasn't allowed to change things. Sebastian and I both wondered, what did he have to lose. *
Sebastian's story was intriguing - Would the priest really have gone on with the service if nobody had come? Was the priest really "not allowed" to change anything? Were their really golden candle sticks in the sanctuary while people were starving a few block away? (I didn't tell that part). It was also a surprisingly encouraging. What did he have to lose... What did he have to lose?
Sebastian, knowing nothing about my church, said, "You should expect, no assume, that their is darkness and brokenness in your church. But there is a difference between you and them. You always love. You respond to the darkness with love and forgiveness and light. You bring the darkness into the light, but you always love. That's what people really need. That's what people are hungry for. For passion and resilience."
"In church, everybody's always on their best behavior. Like, we don't judge. Bulls@#t. Of course we judge! We are horrible at judging. (He and his wife go to Imago Dei church in Portland). But we pretend like we don't judge. We're always on our best behavior. How can we be in community like that. how can we be family like that!?
Then after getting a little preachy (I thought that was my job?) he ended our conversation in his usual humble, open-hearted way... "What do I know. I'm 32 and I'm a driveling idiot."
*This isn't at all a critique on the Church of England. I actually like a lot of their theology and liturgy...They have N.T. Wright after all.