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Freedom has a scent…

May 15, 2005

U2′s Philadelphia show was really beyond words. Honestly, I shouldn’t say anything about it. But at the same time, I just can’t shut up.

The day was quite an adventure. We had a nice drive up. Got into town, happened upon a cool Belgian bar where my beer guide Ross got me into one of the very best beers I’ve ever had– a Chimay (made by Trappist monks!). Plus an Andouile sandwich makes Mike a happy boy. Afterward, we were enjoying the sunny sidewalk when Ross said, “hey, there’s our car being towed!”. We ran down the street to find out what was happening, and to try to pay the fee or whatever so that we could get to the show. No luck there, though the driver did let us pillage the car for our precious tickets. We grabed a cab quick, piled 6 of us in, and said “follow that car!” (we actually used those words). Thirty minutes and $100 dollars later, we were on our way.

As the concert opened, I kept thinking about worship, and preaching. For U2 are, I believe, some of the best preachers on the scene today. Using intellect, emotion, ambiguity, certainty, contradiction, irony, love, and anger to move the audience to see themselves and God clearly. And what I saw more than anything else was their use of restraint. Instead of putting 100% energy out at all times, they regularly, carefully hold back, allowing the audience to participate– allowing us to preach the message ourselves. So that we sing the words of Scripture. So that we think the thoughts of God. So that we pray to him ourselves.

To see Bono sit at the edge of the stage and draw people in, singing:

Into the heart of a child
I stay a while oh, I can go back
Into the heart of a child
I can smile I can go there
Into the heart
Into the heart of a child
I can go back I can stay awhile
Into the heart…
Until we can hear what he’s saying, feel what he means, and yearn for it ourselves. And then to see him stand and pull two young girls up onto the stage. Bono in black, leading the girls clad in white around the outer loop of the stage. When the music fades, he asks them their names, and then says, almost confessionally, “My name is Paul. But I like to call meself Bono.”
But more than anything, it’s about the worship. Tens of thousands of people with their hands raise, smiling and singing, “I want to run…”. And, at the very end of the show, that same crowd singing Psalm 40– almost defiantly– after the band has left the stage. “How long, to sing this song?…”

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One Response to “Freedom has a scent…”

  1. Ross says:

    Great thoughts Mike,

    This quote from: http://www.thunderstruck.org/rocknsoul.htm really caught my attention:

    According to the Barna Research Group, a majority of people who attend Christian worship services leave without feeling that they’ve experienced God’s presence. Less than one-third of the adults feel as though they truly interacted with God. Stunningly, one-third of the adults who regularly attend worship services say that they have never experienced God’s presence at any time during their life. According to George Barna, “The research shows that while most people attend church services with a desire to connect with God, most of them leave the church disappointed, week after week. Eventually people cease to expect a real encounter with God and simply settle for a pleasant experience.”

    So what happens when people settle for the pleasant experience at church and discover the real encounter at a rock concert? I am no theologian, but I would say that God is up to something very interesting.

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