I have had this before a couple of years ago.
When I was assembling a play list for my ‘last’ service (yes really), I had this one just before it began.
It was intentional: as I have got older, I have come to realise that all my favourite people are broken and don’t try and pretend to be anything else.
I had this one a couple of years back. It is my favourite Over The Rhine track: not only because of the music, but also because of the words. Sometimes hearing this song can finish me off.
It is so true: all my favourite people are broken and flawed. Many of us learn to pretend that we are not, at least in public. From the 90s I realised I could not pretend anymore and it affected the way I preached, the way I talk, everything. I value honest brokenness in a friend and tend to pull away from those who appear not able to acknowledge this. Likewise, time is short, and gatherings and groups that ignore this and hide, I tend not to be a part of anymore.
I have been speaking to some people this week who could do with hearing the message of this song: you are broken, fucked up even- it is ok. As Mumford and Sons once intoned ‘It seems like all my bridges have been burned: but you say that’s exactly how this Grace thing works.’ It is only when we are open to brokenness and leave the self loathing that healing and new things can be discerned….
I’m still posting from others about stuff that has made me think about what I would like church to be. I’m thinking this post and then one other and then I will go back to my usual drivel.
This puts into words things that I have often thought and struggled to put with this degree of articulacy :-
It is hard to escape the conclusion that God does not do his work in us apart from the experience of suffering and pain….
If this is true, then churches will need to be places where such trials and tribulations can be openly admitted, dealt with and learnt from, rather than avoided and shoved under the carpet. Too often we expect church to be a place of harmony, peace and cooperation, and we are surprised when it is not. We also expect Christian life to be plain sailing and trouble free and think that God has abandoned us or doesn’t like us when we hit sickness, bereavement, failure or disappointment.
A church that is serious about becoming a centre of real spiritual fitness and health will not try to hide difficult experiences. Nor will it depict Christian life as always characterized by triumph and success. That only leads to struggling Christians feeling inadequate and far from the centre of God’s purposes in the world. I remember in my early years as a Christian leader talking to a woman in our church who had struggled with depression. I suggested that coming to church might help. “Oh, no, I couldn’t do that — it would be much too difficult,” she said. “When I get over it, then I’ll be able to face church.” I could understand her reluctance to face crowds of people, yet something about that didn’t sound right. Whatever “church” was in her mind, it was not somewhere you could take your difficulties. It was instead a place for people who coped with life.
Church needs to be the opposite: a place for people who cannot cope with life…. As the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote:
“God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world … Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God’s sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it … A community which cannot bear and cannot survive such a crisis, which isists on keeping its illusion when it should be shattered, permanently loses in that moment the promise of Christian community.”
Graham Tomlin, Spiritual Fitness: Christian Character in a Consumer Culture (London / New York: Continuum, 2006), pp. 125-27. (from http://theconnexion.net/wp/?p=10763#axzz1Osa0zAct)
I have had a long, long wait for the new Elbow cd…. moral of the story: don’t buy cheap from unnamed online retailers who promise to deliver with a ‘Bang’: they don’t.
So this CD, given to me on my birthday has been on repeat and it is lovely.
I can’t work out how to describe them and their style: certainly the singer has a ‘smoky’ voice. This album has moments of real beauty: if anyone has written a song as beautiful and deep in metaphor as ‘Only God can save us now’, I want to know.
And also ‘All my favourite people are broken’:-
‘All my friends are part saint and part sinner
We lean on each other
Try to rise above
We’re not afraid to admit we’re all still beginners
We’re all late bloomers
When it comes to love’
Beautiful, wonderous, lovely…..
and I’m still watching my letterbox for Elbow…next time amazon….