Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Grey Street - as your own poets have said

I’m preparing a talk for this weekend on the subject of how our relationship with culture affects our capacity to be witnesses to Christ. There will always be unanswered questions, always mystery, paradox, skepticism – and all of these in we who believe, let alone those who don’t. And so I’m a bit weak when it comes to believing that I can crush the doubters with my boatload of objective evidence. Someone recently asked the question, “Why doesn’t God ever heal amputees?” I suppose it’s a fair question, and I don’t have the answer. But my basis for faith is not rooted in God’s ability or willingness to prove, to my satisfaction, His ‘power’. Instead - I find the most compelling piece of the gospel is how it speaks to the deepest longings of our heart, if we'll but allow ourselves to long.

When Paul spoke to a pluralistic, skeptical audience in Acts 17, he didn’t waste much time with ‘proof’. He declared certain things about Jesus to be true and got on with it. But long before he even mentions the name of Jesus, he mentions some poets of the day as part of a speech where he shows how their worship, culture, and poetry all reveal longings which, if followed fully will lead to God. This, it seems to me, is the essence of what it means to be a witness: are my life and words declarations of the reality that my longings are pointing to Christ?

For the Jews of Matthew’s day, Matthew built bridges between the Old Testament and Christ, because the Old Testament was the culture currency of the Jews.

In Athens, it was the Greek Poets.

Today, it’s the artists and film-makers. Go with me to the Gorge a few years ago to hear Dave Matthews Band. The song, “Grey Street” kicks in, as you look, from your cheap seat up high, across the sea of people. The sun has just set down and the purple mountains fill you with emotion all by themselves. Then your eye catches her face; she’s a mom, in her early forties, there at the concert with her two teenage kids. You hear the lyrics: Look at how she listens. She shares nothings of what She thinks. She just goes stumbling through her memories; Staring out on to Grey Street. She thinks, "Hey, how did I come to this?" I dream myself a thousand times around the world, but I can't get out of this place. There's an emptiness inside her, and she'll do anything to fill it in; But all the colors mix together - to grey And it breaks her heart. You can see the tears on her face and notice she’s not wearing a wedding ring – and maybe your just politically incorrect enough to think that she's a single mom and that song is prying her own broken heart wide open. Perhaps this is her story. And it’s Leah’s story in Genesis too – a reminder that our shattered longings for love often become the soil in which our seeds of faith and hope germinate. Gosh – I could have stayed home and watched channel 19, and seen people with big hair and lots of make-up talk about how wicked the Democrats are, and how we need prayer in schools. I’m glad I’m at the Gorge instead – because there’s a sermon going on right in front of my eyes. ‘As my own poets have said’… there’s an emptiness inside us. Augustine called it a wrestles heart. Pascal called it a God shaped vacuum. Dave Matthews calls it ‘Grey Street’.


At 30/8/06 13:44, Anonymous donna dahlstrom said...

I also saw a sermon going on this past weekend along the 60 mile walking path of the Breast Cancer 3-day event in and around Seattle. I saw it in the 2,700 people walking beside me. I saw it in the 450 volunteer staff who fed us, encouraged us, offered medical aid, a high-five, a frozen Otter-Pop. In children along the roadside offering flowers, candy, or a sign thanking their mom who had survived breast cancer and was walking to raise money to hopefully end the disease before it struck her generation. In husbands who were walking because their wives had lost their battle and they hoped to help others avoid their pain.

I saw it most of all in my friend Megan, a breast cancer survivor, who could pick out a survivor from the crowd or a woman currently in treatment, holding back tears as she thanked us from the sidelines. Megan simply oozes Christ's love, mercy and compassion as she reaches out and compliments a woman's "new hair" or lovely bald head. She remembers the hurt of others choosing not to look at her or avoiding conversation. Instead, she now goes out of her way to reach out and be Christ's arms of comfort. Yes, she was a sermon all on her own and I was blessed to watch her in action and learn from her for 60 beautiful miles.


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