Can a rock concert be holy? Can it be church?
On Mother’s Day, I had the honor of seeing the Irish band U2 at Century Link Field. 2017 is the 30th anniversary year of the release of their Grammy winning album ‘Joshua Tree.’ Along with 50,000 of my closest friends (and Eddy Vedder of Pearl Jam), I crammed into the stadium with my heart racing in excitement. I grew up with U2, and in fact, I’m starting to think that they are to GenerationX what the Beatles are to the Baby Boomers. In my teens, I rocked out to their electric anthems, I cried my adolescent angst out to songs like “With or Without You,” and when I went to college, U2 became of age and grew along with me, evolving musically and politically with albums like ‘Achtung Baby.’
As I aged, I became more aware of theology and conscious of my faith, I started listening to music differently. It was as if my ears had changed. I started digging for themes and ideas in the music I loved that would resonate with the grace and justice I heard in the scriptures. While many bands didn’t have much to offer in those areas, U2 seemed to have been building faith into their music under the radar the whole time. The song ’40’ is based on… Psalm 40! Pride (In the Name of Love) speaks Jesus and Dr. Martin Luther King in the same verse! The song “One” speaks of the brokenness of the human condition, and harkens to Jesus’ (and Paul’s) desire that we overcome differences and become one body of Christ. It goes on and on. In fact, it’s hard to find a U2 song that doesn’t have Biblical references and overtones in it.
All of this added to my excitement to see them in concert. My non-church friends who had the luck to see them in the past referred to the experience as “going to church.” What did they mean, I wondered? How would I experience U2?
Well, I was moved. I jumped and sang and yelled and cried in response to the music and the emotion in the room. I found singing with all those people to be immensely powerful. Bono (the lead singer, and world activist) spoke powerfully about women’s rights, and AIDS, and refugees, and the needs of the world and responding in love. The concert was beautiful and impressive. Those old rockers still have the magic, for sure.
But it was not church.
To me, church is the people of God empowered by the Word, strengthened by the sacraments, and praising God all together. Church can be all the things that the U2 concert was, but it was lacking the grounding in grace and hope we find in Jesus Christ. So, is going to a concert good? Oh yes! SO good. Is it holy? Probably – I surely wouldn’t rule it out. But being part of the body of Christ through a church community like Our Redeemer’s is something more, and something better. We are blessed to be gathered by God’s spirit to sing, act, and be nourished by the Word.
Thanks be to God!