Thursday, February 17, 2011

Love Rescue Me

This past Friday night, Julia and I went to U2charist (or, as I like to call it, “Bono Church”) at First United Methodist in downtown Little Rock.

Go here to find out what U2charist is.

I found out about a Little Rock church hosting a U2charist not long after I wrote this blog post about how my favorite church songs, at least right now, are not in church. My more meaningful worship moments are in my times alone with my iPod.

With the exception of Third Day, you won’t find any music marketed as Christian on my iPod. No Chris Tomlin, Kari Jobe or whoever is popular in that genre right now. This is for the same reason that I don’t read much Christian lit. Not that I have negative feelings toward finding inspiration in those things. But for me personally, I’m drawn to finding spiritual meaning in less obvious places. So I listen to U2 and Muse and Norah Jones and Lisa Loeb and Sting and Seal and Paramore. And it’s in there. You just have to listen for it.

Of course I’m not the only one to have discovered spiritual meaning in secular music. This is how U2charist came to be. Finally, I didn’t have spend these moments alone with my iPod. I could experience this type of worship in a corporate setting with others who are wired more like I am.

When Julia and I walked in to the gym at First Methodist, the lights were dim, candles were lit and bread and those fancy goblets for communion (We silly evangelicals typically don't know the names of things in liturgical churches.) Before the service started, U2 music played through the speakers, including “Where the Streets Have No Name” and “The Saints Are Coming,” a remake of a Skids song that U2 did with Green Day to raise funds for the devastation left after Hurricane Katrina. It’s also a favorite of Julia’s.

Then Michael Mattox stood up and welcomed us to the service. He’s the senior pastor at the church. Worshiping in a new way challenges us to think differently, he said.

“That’s what the service tonight is all about,” he said. “Learning to sing a new song.”

The service opened with “With Or Without You.” The church worship band played it. I knew the band was going to be playing a few of the songs, which bothered me at first. I’m just partial to Bono’s voice. Those of you who have a Bible study routine where you have your favorite chair, your favorite pen, your favorite coffee, etc., will understand this. Bono is my coffee. I’ve read enough about the man to know where these songs come from, and his voice is one of those things that helps point me to God.

But the band was great. They had put a lot of time into learning these songs. And the main vocalist was no Bono, but the dude has some PIPES.

Next was a time of prayer with the U2 music video “Magnificent.” This is my favorite worship song right now. It reads just like a Psalm:

“I was born, I was born to sing for you
I didn't have a choice but to lift you up
And sing whatever song you wanted me to
I give you back my voice from the womb
My first cry, it was a joyful noise”

And the video, filmed in Fez, Morocco, depicts a white veil being lifted to reveal a beautiful city and beautiful people. Could it mean freedom for the Middle East? Or freedom from the things that veil our hearts and souls? U2 leaves it to us to interpret.

The service continued with a reading of Psalm 40 (“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry”) and then a prayer of confession based on the U2 songs “Acrobat,” “A Sort of Homecoming” and “Love Rescue Me.” This was followed quite naturally by the song “Grace” (“Grace makes beauty out of ugly things”).

After a prayer of joy and concern, Rev. Mattox introduced a U2 video that was almost taken out of the night’s line-up. I’m glad they left it in. U2’s June 5, 1983, performance of “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” at Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre was included by Rolling Stone magazine in its list of “50 Moments That Changed the History of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” But what does this song mean for Christians? It’s a call to end complacency and to stand up against violence—especially violence that has been carried out around the world in God’s name. Not just in U2’s native Ireland, but anywhere.

Then we recited the Lord’s Prayer and Rev. Mattox read Jesus' words from Matthew about letting our lights shine. This led into the offering, all of which will go to Heifer International. U2’s only stipulation with allowing their music to be used like this is that funds be raised for one of the U.N. Millennial Goals.

After “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” in which Bono acknowledges faith and its ability to exist alongside doubts, we moved into communion while we listened to “One,” and then we watched the concert video of “American Prayer” (a Bono/Dave Stewart/Pharrell Williams collaboration written in the hopes that Americans, and American Christians in particular, will respond to the international AIDS crisis).

The whole thing lasted about an hour. Rev. Mattox said the church will have more U2charists in the future. I hope so. This kind of worship is what works for me right now. And I know, believe me—I KNOW. Worship isn’t supposed to be about me. I get that. But sometimes you have to find your own way to God when the old ways just don’t work anymore. These songs are not new to me. But they are new in this context of worshiping with others. It works, so I'm going with it.

1 I waited patiently for the LORD;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the LORD
and put their trust in him. – Psalm 40:1-3


  • At Thu Feb 17, 08:22:00 AM, Blogger Mary Lou said…

    Excellent post that right now I can relate. The "old way of worshiping" has become labor over the past years. While I may not be into U2, I am searching for a worship that reaches me. Yes, I'm also there with you and I know worship is not about me. I tell myself that every Sunday morning.
    Very good writing!


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