The Rev. Mike Angell went to hear some “white boy acoustic rock” at the 9:30 club in Washington, D. C. last week and got a sermon out of it.
Mike, who was instrumental in organizing the Episcopal bishops witness against gun violence in Washington in March writes:
I was up in the balcony, near the stage, so I could look out not just at the musicians, but also over the faces of the crowd. Their was a rapt attention from the crowd, faces trained on the singer-come-preacher. In that way, the crowd was very Episcopalian. At a punk show or a hip hop concert, the crowd would probably be singing along, maybe even dancing. That crowd would have looked much more Baptist, or even Pentecostal. This, however, was white-boy acoustic rock. So the crowd was still, giving their full attention. Maybe they closed their eyes at a beautiful phrase, but they felt self-conscious about such an obvious display of emotion, like I said, they could have been Episcopalians.
They could have been Episcopalians, but I’m going to hazard a guess that most of the people in the 9:30 club that night WERE NOT Episcopalians. I would guess, actually, and I feel pretty confident in this guess, that most of them do NOT go to church on a Sunday. Many of them may have grown up in church, but I’m pretty sure this was the first time that most of the people in that room had seen someone behind a pulpit in a long time.
Now, I don’t want you to think I judge that crowd for not going to church. You might think that, as a preacher, I stood up on that balcony, looking over the fans, saying to myself: “Sinners… why are you
listening to this heathen music? YOU SHOULD BE EPISCOPALIAN, DON’T YOU KNOW THAT IS THE ONE TRUE FAITH.” No, that’s not what I thought at all. Almost the reverse, in fact. I thought: “Look at all of those faces, transfixed by beautiful music. God is here, somehow, somewhere.” In an environment as secular as the 9:30 club, something of the beauty of the music was working on the hearts and minds of the people.
I think this is what Jesus is getting at, in his two short parables today. These are not really stories about “sinners” who have “wandered far from God.” No, the emphasis is not on those who have strayed, but upon God who constantly searches. The woman with the coin, the man with the sheep, they represent God’s constant search for us, God’s constant pursuit of each and every person. This is what Jesus is saying to those Pharisees: God is not only concerned with those who do exactly what they are supposed to do. God is not only concerned with churchgoers. God seeks everyone, ESPECIALLY those the world might see as “lost.” God is so consumed by this search, that God is not content to show up just in temples, just in the expected places. God shows up where we least expect God, seeking after the people we’d least expect to find God.
The invitation of the Christian life is an invitation to work with God, to be transformed by the God who is constantly seeking out all those lost sheep, and an invitation to join God in the search.
The only way some of those concertgoers from the 9:30 club are going to darken the door of the church is if they feel there might be something inside that is worth their while, some story that might help them make sense of the feeling they have when they close their eyes at the beautiful moments in a song. The only way all of those 20 and 30 and 50 and 70-somethings who have lost their faith or who have never seen a reason for faith, the only way they are going to find Jesus is if the community of the church can talk about what Jesus means for them.
The Good news, the news that we hear from Jesus today, is that God is already searching them out.
Did you hear a good sermon yesterday?