I was looking forward to the Vineyard UK Theology Symposium last weekend. It was brilliant.
No we’ve got that out the way, I want to talk about the title of this post, the soundtrack to a lot of my theological reflection, and a thread that ran through my paper for the Symposium.
That weekend, at a conference themed around Justice, I spoke about the blend of justice, worship and church unity that I think the Lord’s Supper (And forms of mission inspired and fueled by it) can offer to the church today. I’ll quote from U2:
“You speak of signs and wonders
But I need something other
I would believe if I was able
But I’m waiting on the crumbs from your table”
There is so much I would want to say about that verse. About those words. About their arrangement and intent, and the challenge to the church in its various forms and expressions. And then a friend on facebook posted a link to a relevant article (which is a generous phrase, but that is another matter, given that it is mostly a video, staged and produced, but with some words at it’s heart that I think are still worth exploring…) which is more for watching than reading.
In their seminal album The Joshua Tree, U2 released a song titled I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, a song that has haunted the thoughts of many contemplative people in the intervening years.
Sometimes, I’m one of them – but mostly I just hum One and Beautiful Day.
That said, amongst the many verses of I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, lies this gem:
“I believe in the Kingdom Come
Then all the colours will bleed into one
Bleed into one.
But yes, I’m still running”
This is a verse filled with hope. A set of thoughts on fire. A sermon in a snippet of a song. There is the wonderful hope of the Gospel – the Kingdom Come – and the deliberate, blood-soaked unity of the Church coming together. And yet, the part that is repeated, the part I find myself resonating with in a way that echoes through time, is one word. Which is only found in one line of this verse, yet crucial to the song.
U2 sings “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for“, the refrain of this song. And shot through the song, pregnant in the beat and inherent to its appeal, is the last line of my second favourite verse from this song:
“But yes, I’m still running”
I love the imagery of a caveated yes. I echo and lean into the reality that, through gritted teeth, aching thighs, and painful souls/soles, I’m still running.
This song, this verse, this line, captures something wonderful about the Kingdom of God. This reality that the Church both finds itself in, and proclaiming. The reality we try to invite everyone into, and yet we find so difficult to explain.
Fortunately, addressed to someone outside this song yet ultimately responsible for it, the next verse of I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For brings the crux of that reality crashing into our imagination, a solution to our pain and the source of our hope:
“You broke the bonds
And you loosed the chains
Carried the cross of my shame
Oh my shame, you know I believe it”
This song makes no sense outside of it being sung to someone. Without an object, a person to address the song to, this is just a nihilistic, hopeless raging against the dying of the light.
If, however, as I think true justice points to, the table reminds us of, and true worship celebrates, there is someone to address with our songs, then this song gives us a profound hint of something more. Suddenly, addressed to Jesus, this verse makes sense. And, dear reader, I hope that you can see why it becomes and is my favourite verse of this resonant song. The reality is that the world is broken, painful, not destroyed but not perfect either. Caught in the middle, caught in a song, the human race cries out for rescue, cries out for something to hold on to, something to sing about, someone to sing to. And, into that brokenness, into that human propensity to bork things spectacularly and hurt the ones we love, someone comes. The subject of this song hoves into view. The rock we can cling to emerges from the storm.
With Jesus, this song makes sense.
Please don’t take this as triumphant. This song is still yearning. The Kingdom has not yet come. But the hard work has been done. The price has been paid. The bonds have been broken. The chains have been loosed. The cross has been carried. Our shame has been embraced, carried, acknowledged and cast as far as the east is from the west.
And, in the fading embers of a dying light, we are invited to stop singing and to do something else.
You know, I believe it…