Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Secret is Letting Go

The old joke goes something like this;

A man was greeting the pastor in the "handshake line" after church. When his turn came, he smiled and said "Pastor, excuse me, but why do you preach the exact same sermon..word for word..every week" The answer: "Well, when you all start practicing that one, I'll give a new one!"

I realized long ago that I only have one sermon.

And I'm not too good at practicing what I preach.

In a word, the sermon is:


In two words, AKA:

Let go.

The mystics have always known this is the secret. It's the stream running through the early fathers and mothers, through de Caussade ("Abandonment to Divine Providence", free online here) , by way of Madame Jeanne Guyon.

And closer to our day, Watchman Nee ("The Release of the Spirit" free online here) and..

..of course..


From their early days:

"If I want to live, I've got to die to myself someday....Surrender, surrender" ("Surrender").

To the 90s, when Bono ("To live in the Scriptures....To surrender; to live in the moment..these are things I am trying to understand."), in full ecstatic prophecy mode, Spiritaneously speaks to the Mexico City crowd, backdropped by a film clip of doves: "Mexico City...let go, let go, let go!"
(PopMart DVD. watch it below, the last two minutes...5:07ff...though the first minute is incredibel..he is lost in prayer on his knees):

Through the most recent tour, where the message of this backdrop below was unmissable:

Beth Maynard has blogged beautifully on this and the other texts flashed on the screen during "The Fly." I too have blogged here.

And an Israeli bloggers comments hit me most recently (note:
some of this is lifted from Beth Maynard without attribution)

For some reason, of late, I've been struck by a number of situations in my life and in those of some of the people I know where they've had to keep learning the message of surrendering in the face of Love. There's a U2 lyric that has run through my head often as this has been happening: "Love is not the easy thing/ The only baggage you can bring/ Is all that you can't leave behind."

Which of course resonates quite heavily in statements from the gospel like "Those who wish to save their life will lose it, but those who lose their life for my sake will find it." It's profound and yet obvious that real love -- of family, friends, partner, God -- can't happen until we drop all that we can of what we're carrying. And we'll find a way in that love to drop that which we think we can't. One must stop holding tightly to things and people if one wants to give and receive, because we only do those with open hands.

So it rang a little bell for me to find out that this continues to play out (glad for the pun) on the European leg of the Vertigo tour. While playing songs from Achtung Baby, the part of the show where slogans have traditionally filled the huge video screens and flashed through at high speed ("beLIEve" "Everything you know is wrong" "Watch more TV"), that trend continues, but the message is vastly different.

There are dialogues in different colors:
As we learn how to fight "Them," "They" go on telling lies, often in red and black, and near the end the truth comes out, superimposed over big white words like HOPE:
TO... [and here I was expecting at last to get the ironic turn, the way "it's your world you can change it" used to shift to "charge it," but, no, the 90s are well and truly gone:]
all gold and white. And then the thing reverses itself, and plays the beginning backwards until "their" lies and "our" apathy/powerlessness disappear into nothingness before your eyes.

That is how we overcome the power of the world we live in--we live into love. I was speaking with a friend a few days ago, and he was talking about how the ultimate power is information, how knowledge can defeat what one's enemies throw at you, how information is the ultimate tactical weapon, whether one is a state, a person, an organization. I remembered that love is stronger than all that, because it removes us from needing or caring about the tactics of advantage and dominion. When we live into love, like Oscar Romero or Aun San Suu Kyi, power and advantage and death cease to have real meaning.

And you can learn this at a rock concert.

It seems paradoxical (that is, unobvious and ironic, but just like God) that spiritual surrender can be taught and caught at a rock concert. But perhaps in these days, it is only in a secular venue that we can be reached.

Which is why Bono
" uses his interview in Q to demonstrate how to pray a prayer of total surrender to God" (link).

Bono: When I was 16, my head was exploding. I just felt my life was going nowhere. I didn’t fit in. I couldn’t get a job. I didn’t know how I could do my exams and I wasn’t even sure I could concentrate at college. In those days, I remember, a prayer came up inside me. I said “I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life but if there’s a God out there, and I believe there is, and You want me to do something, then I’m ready. I don’t have any plans for myself and I’m available for work.” Pretty much within a few months of that epiphany I had joined U2 and started going out with Ali. A pretty good two months! Now had my destiny been — if the God in heaven had said I want you to become a fireman and run up very dangerous buildings and save people’s pets, I’d like to hope I’d have gone at it with the same gusto. So — I couldn’t let go of my faith. But what’s more interesting is that I don’t think God will let go of me. I love it when people on bar stools rub their chins and say do you believe in God? That’s so presumptuous. A much more important question is does God believe in us?

Q: That sounds like you believe you were chosen.

Bono: No, no, no, I don’t believe that. I do think God gets a laugh out of using some very poor materials. I volunteered is what I’m telling you.”

Sigh...maybe someday soon I will faithfully practice my one sermon.

I may just be getting more creative at new ways of wording it.

A man greeted the pastor at the door and said:

"I like every sermon better than the next one."

Maybe I need to pray some more; and soundtrack my prayer to Cheap Trick..

who can be (accidentally?) prophetic..
(see "it's a Cheap Trick to surrender when in a crappy mood")

Whatever the case..

I only have one sermon.
It's a surrender thing.

You may have heard how I almost made the Guiness World Record for shortest sermon ever.

It was literally one word:

(story here)

Is that all I have to do to surrender?


  1. Sorry to say that some of that Israeli guy's post is copied from one of mine without credit, actually. (But he makes some nice comments apart from that.)

  2. gee, no wonder it was so good.(: sorry i didn't catch that. will adjust the attribution


Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!