Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Avril, Bono, God and the poor be with you.

I am wanting to unlearn everything I've learned about church and pastoring.

These are great days to experiment with such a task; and our church family are wonderfully
open and open source.

Sunday's message was themed around the theme of "God with us."
I was hoping there were connections in Scripture to "God with us" and
"The poor will always be with you."

But because I am learning not to overplan/produce a sermon anymore...(as if we even do "sermons"! They are more...gee, what word fits? Someone has suggested "habitats"), I didn't get the connections until I got in community.

Gee, that isn't supposed to happen; it supposed to be the one "professional" who prays and studies all week so they can deliver the ultimate answers as a monolgue/lecture...maybe with three points (power points) and a poem..

Yeah, right.

Maybe this "new" model of so-called (in both senses of the term) unwashed "laypeople" actually having something to contribute is worth pursuing! Maybe Helmut Baby was right: "the church is our pastor" (see this).

So going into the day, i had a few notes, a few Scriptures, and a few videos ready and on standby.

It is delightful and terrifying to be spiritually clueless and literally cueless about what God will say through the Spirit and Bride as the gathering emerges.

A young woman who had grown up in a churched family, but wandered, wondered and prayed aloud once:

"I don't know who You are;
but I'm with You."

I don't know how many churches have played the music video for Avril Lavigne's "I'm With You".

Probably not too many, as the refrain is:

"It's a damn cold night/
Trying to figure out this life...
I don't know who You are,
but I'm with You."


But damn, we just had to play it. It was stunning to see
how quickly our folks (Jeannie lead the way!!)caught the God-hunger in this song
("Isn't anyone trying to find me??"). Explore this song more here on our forum; and huge thanks to RevKev for turning me onto the song. Yes, I admit that I cheated by uppercasing the "Y" in the "you" in her lyrics, but that's how I hear it.

It turned out to be a great wikiday; as we collaboratively listed some scriptures that included the phrase or thought "with you".

We warmed up by collecting ways we use "with you" in everyday ways.

If I am "with" someone, it means we are an item., for example. If I say "I'm with Scott Jones" at reastaurant, it means he's paying my bill.
"I'm with you" can mean "I'm tracking with you" or "I agree with you."
Of course if a clerk or phone rep says "I'll be with you shortly," you may or may not believe it.
"I am with you in spirit," etc

Of course we noted that Jesus's very name, Immanuel, has "with you" embedded right in it.
We caught the paradoxes:

Sometimes the "with you" presence of God seems to save you from trouble (Acts 18:9-10), and sometimes save you in the trouble
(Isaiah 43:2).
Ken remembered that Mary was promised that the baby would be named "God with us," but then the very angel split (Luke 1:38)

Guess God cant live with or without you.

And yes, we did show that very U2 video at the prayer meeting before the gathering...
noting that the fluid lyrics seem at times Jesus speaking to us, sometimes us speaking to Jesus. We caught the overwhelmed Bono (having just buried his father, and playing to his hometown crowd of 80, 000) at 4:13ff moving into his spontaneous/Spiritaneous prophetic Bonglosealallia (see the comments on this post) utterance.
No wonder bassist Adam Clatyon (at the time not yet officially a Christian) said of this song:
"You don't expect to hear it on the radio...maybe in a church." (p, 66, "Into the Heart").
Well, we did it "in a church," and here it is:


We also were caught in awe of Jesus' wanting to be "with us" before sending us out into ministry (Mark :13-q4 ), let alone God dancing and singing over the sheer joy of being "with us." (Zeph 3:16-17)

But also we keynoted that being with God, and God with us, is not a passive hanging out.
The withness of God seems in part predicated that we are in motion and on mission.
The very great Commission promised the "With you" will be with us as/if we go and make disciples of all nations." Lo, indeed. (Matt 28:18-20)

But what nailed us is the connection and conjunction of

"I will always be with you".


"The poor will always be with you."

Those words (Matt 26:11) of Jesus about the poor have been used as cop out and opt out. You know, "Jesus himself said there will always be poor people, so there is no need to help them...much.
Let alone any possibility of actually ending extreme and unnecessary poverty.

Yada, yada. Yeah, and it will be a "damn cold night" in hell before that spin is proven to be what Jesus had in mind, He was actually quoting Deut. 15. The context there is the opposite:
"You need not have any poor among you... But they will always be among you...so help them"

Wow, is the church ever adept at framejacking Jesus and hijacking Scripture.

Sparks and Shekinah flew as we began to corporately connect the dots.

Only then did I remember and quote Bono's sermon:

"God is with us if we are with the poor."

Then I had someone bring Amos 5:14 into the mix; the only Scripture with a condition on the "with-us-ness" of God. Wouldn't every believer love to know that there is apparently one thing we can do that will cause the Omnipresent ever with us Imamnuel to...in a sense...not be with us?

"The Lord will be with you, if...

you do good and not evil," the Scripture read.

I actually didn't recall , but was guessing/hoping that the context and definition of "being good" in that passage had something to do with helping the poor. I wanted a prooftext; and because I am a recovering pastor, I pressed in fake confidence; having Scott read deeper into the passage until he found the word "poor."

Thank God it was there.
Read it and weep.

Or hear it and weep in Bono's sermon.
Video of both versions of his messages are posted below; first the National Prayer Breakfast:

"God may well be with us in our mansions on the hill. I hope so. He may well be with us as in all manner of controversial like midday and the Lord will continually guide you and satisfy your desire in scorched places. (
stuff. Maybe, maybe not. But the one thing we can all agree, all faiths and ideologies, is that God is with the vulnerable and poor."
complete manuscript)

But that was a pretty white crowd, so Bono's delivery was a bit understated.

Watch the version he preached at the NAACP, especially the last minute when we have
black-style church at its best.
God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them. 'If you remove the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, and if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom with become
an shirt

This is true religion. True religion will not let us fall asleep in the comfort of our freedom. “Love thy neighbor” is not a piece of advice, it’s a command. And that means in the global village we’re going to have to start loving a whole lot more people, that’s what that means. That’s right. “His truth is marching on.” ..Because where you live should not decide whether you live or whether you die.

... whatever thoughts we have about God, who He is, or even if God exists, most will agree that God has a special place for the poor. The poor are where God lives. God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is where the opportunity is lost and lives are shattered. God is with the mother who has infected her child with a virus that will take both their lives. God is under the rubble in the cries we hear during wartime. God, my friends is with
the poor. And God is with us if we are with them.

Unless we buy the "new phyics" that Mike Roe satirizes so well in his brilliant song by that name..
that will preach!

The Lord be with you.


  1. And also with you man.

    Great post.

  2. "As you do unto the least of these, you do unto Me."

    That connects those two thoughts as definitively as anything.

  3. good post. inspiring. thanks for always inspiring me. man, that irish man can preach

  4. thanks, you 3.

    Mike R...and that was the one verse I did originally conclude with, but left out of the post. Thanks for puttin it back in!

  5. I agree with the Hosh, I am always inspired and blessed by HH.

    Thank you =)


Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!