The lines seem to be blurred at any U2 concert. One walks away wondering who or what was being worshipped. For many, it is an opportunity for hero worship. There is no better frontman than Bono, and there is no bigger band than U2. You wonder at the things he does on stage at times that almost seem ridiculous. But he is Bono…he can do whatever he wants on stage and it is cool. We all have momentary thoughts of what it would be like to be the frontman for the most popular band on the planet. We could lay down on stage like he does, and it would be cool. But if we tried that minus the rock star status, we would not be cool.
Last night I had the blessing, and yes I will use that word….the blessing of seeing U2 for the second time in my life. The first was in 2001 at Staples in Los Angeles, and about three and half years later I found myself in the same location, only this time the seats were much better.
U2 played to a packed out house for a little over two hours. And after one long set and two encores I walked away wondering what had exactly taken place. You see, my experience at U2 last night was one of the most worshipful experiences I have had. And not the hero worship of Bono, though I think he is cool. But a worship experience that was transcendent, pointing me to a greater reality. Pointing me to God. I had these same feelings the last time I saw them so I was wondering if it was just a fluke, or if there was something about U2, about Bono, about what they sing and talk and preach about.
So I headed into last night’s show with as much anticipation and enthusiasm as I often do on Sunday morning worship. There is something about being around people who are all together to worship something. Sometimes it is God, sometimes it is a person, or sometimes it is various things in our life. Whether we are in an “official” church building, or an “official” church worship service, does not keep us from worshipping other things, just as being at a U2 concert does not keep us from worshipping other things…or from worshipping God.
There were many obvious differences between Sunday morning and the show last night….or were there really. People dressed pretty much the same. I’m thinking that is not a good thing considering some of the outfits on saw on people last night. People looked the same, though U2 draws more ethnically diverse and diversity in ages in their audiences. Last night there were Sunday worship people in the midst, looking for something bigger than themselves, and larger than life. Just as on Sunday, there are concert going people in our midst, looking as well to something larger, something bigger than themselves. The only difference…Bel Air to my knowledge has not decided at this point to vend out beer and McDonalds during its services on Sunday.
There are people who know, and who don’t know God who come to worship on Sunday, or who come to church, and we attempt to point them to God. There are people who know, and who don’t know God and who come to U2 concert’s, and they are pointed to God. There are some obvious theological disagreements that I have with Bono, as there are some obvious theological disagreements that I have with The Church at times. But I do not not think for one second that Bono or U2 is pointing us to God. But the question then becomes more or less….Who is this God that U2 is pointing to? I believe it is the God of the Bible, but I also believe that U2 is pointing to a more ecumenical God than a lot of us may be as comfortable with.
U2 closed their final encore last night with a few songs. But the final two songs were “Yahweh” and “Psalm 40.” Sure, there were a mix of religions in the audience, and sure people may have been worshipping different things, but U2 seems to be one of the few “secular” bands who is very blunt about God in their life. I have never heard 15,000 plus people in my life singing out the name of Yahweh in my life…never. Most of them probably didn’t know who Yahweh is as well. Or maybe we should be more careful about yelling out His name. And I have also never heard 15,000 plus people sing a worship song taken directly from the Psalms as well…Psalm 40.
In the remaining minutes of the show as Bono belted out “sing, sing a new song”, the audience replied to his cry with a “sing, sing a new song” in unison. And as I looked around I noticed everyone’s hands in the air. Not the type of hands in the air that you see at a ball game….but the hands in the air that you see at church on Sunday mornings. And then I looked up and noticed that my hands were raised as well. It has taken me 30 years to get to the point where I can raise my hands in freedom to God in worship and feel comfortable, yet it has only taken me two U2 concerts to feel that same freedom. What is up with that?
As U2 and the audience repeatedly belted out “sing, sing a new song” Bono took off his cross necklace, and strung it from his microphone. And slowly he picked up the spotlight and placed it on the floor under the microphone as the light shone brightly through the necklace and straight into the air. One by one each member left the stage as it slowly got more and more dark and the only remaining light was that from the beam shining up on the cross and to the “heavens.” As the members left one by one, and as the audience’s chorus got louder and louder, Bono took the necklace from the mircophone, putting it back around his neck and walked off stage. The audience continued singing, and even after the final member, Larry Mullin Jr., the drummer, exited the stage, the audience continued in it’s chorus of “sing, sing a new song,” until it was finally broken up by music over the PA system, and the raising of the lights.
It was an amazing closing, to an amazing show.
And I left with a lot of questions about “worship in church” and “worship in other venues.” And I was left wondering why we often try to make so many concrete distinctions, when the lines often seem so blurred at times. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be distinctions, but how is it that our “Sunday morning worship” times in our culture can feel much more like a show, than the “worship experience” one has at a U2 concert..that was intended to be a show? Or was it intended to be a show? I think Bono and U2 have bigger things in mind.
So I’m left wondering about all kinds of thoughts I have regarding worship? What do we consider “worship” and “sacred” and what is not and “profane?” Do we limit our worship to God, to only places and times and events where there is some safe designated avenue for the outlet of our worship? Like 11-12pm on Sunday mornings? Can one truly worship god in the midst of 15,000 fans, Christian and non-Christian? Even if the intent of Bono and U2 was not to point to God?
So again…I will look forward to seeing U2 in the future, as I believe like so many others that seeing U2 in concert and worshipping God in the midst of it all, is so much like what we do on Sunday mornings. The environment has changed, but our hearts our in the same posture as we offer our praises up to God.
I am very interested in hearing anyone’s thoughts on this. On whether or not you agree or diagree? Have you been to a U2 show? Did you go to the one at Staples on Tuesday night? Thoughts on worship in general, etc., etc