Last night I had my first meeting of the High School Youth Group at my new gig at Zion Lutheran Church in Tinley Park. I invited everyone to bring a song that they were into these days, or that they wanted to share with the group. One of the youth said that they didn’t have a song, and I offered to look one up on youtube. “No,” he said, “I don’t have any that would be good for, you know, church.” I assured him that I didn’t mind swearing, and I checked with the rest of the youth to see if they minded either. We went ahead and played the “Thrift Shop” youtube video. Link to the profanity-laden (and problematic gender politics-laden) music video: http://www.youtube.com/v/QK8mJJJvaes
Here’s the thing: I can’t stop listening to this song. And I can’t stop watching this video. Because I think this is our project, as a youth group. And I think this is our project as a youth group, as spiritual companions, as pastors. Because the Christian tradition is like a thrift shop. Not everything in that shop is worth keeping. But a lot of stuff that other folks have considered trash is actually, for us, treasure/ come up. Our task is to dig through all of that, and see what makes us glorious. What belonged to our grandparents that we need to bring back out of the back racks and proudly display, proudly proclaim? (“No for real, ask your grandpa, can I have his hand-me-downs?”)
This is our tradition, and we all own it together. Nobody should be trying to sell us the “fifty dollar tshirt” of Christianity. Plenty of people will argue for one or another construction of Christianity which demands that we collapse our differences, and most of those people are trying to make money off of us. Macklemore does the “simple addition” of this equation- and he and I agree that we shouldn’t let anybody sell us stuff we don’t need, that don’t even serve us, that don’t even bring us to fuller justice and liberation in the world. Whether it’s clothes or theology, friends.
And this is a particular gift for the mainline church these days. The mega-churches have a lot of edges on us, but they don’t have a big back catalog. They don’t have a thrift-store-load of grandparents’ theology and experience. They don’t have a thousand year hymn tradition for the most part. But we do. That is not to say that we should use it all. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t use new things. It is to say that we should delightedly and relentlessly tear through the piles of stuff in our churches: what stories and songs and rituals are languishing on the shelf of our liturgical Goodwills? What will we find that someone else has thrown away? What will we find and throw away ourselves? What will we find in two separate piles or categories and glue together to make something way better?
Bold authenticity, encouraged by a ruthlessly joyful ransacking of history and tradition.
I’m gonna pop some tags.