U2 in Church … A Wonderful Night

I had to fight back some serious surges of emotion tonight as a dream came true for me. I’d always wanted to share with my church what it is about U2 that moves me so much, what it is about their work that has transformed my life and drawn me closer to God.

My pastor invited me to do just that this week, and tonight I was given the better part of an hour to tell U2′s story, to draw the attention of the congregation to the poetry of Bono’s lyrics, to talk about how cleverly and brilliantly they weave themes of grace, echoes of Scripture, and reminders of Christ into their music.

I must thank, and thank, and thank Nathan Partain for performing three U2 songs beautifully … and on very short notice. (Thanks also to Luke, who backed him up on piano and accordion.) He sang “Until the End of the World,” “The First Time,” and “Wake Up Dead Man” with passion and skill, and in that way kept us focused on the art of the songs instead of upon the celebrities who composed them.

As usual, I was over-prepared and thus had to cast aside about 25 pages of fascinating quotes from band members about their faith and how it influences their work. But I hope that tonight was a preview, a teaser, a nudge that will lead people to the rich reservoir of U2′s spiritual rock-and-roll. And for the fans who were nodding and mouthing the lyrics along with Nathan’s performance, I hope they were given a little deeper insight into the profundity of the band’s work.

Unfortunately, I was not very aware of the limitations of my microphone, so apparently some of what I said was lost in space. I need to learn to use microphones better. Bono could probably teach me a thing or two about stage presence.

Anyway, it was a thrill to finally explain what that whole “MacPhisto” costume was all about. (Bono’s devil costume, which he wore on stage in the 90s, was… and he admits this openly… a nod to C.S. Lewis’s “Screwtape Letters,” in which letters from the Devil reveal to us the value of obeying God. “Mock the devil, and he will flee from you.”)

And it was a blessing to have permission to turn up U2′s “40″ on the church speakers and let it play as a prayer in the sanctuary.

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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” called Through a Screen Darkly, and a four-volume series of fantasy novels called The Auralia Thread, which includes Auralia’s Colors, Cyndere’s Midnight, Raven’s Ladder, and The Ale Boy’s Feast. Jeffrey is a contributing editor for Seattle Pacific University’s Response magazine, and he writes about art, faith, and culture for Image, Filmwell, and his own website, LookingCloser.org. His work has also appeared in Paste, Relevant, Books and Culture, and Christianity Today (where he was a film columnist and critic for almost a decade). He lives in Shoreline, Washington. Visit him on Facebook at facebook.com/jeffreyoverstreethq.

  • Christopher

    Jeffrey, you make a comment in your review about the end of Broken Flowers giving some redemptive resolution to the film. I saw it and I’m not sure what you mean… . but I’m curious. Care to elaborate?

  • The Cubicle Reverend

    As an older virgin I am curious to see how this is played out. I do know he waits til he gets married, but I admit, people look at you funny when they find out how old I am and still a virgin.

    Dave

  • John

    I would love to see some version of this in a blog post or an article on your main site… something I could point out to friends who don’t quite “get it” when it comes to U2.

  • Chris Durnell

    I wish I had been there.

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    Thanks, Gary. That’s a blessing to me.

    I didn’t get to finish the way I meant to. I forgot my final punctuation point. That Psalm I read to begin the evening, I was going to share how, at the Super Bowl, at the height of commercial media attention, what did Bono do? He walked out in front of the crowd, to the tune of “Where the Streets Have No Name”… and as the crowd roared in adulation of U2, he recited, “What can I give back to God for the blessings he has poured out on me? I will raise a toast to the Almighty, and celebrate with his people.” (I’m paraphrasing, I don’t have the notes in front of me.) I wanted to give that great example of how, in the moments when it counts, Bono gives glory to the right Person.

  • Gary

    Jeffrey, Barbara and I were blessed last night by what you offered us. While a U2 admirer, I am only beginning to scratch to surface of the depth of what they offer. Barbara said something like, “If I had known what U2 was about, I would have paid attention to them a long time ago.” We were both encouraged in the moment and encouraged to spend more time with more of their music. I couldn’t tell you left out 25 pages, BTW. And, thanks Anne, for once again letting Jeff have the spotlight. Your gifts are no less deserving!

  • Lara

    We used to sing 40 as a hymn in my church growing up. It never occured to me that other churches wouldn’t also use it until I got to college. I think I thought it was in the hymnal or something. :)


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