Finding God in culture- U2

Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 01:06PM

We just wrapped up a series at Veritas called Finding God in Culture in which we took a long at a TV Show, a Movie, and a Band and ask the question, "Where is God in the midst of culture."  This past Sunday we looked at the music of U2.  You can listen to the audio from the message but below you will find the discussion questions (which we did before the message) and the message.

Discussion Questions:

1.      What stands out to you as your read these lyrics to these 2 U2 songs?

2.      What do you think they mean?

3.      What connection is there between the two songs and our Scripture for today?

So today we wrap up our 3 week series entitled “Finding God in Culture” in which we have looked at various forms of media within our culture.  Hopefully we have seen where these forms of media from our culture have connected with our faith journeys, as individuals and as a community of faith.  Two weeks ago we looked at Desperate Housewives and the idea of being the kind of people and community that is safe for people to explore faith and spirituality.  Being open to questions, doubts, and struggles.  Last week we looked at the movie Avatar and the connection between the movie and the main character Jake and the incarnation of Jesus.  We also talked about the idea of followers of Jesus incarnating Jesus in the world today, being the hands and feet of Jesus seeking to bless people that we meet each day.

Today, as you know, we are and have looked at the music and the lyrics of the seminal rock group from Ireland called U2 (maybe you’ve heard of them).  We have looked at the lyrics of two songs from them, one from earlier in their career (Rejoice) and the other one a more recent addition to their musical catalog (Magnificent).  I believe there is a thread that runs through both of these two songs and straight into the Scripture that we are looking at together, that being Romans 12:1-2.

Let’s take another look at the Scripture together, what the Apostle Paul was trying to get at regarding our lives as Christ Followers, and where the lyrics from the two U2 songs connect.

In Romans 12:1-2, the Apostle Paul (an early follower of Jesus who planted many churches) wrote these words to the early followers of Jesus in the church in Rome, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

The first thing that Paul brings to the readers mind is the root of why we should follow Jesus and live out the meaning behind these words, that being God’s mercy upon us.  We should desire to follow after Jesus, laying down our lives as an act of worship, because of the many mercies that God has bestowed upon each of us every day of our lives.  Mercies both large and small, ranging from even waking up this morning, taking a deep breath, and looking at the Creation all around us, and going to the love of Jesus, his death on the cross for the redemption of each one of us, the renewal of all of creation, and the forgiveness of our sins.  In other words, our response in living a life of worship is based on God’s mercy towards us.

Paul then goes on to say that once we have rooted everything in God’s mercy, there is something that we need to do in response to that mercy.  Our response to God’s great mercy, shown the most prominently through Jesus, is to offer our bodies as living sacrifices.  The readers of this letter in the first century, both Jewish and non-Jewish, knew first hand what sacrifice was all about.  To beg that they make themselves a living sacrifice was a striking image.  Both Jews and Non-Jews understood that you brought something living to the altar, and you killed it as a means of worship.  So Paul was taking something that his audience understood (a metaphor if you will for following Jesus), and changing it a bit.  The difference is that the sacrifice Paul was talking about was a living sacrifice.  The sacrifice is living because it is brought alive to the altar, and then it stays alive at the altar, it is an ongoing sacrifice.

Now the question comes to my mind is “when Paul says that we are to present our bodies as living sacrifices, what does he truly mean by body?”  Are we literally to put our bodies on the altar?  I think it is best to see that body is a reference to our entire being, our body, our will, our emotions, our mind, our everyday life, and everything that we have and are.  A non-Jewish person reading these words in the first century would probably never have thought of presenting their body to God.  The thought of the day was that the body was unspiritual and that God was unconcerned about it.  Paul shows here that God is concerned with our bodies as well.  The body is the chief instrument of the person and is to be presented to God through service to humanity, by preaching, teaching, ministering, and helping people, and not merely for some space of time but throughout all of life.

We are to be a holistic living sacrifice.  We are to offer our entire selves to God.  No other offering can be such that God will approve of.  When someone presented a sacrifice to the altar, especially a burnt offering, all of the offering was to be used; nothing was to be held back.  It is the same with us, nothing should be held back from God.  All of our lives should be a sacrifice to God.  Our reasonable service is a life of worship according to God’s word.  Or in other words all of our lives are to be worship unto God.

I love how Eugene Peterson, author of the Message (a version of the Scriptures) puts Romans 12:1, “So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.”

Now the next part of the verse is crucial for us to understand, because without verse 2, we wouldn’t want to live out verse 1, laying our lives down as a living sacrifice.  In order to live a life of worship to God, and being a living sacrifice, our lives must be transformed by God, and not conformed to the world around us.  We need our minds to be renewed everyday through the reading of Scripture, spending time in a renewed community of Jesus followers, prayer, meditation, fasting, and worship.  Then as we are transformed on the inside, the proof of that transformation will be evident on the outside, as others will see what the good and perfect will of God is through our life.  When you aren’t conformed to the systems, power, and thoughts of this world, but transformed, your life will be in the will of God and will be a living worship service to God.  Or as Paul puts it, a living sacrifice.

This idea that all of our life is worship to God, and not just an hour on Sunday morning is where I believe we connect our third core value (authentic worship expression) with our scripture for the morning, and also where we find God in culture, through the lens of the lyrics of U2.  The Apostle Paul calls us to a life of worship, and Bono sings about seeing all of life as worship.

In the song “Rejoice” Bono sings these words, “This morning I fell out of bed.  When I woke up to what he has said.  Everything's crazy.  But I'm too lazy to lie.  And what am I to do.  Just tell me what am I supposed to say I can't change the world.  But I can change the world in me.  If I rejoice.  Rejoice...”  To me what Bono is getting at is that no matter what is going on, good or bad or what, we can change how we view everything if we view everything through the lens of worship.  Through the lens that we are a living sacrifice called to rejoice and worship God in the mountaintops and the valleys of life.  The everyday life, ordinary life that Euguene Peterson talks about in his translation that I mentioned earlier.

In the other song that we looked at called Magnificent, Bono sings this, “I was born, I was born to sing for you. I didn't have a choice but to lift you up.  And sing whatever song you wanted me to I give you back my voice from the womb.  My first cry, it was a joyful noise, oh, oh”  Here I believe, Bono could be referring to the idea that his voice all the way from now back to the womb was his living sacrifice, his gift back to God to be used however God would see fit, and that it is and was a joyful noise of worship.

So my prayer is those words from the song, “I was born to sing for you.  I didn’t have a choice to lift you up.”  That we, like Bono, could realize that we were born to worship God.  Worship God with everything that we are, everything that we have, and everything within us.  That we would take our life to God’s altar, lay down on the altar, surrender our entire selves to God’s fire, then get up and be a living sacrifice for God.  Dying to what you want and living to God’s life in you and living through you, as you go out into the world and live a life of worship to him.