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So, Trent Reznor – Nine Inch Nails – released a new single, Came Back Haunted. Yes, it is a “return to form” of sorts and, as with a lot of NIN singles, the song it actually really, really, really good. If you like this sort of thing you will like it. If you don’t you probably won’t.
Here’s the thing, I totally get it from the title – which is also the main part of the chorus – alone.
I can say I’ve come back haunted.
Coming home after leaving my dead son at the hospital, I came back haunted. Haunted by regret, anger, sadness, questions, doubts.
Coming home after spending months in India, I came back haunted. Haunted by my beliefs and what it means to almost everyone I met there. After all, if I am right – if Christianity is true (and I think it is) – then most of the people I met are destined to spend an eternity separated from God.
Coming home from a short teaching trip to Cube, I came back haunted. Haunted at how shallow my faith can be. This trip took place shortly after my son died and I was even more angry then than I am now. While we were there the power went out and a month’s worth of government provided food was going bad. What did this small band of Christians do? They threw a party. Why? To remind them that someday God would make it all ok. Their lives, compared to mine, were truly painful, rough, hard. They faced trials I have never, and likely will never, face. Instead of throwing a hissy fit with God they celebrated Him. They understood what my Grandmother use to say; Life is like needlepoint. The top is beautiful and is this amazing picture. The underneath is an ugly mess of connected thread.
I came back haunted too.
I tend to only look at the ugly underside and these Cubans had the faith to look at the beautiful picture the ugly parts make up.
It shook me.
It moved me.
It changed me.
Everywhere now reminding me I am not who I used to be
Now my faith, this is just begun consequences for what I’ve done.
So when Trent sings “everywhere now reminding me I am not who I use to be,” I get it.
This songs reminds me of that.
It convicts me and drives me to worship.
It encourages me and reminds me to look beyond just the now.
Blessed be Your name. When the sun’s shining down on me. When the world’s all as it should be. Blessed be Your name
Blessed be Your name. On the road marked with suffering. Though there’s pain in the offering. Blessed be Your name
Most modern praise songs tend to be about the bright and shiny parts of life.
I like that this one is also about the darker and dirty parts.
Because that’s my life.
My life does indeed have the bright and shining moments! Much of my life is amazingly beautiful!
But I have also walked the “road marked with suffering.”
And there has been “pain in the offering.”
My life is both of these.
And so this becomes my prayer.
But more often than not I worship with a profane worship.
I worship with songs written by people who don’t believe in – and are at times even hostile towards – the God love.
Profane Worship – Peter Murphy
Regardless of what I do with Reel Parables, I don’t tend to see God everywhere or in everything.
I don’t usually see a beautiful sunrise (like the ones I’ve seen off the coast of Florida) or a beautiful sunset (like I’ve seen off the coast of California and Mexico) and immediately praise God or thank Him fr His amazing creation.
Worship does not always come easily for me.
But I do feel what others feel. And sometimes its the non-religious ones that capture my feelings the best.
I met a couple who came to see Peter Murphy but fell in love with She Wants Revenge.
The three of us made mock fun of the poor band who had to open for them both. They were forgettable at best and no one was there to see them. Poor things.
The couple and I talked about Peter Murphy’s new-found love of crazy hats and wondered if he would wear one (he did not).
What Peter Murphy Taught me About Community and spitting roses
I met Adam Braven from SWR. We chatted. Took a few photos. He was kind enough to sign my concert shirt. Yea, I acted like a typical fan.
We sang and danced.
We watched some random guy totally ignore his VERY turned on date. (Seriously, this guy could have had the night of his life!)
We marveled at the energy of the youth and admitted that yes, youth is indeed wasted on the young.
It pains me to say it, but that was a nice change.
Peter Murphy and She Wants Revenge Concert Poster
I had recently returned from a 3 month business trip to Costa Rica. During that trip our church made a few changes. One was to disband the only place where I connected.
So here I am attending a church where I don’t really belong. A church that we never did join.
The harder we tried to fit in at that church the more we didn’t fit and the more we didn’t belong.
At one point an atheist friend suggested that we find another church. Irony.
What we had in common – our faith! – was overshadowed by the minor things on which we didn’t agree. And although they were minor (when compared to our faith) they were plentiful.
(And don’t even get me started on churches that separate you at the door; children go here, youth go here, men go here, women go here, old people go here, young people go here, married people go here, etc. and then wonder why they don’t have “community?” Maybe you don’t have community because you do your best to break up the family – the most foundational community in most of your lives!)
Anyway, at the concert I felt at home, accepted, a part of something.
What we had in common – music – overshadowed the major thing on which we didn’t agree.
Which brings me back to the Church. There is a lot to disagree with.
Do you dunk or do you sprinkle?
is the Earth old or young?
Is Genesis 1 literal or simply a poets explanation?
Did God make all of this in 6 days or over millions of years?
Should women be pastors, teachers, elders, deacons?
Can you be gay and a Christian?
Was there really a world-wide flood?
Did Jesus really rise from the dead?
Here’s the thing, the only question that matters is the Jesus one. Did Jesus rise from the dead?
If not then my faith – and all of Christianity - is false, fake, vanity.
And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is futile and your faith is empty. Also, we are found to be false witnesses about God, because we have testified against God that he raised Christ from the dead, when in reality he did not raise him, if indeed the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is useless; you are still in your sins. Furthermore, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished. For if only in this life we have hope in Christ, we should be pitied more than anyone.
I Corinthians 15:14-19
There you have it, God’s Achilles Heal.
Want to disprove Christianity once and for all, then disprove the resurrection of Jesus.
As far as I can tell that is the only way to do so.
Disprove creation? Great, we were wrong about how God created the world.
Disprove the flood? Fine, we were wrong about our understanding of that story.
Disprove the Tower of Babble? Awesome, we were mistaken again.
But disprove the resurrection of Jesus and you disprove all of Christianity.
So what did Peter Murphy and She Wants Revenge teach me about community?
They taught me this; to have community I need to NOT focus on the minors, and Christianity has a lot of minors. Instead, lets focus on the majors (we once called them the Fundamentals of the faith) and show a little grace, patience and love with the others.
(I’ve heard a lot of people serve Communion. Most try to tie it back to a sermon they just heard and their unpreparedness shows. This isn’t my “I could do it better” thing; this is simply what I would say if I served Communion.)
I’d join the movement if there was one I could believe in.
Yea, I would break bread and wine if there was a church I could receive in.
Because I need it now…
U2 – Acrobat
I was going to start this with “I grew up in a tradition where communion was…”
The thing is that I don’t remember taking communion that often until college.
I don’t have this deep-rooted emotional attachment to it.
I don’t see youthful tradition (habit?) when I meander down memory lane.
God and me bonding over the bread and wine is not a picture that my memory paints.
Regardless, somewhere along the way in my ongoing understanding of communion I found 1 Corinthians 11:27-30.
For this reason, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself first, and in this way let him eat the bread and drink of the cup. For the one who eats and drinks without careful regard for the body eats and drinks judgment against himself. That is why many of you are weak and sick, and quite a few are dead.
People have DIED because of the way they took communion?
Holy smokes this is serious. So, let me say this.
This is my story.
I don’t want to lead you to a wrong understanding of communion. I’m simply sharing my story (my testimony) as it relates to how I receive the bread and the cup.
Somewhere along the way – I truly don’t know where or why – I started to wonder if the “unworthy” part was talking about me. As in “am I worthy to take communion?”
Here’s the problem: When I examine myself to see if I am worthy I don’t like what I see.