Baptist

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Spirit, December 6, 1992 (Vol 5, No 10, 2nd Sunday of Advent)


Sent in by Robin P. Blanchard

by Johnny Mack

Baptist

A.D. 30/The Voice

The wilderness beckoned to a young man named John, who wanted to feel the edges of his own soul in the scorching desert wind, wear skins, and survive on grasshoppers and honey from beehives in the rocks. The wilderness swallowed his every outcry in its silence -- his anger at all the holy people who thought their family trees would hold up in eternity.

Who is this voice that says there must be more to life? Who says folks have got to get a life? The King? The Boss? Bono? No, Baptist.

His first release to climb the charts at home in Palestine was _Change of Heart_, with its haunting repeated line "Somebody runs this world, not me, not you." The hit brought people from the cities out into the wilderness to hear Baptist; they joined those from the little towns who had first heard his voice. His second hit single gave him his name: _The Voice in the Wilderness_.

Voice in the wilderness,
voice no one hears.
Voice in the wilderness,
crying out, "God nears."

The Judean wilderness is a place of basics. Where ther's shade, the breeze is cool; where there's none, the sun burns and beats on people. When there's rain, the hills green; when the rain stops, they brown. Where the springs flow out of the rocks, those who know the wilderness find rest and peace. Baptist's last wilderness song summed up his life alone finding his psyche in the silence far from the markets of the temple courts.

In the desert I got a life.
In the silence I heard my soul.
I found my way. I'm on my way.

Baptist drew crowds at the Jordan River. People by the hundreds walked into the water to wash away the past and show the change of heart he challenged them to make. Success didn't change Baptist. When he saw people receiving his baptism just because everyone was doing it, he was the voice crying out again:

Cut them down
the trees without fruit.
Bring the ax to the roots,
cut them down,
at the roots cut them down.

About this time Baptist began singing about a friend of his -- someone who would have more than water to offer, someone of fire and Spirit. This someone dominates Baptist's current hit single "Someone greater will follow me."

The One who is coming
has the Spirit to give.
The One who is coming
has the Fire to live.
The One who is coming
blows the chaff from the wheat.
The One who is coming
I hear his beat.

A.D. 1990s/The Voice of U2

Two thousand years ago Baptist invited the wilderness to awaken his soul. Today a lot of suburban bedrooms and family rooms are carpeted wildernesses where individual selves hang out all too alone. On the air waves voices penetrate the silence of everyone's own rooms, awakening hope for a common soul.

In the 60s hippies stuck daisies in the rifle barrels of soldiers, heard peace blowing in the wind, let their hair grow and the sunshine in. The 1964 Civil Rights Act, school desegregation, poverty programs, the end of the Vietnam War. Communities of resistance. Was it the dawning of the Age of Aquarius?

Punkers in the mid-70s said no, it's the Age of Hypocrites. They stuck safety pins in their noses, hung chains on their clothes, spiked their hair, and disassociated themselves from the everybodies who walked the streets to jobs and homes. They drifted, sometimes bitter and cynical, through the wilderness of poured cement malls and suburban culde-sacs.

In this wilderness U2 became a voice of connection, beginning in 1978, when three high shcool kids answered a note on a school bulletin board. A drummer named Larry Mullen wanted to form a band. The school was Mount Temple, the first, comprehensive, nondenominational, coeducational school in Dublin, Ireland, founded to build tolerance between Protestants and Catholics in this divided land. Three guys answered Larry's note -- Dave Evans, Adam Clayton, and Paul Hewson.

From their first performance, the four had a willingness to give, sparked by their search for connectino. Paul's punk friends in another band named him Bono after the word _Bonovox_ in the window of a hearing-aid shop. Bono named Dave Evans, Edge.

The summer they finished Mt Temple, the four worked from midmorning to night every day in Evan's 8"*10" garden shed. Bono brought his image and Edge, a series of chords. With Adam they played with song ideas. In the evening Larry came from work and added in drum lines. In these months the four became U2, a name they chose for the band because no one could be sure if it referred to the American spy plane, the U2 submarine, or the EverReady battery.

A Shaolm prayer group helped Bono find a way out of his wilderness. It met twice a week, sang gospel songss, and discussed the bible. Shalom gave both Bono and Edge neutral space in which to search for God. Here Bono could feel the pain of his mother's death, speak his fears -- and dreams.

In _Boy_, the first U2 song to chart in the USA, Bono sings:

A boy tries hard to be a man
His mother takes him by the hand
If he stops to think
He starts to cry. Oh, why?

Like Shalom meetings, live performance became gatherings where Bono spoke the sould within him and the longing he felt for human community and believable heroes. _Gloria_ is the voice of Bono the believer, of his conflicts, promises, and pleas to God.

I try to sing this song.
I try to stand up, but i can't find my feet.
I try, I try to speak up, but only in you
I am complete.

U2's best work was always live, their own souls trying to find identity and community with those who heard them. They lent their voices to a search for noviolence and peace. The refused to glorify the so-called martyrs who kept Irish Catholics and Protestants in conflict. They sang of real heroes who like Jesus came in the name of love.

Early morning April 4
shot rings out in the Memphis sky
Free at last they took your life
The could not take your pride
in the name of love.

The U2 of the 80s became a voice in the wilderness of screaming rock n' roll guitars, that called us to let our souls hurt so we might become live-aid to each other again.

On its 1992 Zoo TV Tour, U2's voice of conscience has turned playful and comic. Bono, Edge, Adam, and Larry are over 30 years old now. They created their new album _Achtung Baby_ in Berlin, Germany, where the old wall between Communism and democracy has crumbled and a new society is forming. They named their show for a Berlin subway stop named Zoo Station.

The Zoo TV Tour combines live performance, industrial souns, and high- tech images. On overhead screens computers mix local cable TV (including Home Shopping Guide) with a barrage of prepared images and saying such as: "Rock 'n roll is entertainment." "Over 1 billion served." "Guilt is not of God." "Call your mother." "Nobody is promised a tomorrow." "You're not immune." "Believe."

U2 is not so sure what's happening in this new, chaotic world of the 1990s, but they're singing about the change and the challenge. Their new song _The Fly_, pictures life -- a wall, the sheer face of a mountain. A low voice competes with a gospel voice to descrive how love can make a person beg and crawl, shine, rise, burn, fall.

A man will beg, A man will crawl
On the sheer face of love
like a fly on the wall
It's no secret at all.
Love, we shine like a burning star
We're falling from the sky
The sky...tonight.

_The Fly_ talks about U2's conscience and ambition, about how being an artist can eat a person up as one tries but also fails to say what's truly happening.

It's no secret that a conscience
can sometimes be a pest
It's no secret that ambition
bites the nails of success
Every artist is a cannibal,
Every poet is a thief
All kill their inspiration
and sing about the grief.

_Until the End of the World_ is a conversation between Jesus and Judas, and also perhaps between U2, the voice of conscience, and U2, the stars who can't fully live up to their own ideals.

I kissed your lips and broke your heart
You, you were acting like
it was the end of the world.
In my dream I was drowning my sorrows
But my sorrows they learned to swim
Surrounding me, going down on me
In waves of regret, waves of joy
I reached out for the one i tried to destroy.

The Zoo TV program shows U2's idealism. It includes membership forms for Amnesty International, Greenpeace, and a voter-registration group. The proceeds from the song _One_ goes to AIDS research.

Did I ask too much, more than a lot
You gave me nothing. Now it's all I've got.
We're one but we're not the same.
We get to carry each other, carry each other. One.

U2's older songs stir our souls for connection with each other; their new songs speak the pain of becoming one but not the same in relatinoships. As their best-known song says, they aren't sure what they're looking for but their dreams include Jesus' kingdom come.

I believe in the Kingdom Come
Then all the colours bleed into one
But yes I'm still running
You broke the bonds
You loosed the chains
You carried the cross
and my shame, and my shame
You know I believe it
But I still haven't found
What I'm looking for
But I still haven't found
What I'm looking for.

What is it Bono and U2 are still looking for? Who is it they and we, their audiences, cannot live with or without? Their voices cry out in the wilderness.

[questions concerning previous text:]

Connections

1. What are John the Baptist and U2 looking for? How are their voices alike? How different?

2. What U2 lyrics, if any, express your own feeling and search?

3. Which of these words best describes Bono -- _poet, rock musician, prophet_?

4. When have you needed to forge an identity apart from the crowd like John the Baptist? When have you needed to connect like Bono?

5. How are the searches for identity and community connected?

6. What does John The Baptist have to say about hypocrisy? [reference to Matthew 3.1-12]

How Does the Spirit Work in Us?

The Holy Spirit is God presend to and within us. We experience the Spirit of God through our own spirit, at our limits, in those moments when we go beyond our egos and transcend ourselves. U2's Shalom group unerstood that being ego-centered closes us up in self-sufficiency. Openness to anyone outside ourselves is openness to some degree to the Spirit of God.

We human beings are made with a capacity for transcendence. We are made for more than any of us are or will find in our lives. We are made for oneness with God. U2's anger at the trenches dug deep in Irish hearts expresses a desire to transcend divisions between people and find what can bind people into community. John the Baptist wanted the Pharisees and Sadducees to open their stone hearts.

The prayers and signs of our worship describe the telltale signs of the Spirit's prescence. The _Sequence_ for Pentecost Sunday prays that the Spirit soften the hard-hearted, warm the cold-hearted, heal the hurt, bend the stubborn, direct the lost. John 3.8 compares the Spirit to wind that blows freely where it will, invisible except in what it sets in motion.

Oil is the sign of the Spirit in Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders, and Anointing of the Sick. Oil shines, soothes, and heals. Early Christians compared olive trees which live for centruies to God the Father; the fruit of the tree, the olive which gets crushed and pressed to get oil, to Jesus, God's Son; and the oil itself which runs free-flowing to heal and soothe to the Spirit.

In the _Procession of Faith_ we pray, "We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son." The Spirit is the love of Father and Son for Each other, the inner life of the Trinity present within us.

The Spirit speaks through the prophets, according to the _Profession of Faith_. John the Baptist and U2 have prophetic voices, calling people beyond their certainties and their egos into openness to God and to one another. The role of the prophet is to let the Spirit speak from withing him or her.

The voice of the Spirit has often been the voice of the singer -- the one who could inspire people by singing the epic songs that held their souls. Homer sang the Greek epics. Bands of prophets sang and sought God in ecstasy in ancient Israel. Music has spiritual power; it can carry us out of our egos into states of openness to the Spirit. Music can _in-spire_, that is, _in-spirit_.

For John the Baptist and U2 one source of their words in the past -- for John the words of the prophet Isaiah, for U2 the heroism of Jesus and Martin Luther King, Jr. Prophets invite words and images of their own experience to intermingle in their deepest souls with events and symbols that have inspired human beings in the past.

Without our voices, the Spirit has no voice in our times. To find words and voice we have to find our souls, work to give words to our experience, and remember in the face of troubles like homelessness and violence, all who have lived in the name of love. The Spirit who is the love of Father and Son calls out from within the desire we each have for transcendence. The Spirit calls us to the oneness in God we're all looking for.

......

Isaiah's Ideal King

Ahaz, who became king of southern Israel in 735 B.C. and made an ally of the superpower Assyrians against his own people, disgusted the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah put his hope in God's power to raise up a real spiritual king from the royal family tree of David, whose father was Jesse.

[Isaiah 11.1-6]

[questions concerning above text]

[1] How is Isaiah's spirit-filled leader like the leader John the Baptist says is coming and like the heroes of U2 songs?

Copyright © 1992 by Sisters of St Joseph of Carondelet. All rights reserved.

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on December 6, 1992 9:07 PM.

Video text of The Fly was the previous entry in this blog.

Out of the Blue, Into the Black is the next entry in this blog.

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