Thursday, October 26, 2017

Take Me To Church

I will confess that ever since its release, I have had a negative reaction to the lyrics of Hozier's hit song, "Take Me to Church." While I appreciate the social commentary related to the church's exclusion of LGBTQ people, I just can't get behind the conflation of religion and sex:
"She tells me 'worship in the bedroom.'
The only heaven I'll be sent to
Is when I'm alone with you."
Maybe I'm old-fashioned. It just strikes me as a little sacrilegious, is all. And it isn't terribly innovative.

That said, there's this video of Hozier performing the song at a concert in Paris that makes me cry every single time I watch it. He starts singing the song, and as he approaches the chorus, well, this happens:

I am not 100% sure why I cry when I watch this video. I don't think it is the subject matter, per se, though the fact that the song is a commentary on church seems an important detail. I suppose this is a powerful video for me because of the emotion involved, because the artists is so genuinely moved, because the radical generosity of the choir, because of the surprise.

This is how God works in our lives, isn't it? It is precisely when I am ready to give up on God that God shows up--every single time, though never in the way I was expecting. And it is because of that surprise that I am so moved by the power of God's love, because again and again, God takes my own despair and transforms it into capital-H Hope.

It is the surprise, I think, that moves me. Surprise, like the surprise that Mary sings about in the Magnificat:
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
My spirit rejoices in God my Savior
For he has looked with favor on his humble servant.
It is the surprise of the cross, that the son of God would be executed as a common criminal, that while in his final hours and despite his great pain he would forgive the one being executed beside him, that he would forgive all of us. It is the surprise that befell Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, upon arriving at Jesus's tomb, only to find it empty. It is the surprise that despite our own best efforts, nothing--nothing--can separate us from the love of God through Jesus Christ.

It is the surprise so evident in the face of the artist, that a choir would, in fact, take him to church. There is power in that kind of witness. You watch that sort of holy mischief, that sort of radical generosity, and you're liable to want to be a part of something like that. You may find yourself saying, without a hint of irony, "Good God, let me give you my life."

That’s church.