Krista and I watched the Grammy Awards last Sunday night, our annual opportunity to catch up on a contemporary music scene that is slowly slipping away from us.
It’s always a fun event — loaded with amazing performances, emotional challenges, and over-thetop grandstanding. This Grammys went a bit overboard we thought, becoming more of a political commercial than musical entertainment. Not a surprise, given a celebrity culture that loves to award itself — how many awards shows can there be? — and pretend, for one night at least, that they are more prophet then performer.
In any case, we were blown away by U2’s contribution. I’m a biased U2 fan, I’ll admit, but this performance was incredible. Staged on a barge in New York’s harbor with the Statue of Liberty in the background, the band challenged us to rethink the whole immigration debate. U2 doesn’t take a traditional approach to anything, and that was certainly the case here. The performance was powerful musically and substantively.
Immediately following, someone on the Grammys stage made a quick and all-too-obvious political statement, and then we were off to a commercial — within seconds of U2’s performance — only to return to the next political rant from some rather unknown (to me) performer/prophet.
I was frustrated, but I couldn’t put my finger on why until the next morning in our staff meeting. We were talking about the Grammy’s when Angel, our communications assistant, said, “They didn’t give the song time to breathe. They were so quick to move to the next topic.”
So true. I needed time for the song/performance to sink in. I was challenged, and, let’s be honest, I didn’t necessarily agree with everything Bono was trying to get across — but I wasn’t given the chance to breathe, think, soak it in, reflect.
… which is a problem these days, don’t you think? Our fast-paced society produces so many fast-paced opinions that we’re hardly given the chance to think. It’s a crisis, in my opinion. A crisis of thoughtful reflection. We simply don’t take the time to breathe.
In my first year of pastoral ministry, I was required — which was a good thing because I probably wouldn’t have gone otherwise — to attend a retreat on Spiritual Reflection. Day 2 of the retreat was to be a silent day. No talking. No conversation. No casual reading. We were to spend the time in theological contemplation and prayer. Sounds brutal, doesn’t it?
But I learned something: that without time set aside for reflection, we’re not giving our souls and spirits time to breathe.
When I was a camper at Lutheridge, a pastor-chaplain asked us, “What do you listen to when you go to bed at night?” I used to listen to the Cincinnati Reds baseball network or a replay of Casey Kasem’s American Top 40. We all had something that we listened to.
He suggested that we turn it all off and listen to nothing. “Your day is loaded with sound. Enjoy the sound of silence.” (I’m making up that quote, by the way, but he certainly said something like that.)
Later in life, I’ve interpreted his comment as one that reaches beyond the “sound of silence,” into the realm of theological reflection. “Create time,” he may as well have been saying, “for creative reflection in your life. Think more deeply about things. Don’t rely only on the opinions or thoughts of others; take time to think for yourself.”
I must admit that I worry about our addiction to a social media empire that pulls us away from quiet, reflection, and a deeper level of thinking. I worry about a news industry that invites us to tune in only to opinions we already agree with.
I worry that we don’t take time to breathe.
Perhaps that’s where the church comes in. Worship is many things, but it’s certainly a time set aside to breathe. A place where we invite the Holy Spirit to encounter us, challenge us, and walk alongside us.
After his resurrection, Jesus tracked down his confused disciples and did a curious thing: “He breathed on them” (John 20:22). He knew they needed it.
So do we.