I’m always searching for what Jesus is trying to say to me. Sometimes I hear the Lord speaking during my prayers or daily scripture reading. Other times I can hear the Gospel when someone tells me about his or her new life in Christ, and how the sins of someone’s past have been forgiven and reconciliation has begun. Every Tuesday I glean iTunes for new music and this morning I heard the Gospel in Adele’s newest single, “Hello.” I’m not saying that the song is sacred or Christian or is meant for Sunday morning worship, but who ever said that Christ was confined to four walls and a steeple. Not to mention that the Gospel gave birth to the Church, not the other way around.
Now that the disclaimers are out of the way, here’s the chorus of Adele’s (soon to be a #1 single–it was released Tuesday and has already been played 22 million times on Spotify) new song:
Hello from the other side
I must’ve called a thousand times
To tell you I’m sorry for everything that I’ve done
But when I call you never seem to be home
Hello from the outside
At least I can say that I’ve tried
To tell you I’m sorry for breaking your heart
But it don’t matter, it clearly doesn’t tear you apart anymore
(“Hello,” by Adele, 2015)
Of course we can read this as song between two lovers who have not reconciled after a separation, but I wonder how this song might guide our prayers if we hear this as silent prayers offered between the church and those outside of the church’s walls?
Hello from the other side (inside the church). Imagine that the first part of the chorus is the Church’s silent prayer. The church isn’t perfect. Over the last two thousand years the church has missed Christian perfection in significant ways. I’ve often said that the church would be perfect if it weren’t for all the people in it. The Church has always been about following Christ, but along the way we’ve known violence, coercion, oppression, and exploitation. It hurts to even type it, but this song offers helpful words. Understandably, the Church seeks the least and the lost in order to share the light of Christ, but maybe the Church’s own confession and desire for pardon has been a forgotten narrative. I think “I’m sorry for everything I’ve done,” goes too far, never mind that forgiveness is quite difficult when confession is general, ambiguous, and over-reaching to the point of meaninglessness. Nevertheless, saying hello from the other side of the church door is a humble step in a holy direction.
Hello from the outside (of the church). Imagine that this part of the song is sung from outside the walls of the church. Adele sings, “I’m sorry for breaking your heart, but it don’t matter, it clearly doesn’t tear you apart anymore.” These are damning words if spoken to the church from the outside. It should “tear us apart” when pews are empty, potluck leftovers are tossed because there weren’t enough in the fellowship hall, offering dollars are redirected from mission to maintenance, and doctrine is boiled down to standing on one side or the other of the “fill in the blank” controversy.
This weekend I have the blessing of attending a UMC South Central Jurisdictional meeting where we will discuss the forest in spite of the trees. This big picture discussion is a good and holy and needed dialogue, but I pray that the lens through which we investigate the forest while we stand on the canopy is a lens constructed with “Hello from the outside” in mind.
Adele’s song ends with a haunting minor chord. I wonder if our song might end differently?