Over the last couple of days I have been reading the news about the Bruce Springsteen concert in Moncton Sunday night. I had always said that if he ever came to the area I would go. Then the ticket prices changed my mind. Now, to be honest, I’m living with a bit of regret…
But what’s a pastor doing thinking about Bruce Springsteen anyway? Aren’t we supposed to stay away from “secular” music, movies, etc.? I don’t think so. While we need to exercise caution about what we take in through our eyes and ears, we can also learn and grow as we hear other voices. These other voices often they point to things that we miss out on. They live in the same world we do, and are often pretty perceptive about the way things are. And if the gospel is going to be truly good news to the world we live in, the better we understand the situation of this world, the better we’ll be able to communicate that gospel in it.
In other words, like good literature, “secular” music can serve to reflect and diagnose the situation of the world in sin. Springsteen often explicitly notes the presence of sin in even “good” lives, as in the song “Racing in the Street” with its protagonists who “ride to the sea and wash these sins off our hands.”
One of the consequences of sin is that we are low on contentment. Springsteen’s early lyrics capture very well the escapist attitude that often accompanies late adolescence and early adulthood. In “Thunder Road” he beautifully renders the intoxicating effect of those dreams:
Roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair
Well the night’s busting open, these two lanes will take us anywhere
We got one last chance to make it real
To trade in these wings on some wheels
Climb in back, heaven’s waiting on down the tracks
Oh-oh come take my hand
We’re riding out tonight to case the promised land…
It’s a town full of losers and I’m pulling out of here to win
(“Thunder Road”, from Born to Run, 1975)
If everyone’s story needs to be told in order to be understood, then the story of most people in my generation, who don’t want to settle down into adulthood, has been given eloquent voice in these Springsteen songs from the years around our birth.
But even as we notice ourselves thinking this way, the gospel tells us we’re wrong. Life, and especially Christian life, is not all about running away in a quest for that elusive “something else” away from this “town full of losers.”
Through the mansions of fear, through the mansions of pain
I see my daddy walking through them factory gates in the rain
Factory takes his hearing, factory gives him life
The working, the working, just the working life
(“Factory”, from Darkness on the Edge of Town, 1978)
The worker in Springsteen’s “Factory” knows that “the working life” costs something, but it’s also the life that provides him with sustenance and day-to-day needs.The communities we live in, and the church communities we are part of, may not always excite us or seem ideal, but they provide us a home and an environment in which to grow up toward maturity together. This is what God intends:
It was (Christ) who gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ…From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Ephesians 4:11-13, 16)
Can we settle into our communities and churches and be willing to let go of our own need for constant “personal fulfillment”? If we commit ourselves to being and growing with one another as the body of Christ, even though it isn’t always easy or fun, we may find ourselves actually freed, perhaps surprisingly, to live.