LETTERS FROM OUR RECTOR, THE REV. JIMMY GRACE-
For almost 30 years I have considered myself a fan of the Irish band U2. I won’t go so far as to say that they are the Beatles of my generation, but like many people, I feel they are pretty close. Of every song in their catalog, there is one that clearly stands out as a favorite to me: “Where the Streets Have No Name.” This opening song from their 1987 album The Joshua Tree was written by their guitarist with the hope of being the ultimate live U2 song.
From its live premiere in Tempe, Arizona, the song has remained a standard in almost every concert the band has played since. The lead singer Bono (his real name is Paul Hewson) says about this 30-year-old crowd favorite: "We can be in the middle of the worst gig in our lives, but when we go into that song, everything changes. The audience is on its feet, singing along with every word. It's like God suddenly walks through the room."
What is the song about? Like all good songs, it is about many things. In my mind it is about the Kingdom of Heaven, as a place with no class distinction, a place where streets have no name; where all are equal in the City of God. When I saw them perform this song live almost 14 years ago, Bono spoke these words over the song’s introduction:
What can I give back to GOD
for the blessings he’s poured out on me?
I’ll lift high the cup of salvation—a toast to GOD!
I’ll pray in the name of GOD;
I’ll complete what I promised GOD I’d do,
and I’ll do it together with his people.
The words are not his – they are from verses 10 – 12 of the 116th entire song became a response to the question the author of the psalm asks – what can we possibly give back to God for the blessings poured out upon us?
What can we give back to God? Our gratitude. In our act of gratitude, we follow through on the promise we make to God, together, as a church. God continues to express generosity and gives to us in ways we can hardly imagine – not because of what we do, but because of grace. God’s gifts come to us without strings attached. Our gifts to God should be returned in the same way.
We are blessed at St. Andrew’s in so many ways. Children are running through our halls and learning about God’s love in our classrooms. Our under-served neighbors are welcomed at our front door with Trish’s smiling face and a wholesome meal. Our church is more full on Sunday mornings than it has been in some time. How generous God is! In the coming weeks you will receive a pledge card. In the weeks before you fill out your card, I hope you commit your pledge to God in prayer. That number you write on your pledge card is between you and God. In my family’s home, we are committed to St. Andrew’s and hopeful for its future. We intend to pledge $12,000 for the 2014 year.
The paradox of giving away our possessions for God’s use is that we discover the freedom that comes with generosity. When we are generous, we are most like God! Where is God calling St. Andrew’s? The answer is simple: we are called to reach out generously to form disciples and become that place where all are welcomed and loved – a place where streets need no name.
Oh Lord, giver of life and source of our freedom, we are reminded that Yours is “the earth in its fullness; the world and those who dwell in it.” We know that it is from your hand that we have received all we have and are and will be. Gracious and loving God, we understand that you call us to be the stewards of Your abundance, the caretakers of all you have entrusted to us. Help us always to use your gifts wisely and teach us to share them generously. May our faithful stewardship bear witness to the love of Christ in our lives. We pray this with grateful hearts in Jesus’ name. Amen.