"...When I'm gone and at my grave you stand/ Just say God called home your ramblin' man" -- Luke the Drifter.
Sometimes when my friends and I ask others about their experience with church, what we are really saying is "Tell us how bad church screwed up your life like it screwed up ours." It's hard for us to conceive of someone making it to this side of a lifetime in pews and Christian Camps without having at least the hint of a nervous tick jerking through their bodies.
Luckily, though, I often encounter those for whom church was the best thing that ever happened to them. And these are also normal and well adjusted people, not the freaks we expect them to be. There are churches out there that want you to be transformed into a person that looks an awful lot like Christ, but who don't require you to already be walking on water before you enter the doors.
I think this is what we want from a church. In some way we have experienced God, which has left us with the suspicion that we are not what we should be. We want to be with a group of people who will help us become the new creatures that Paul says we are. But we want to be the same person everywhere we go, and when we carry our "outside of church" persona into the four walls, we still want to be taken in. Many of us learned early on to become someone different when we walked through the doors-- and that has made us angry.
Yet we also want the opposite to be true. We've been bathed in the great Truth of the ages, and it would be nice if we could carry that out with us.
In 1985 George Jones released Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes?, a classic lament to the fading away of traditional country music in the 70's and 80's. The song is a virtual walk through a museum, mentioning the names of Jones' musical heroes. Toward the end he makes this proclamation: "You know, the heart of country music still beats in Luke the Drifter. You can tell it when he sang I Saw the Light."
Luke the Drifter didn't sing I Saw the Light, Hank Williams did.
Early in his career Hank Williams wrote a series of improvised "talking songs." (Country roots of hip/hop, anyone?) They were, in essence, the blues. He recorded these songs under the name of his alter ego, Luke the Drifter. Some have suggested Luke the Drifter was the yin to Williams' yang. The common thought is that Luke was the preacher to Williams, the sinner.
When I listen to the dozen or so Luke the Drifter Songs I hear the voice of one who knows full well, and perhaps dwells a little too much, on the depravity of humanity. Yet it's someone who spent his life preaching to the choir.
I Saw the Light was recorded under the name "Hank Williams" the sinner, not "Luke the Drifter", the preacher.
George Jones pulled Luke the Drifter out of the pews, introduced him to Hank Williams, and made them both dance in the streets at the Joy of Seeing the Light.
I'm happy there are churches like Dayspring, Calvary, Lake Shore, UBC, along with others in this town that are refusing to let each of their children be two people at once. They are insisting we be who we are, with a constant eye to who we should be.