There are few cover songs that I like. When a musical artist plays their own rendition of another artist’s song, I often find that the result is flat. To me it often sounds like an artist is doing their best impression of the artist they are covering and they inevitably fall short every time. Did you know that the new wave band, Blondie, did a cover of Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire? I was not very impressed. I am also not in love with Tom Jones’ cover of Prince’s Kiss.
There is one recent band that has been doing some pretty interesting and enjoyable cover songs. Mexrissey is an all-Mexican band that covers the music of the former Smith’s frontman, Morrissey. Mexrissey takes the melodramatic music of this British rocker and infuses their uniquely Mexican flavor to it. This is not yet another cover band inadequately trying to imitate another musician. They have made the music their own while preserving the core of the songs. All of the songs they perform have been translated into Spanish and the traditional rock instrumentation of guitar, bass guitar, drums, and voice now include horns and are performed in a mariachi inspired style.
I really like Mexrissey because they were able to hold onto the core of the Morrissey songs including the familiar melodies, but managed to make them truly their own. They perform those old Morrissey songs in a fresh and contextual way.
The church is called into a similar relationship with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. On the one hand, we have been entrusted with an old and timeless message. God so loved the world that God gave us Jesus Christ so that all who believe in him might have eternal life. God did not send the Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it. (John 3:16-17). At its core, that Gospel message never changes. Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Jesus still is able and desires to save the world from the power of sin and death. The church has been called to proclaim that in Christ, all those powers that seek to separate us from each other and the love of God have been defeated on the cross. That message is the same today as it was 2,000 years ago.
At the same time, however, our message needs be proclaimed in new ways to address the unique struggles and sins affecting our unique communities. The apostle Paul understood that the way we proclaim the timeless message of God’s unconditional love needs to be proclaimed in ways that address the uniqueness of the people. He writes, “…I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. To the Jews, I became as a Jew… To those outside the law I became as one outside the law… To the weak I became weak, I have become all things to all people…” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).
Jesus had a single message of God’s love that had different implications and effects on different people. To the rich young man it meant selling all that he had and giving it to the poor (Mark 10:17-22). To blind Bartimaeus, it meant regaining his sight (Mark 10:46-52). To the poor it meant hearing the proclamation that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them (Matthew 5:2). To those mourning it meant being assured that they will be comforted (Matthew 5:3).
Saint Bartholomew and the entire church of Jesus Christ are tasked with proclaiming the Gospel to those who are aching to hear it. To the one who is hungry, that Good News of God’s abundant love is adequate food. To the one who is afraid, the Good News is comfort. To the one who is addicted to drugs, the Good News is recovery.
Saint Bartholomew is engaged in active discernment and prayerful service seeking to live out the Good News to our unique context here in Franklin Park. You may be seeing some changes to old ministries and some outright new ways of proclaiming the Gospel springing up in our community of faith! Saint Bart has hosted a Community BBQ for years in our parking lot. This year we are going to try singing our old Gospel song in a new way. We will be adding a Community Resource Fair in addition to the regular BBQ activities. We will be hosting a variety of social service providers who will share resources for utility assistance, healthcare assistance, food assistance, housing assistance, and more. We are trying to faithfully proclaim Good News to those God has sent to us in ways that counter the “Bad News” in our lives. Christ invites us all to share in this exciting and ever-changing proclamation of God’s unconditional and life-giving love. Consider how God is calling you to share the old, unchanging message of the God who dwells with us, who would give anything to be with us, and defeats death itself to protect us. Consider how that message can best be heard by those around us. What sins afflict us? What ways has death encompassed us? What does God say about the defeat of these powers? What does this defeat look like and how can we live into it?
These are scary but exciting times for the church to be living in. Together, as the body of Christ, we will continue to proclaim that unchanging message of Christ’s victory in the Cross and we will proclaim it and live it in the new ways God is calling us. We are called to sing that old Gospel song in a new Good News way. The Church is the cover band of Jesus Christ and it is singing out his Gospel song for all to hear.