Recently I was introduced to a singer-songwriter, Carrie Newcomer. In her song, “Where You Been”, she has a phrase that just grabbed me: “all us crazy, holy, hungry ones who still believe in something better.” As I’ve listened to that song several times, I have found this verse wanting to make a home in me. It’s a phrase that I think Jesus would have loved, because I think he lived the truth of it profoundly. Indeed, I think that songwriter felt the same way (listen to the whole song, and you’ll see what I mean). And as I’ve lived with this phrase for a while, I want it more and more to be the tag line for the Christian movement. Think about what it might mean:
crazy = a word used to describe people who don’t see or experience reality the way most people do. Jesus didn’t see reality the way everyone else did. He kept talking about a kind of alternative reality, the kingdom of God, that lay just beneath the common cultural reality and yet was more real than any cultural reality could ever be. To follow Jesus is to try to see the world as Jesus saw it, and, as the song says, on the basis of that vision believe in something better.
holy = a word that we too often define as some kind of purity or perfection. Recently, however, I was reminded that it can mean something quite different. In the biblical book of Leviticus, chapter 19, the people of Israel are called to be holy: “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.” The passage then goes on to suggest what being holy might mean, and rather than speaking of purity or perfection, the passage speaks of fairness, justice and loving your neighbor as yourself. That’s the kind of holiness that heals both individuals and communities. When we embrace the holiness of justice and love of our fellow human beings (which Jesus, in the gospels, links with love of God), then we truly are working with God to bring the holiness of wholeness into the world.
hungry = a word that we use to indicate our own emptiness and our desire to be filled. It’s not a word that applies only to our stomachs. It also applies to our deepest yearnings and longings, the ones that we find at the depths of our own beings. Some have described it as the God-sized hole within us, the one that only God can fill. The world is full of people who are hungering for the holiness of wholeness, for love and justice, for an experience of the God who is both transcendent and immanent. Every day, people try to satisfy that hunger with addictions or obsessions of various kinds: food, buying stuff, drugs, etc. Yet, they are never filled because what they are consuming is incapable of answering that deep hunger.
The Christian community is, I believe, called to be a community of these crazy, holy, hungry ones who still believe in something better — that is, who still believe that there is more to the world than there seems to be, a deeper reality and a more profound truth rooted in God. It is just these crazy, holy, hungry ones that Jesus gathered around himself. He showed them that their belief in something better was not unfounded. He liberated them from all that burdened them, he freed them from stifling cultural realities, he loved them into greater holiness and wholeness and he fed their deepest longings.
I’m thinking of putting a new sign in front of my church: “Everyone’s invited – including you crazy, holy, hungry ones who dare to still believe in something better.”