I was thinking more about that on Saturday during a fleeting visit to Cologne Cathedral. It was a rather hectic day. My son and I took my teenage daughter and a couple of her school friends to a rock concert by Evanescence at a podium in Cologne. The concert was in the evening, but the girls were anxious to be early so they could get a position near the stage. So we delivered them in the early afternoon in time to be among the first hundred in the queue. We parked the car and my son and I took a metro into the city centre.
The focal point of the centre of Cologne is, of course, the cathedral. We found our way out of the central railway station onto the public space around the cathedral. 'Town square' is the concept according to Wikipedia. It is a remarkable sight. There is the huge, extremely ornate cathedral, with the functional city centre buildings in all sorts of styles pressing in around it, crowding the space.
There was a constant stream of people walking past the cathedral between the station and the shopping area on the other side of the square, like ants between their nest and their food and material supplies. And around the cathedral the tourists of the world were taking their pictures and listening to their tour guides.
We wandered into the cathedral to have a look around. The tourist information explains that the cathedral does not actually have walls but the space between the supporting pillars is filled with the lattice work of coloured glass windows. Nevertheless, there was a sombre darkness inside filling the impressive high long space formed between the soaring columns and arches of the interior.
The place was crawling with tourists and their guides. Far in the distance, beyond the public space was the high altar glowing golden. I tried to relate all this to the God of the Gospel. Could this building, the effort which went into its design and construction and the wonder of it's appearance form a sacrifice of worship acceptable to God? Is that what God is looking for from His people?
I looked at the statues of bishops and princes around the walls and I doubted. It seemed more likely this was built to their glory and power systems rather than to the God of the Gospel.
I looked at the little side altars and shrines, with their racks of little flickering candles and invitations to make an offering to some cause or saint - very picturesque, but my impression was of pagan idolatry, rather than of something which the God of the Gospel would appreciate.
I tried to figure out how does this place contribute to communicating the Gospel to the trail of people passing outside doing their Saturday shopping?
We wandered outside and followed signs to the Old Town, but only found the shopping streets full of all the usual brands and franchises. We did our little bit to contribute to the local economy and it was time to head back to make sure our teenage girls were still OK holding their place in the concert queue.
As we rejoined the ant trail past the cathedral a little miracle happened. The Free Hugs Campaign met us. A fellow human being shared a vigorous hug with me and we exchanged the blessing of Jesus. I was no longer just an anonymous ant. I shared in an expression of the love of God, an offering from an individual, a shared moment of care on a grey Saturday in front of Cologne Cathedral. For me it was a fleeting sharing of the Gospel. But we did not need the cathedral to be able to do it. Free Hugs just need open, willing, caring people.
The evening was a great success. The girls achieved their dream of being near the stage and for them Amy Lee and her band was everything they had hoped for. My son and I were a little further back in the crowd after joining the queue when it was 400 metres long. I enjoyed the spectacle but was still wondering about Chris H-H's questions. How is the Gospel to be communicated to this kind of crowd who are certainly looking for something, for the message in the lyrics and music, for identity in a neo-gothic style of dress?
Amy Lee puts the pain of her own life experiences into her lyrics and music so that they express the experience of generation. The crowd joined in massively singing along to the most moving songs. So the concert became a celebration - a celebration of shared life experience an offering of the artist to her public. As Bono of U2 has said, songs become part of us.
But what does it take to reach this crowd with the Gospel of Jesus? Free hugs? Prayer stations? Just being there praying? More culturally relevant Christian worship music? Just being there?
Anyway, it seems to me the traditional church and its traditional forms of communication has no relevance in this scene even though Amy Lee and the co-founder of the band, Ben Moody, first met on a Christian youth camp.
|History of Evanescence in a nutshell|