Wednesday, July 14, 2010

when non-priests pray – as Spirit making a world habitable

Here in an excerpt from my recent paperWhen non-priests pray: A conversation between Sarah Coakley and Bono Vox regarding incorporative pneumatology and priestly prayer.

Yet at the heart of the incorporative pneumatology of Romans 8 is that of the Spirit at work in all creation, in spaces and places both inside and outside ecclesial. Such Spirit-ed activity makes sense of a number of “non-priestly” stories within the Biblical narrative. Consider Melchizedek in the Abrahamic narrative (Genesis 14), Balaam’s blessing of Israel (Numbers 22-24) and the worship of the Magi (Matthew 2). All of these are moments in which people outside the faith community offers public prayer. All can be claimed to be some expression of the activity of God’s Spirit.

Bono has often been called a prophet. Yet the argument that “Mysterious ways” is a call to worship suggests that Bono, arms raised, is serving as a contemporary cultural priest.

Bruce Marshall in The Holy Spirit: Classic and Contemporary Readings, conceives the Spirit as the One who works to make the world “habitable.” Such an approach to pneumatology provides one final way in which to analyse the U2 concert I experienced.

It is significant that at a number of points throughout the concert, Bono invited those gathered to pray. They were invited at the beginning of the song “Sunday, Bloody, Sunday,” to listen to a recording of Radio Tehran. Such can be framed as an invitation to lament.

They were invited during “Walk On” to send prayers to Aung San Suu Kyi in her quest for freedom. This invitation comes in the form of a bodily action, to touch our heart and to send our love.

Using liturgical language, in “Mysterious Ways” Bono called those gathered to worship, to “move with her.” During “Sunday, Bloody, Sunday,” those gathered were invited to engage in lament, while during “Walk On” those gathered were invited to “pray for others” and finally to make an “Offering” by texting their support for the One campaign.

Is this not the work of the Spirit, inviting all of creation, those inside and outside the church, to participate in a world made habitable – in which people say yes to the divine, hear the cry of the oppressed, pray for those held captive and offer ourselves in the quest for justice?

Posted by steve at 08:14 AM


  1. mmm – yes

    Comment by Sarah Agnew — July 14, 2010 @ 11:50 am

  2. I with you brother! One of the most moving spiritual experiences I’ve had was at the Port Fairy Folk Festival where the gospel was sung sometimes at the expense of the institutional church. But, hey, that’s not new, Jesus sang the same song in his day. The God of the universe is far larger than any of our theologies or dare I say it, religions. And GodLove is always to be found in the most surprising of places if we take our religious tinted glasses off. Surely the only question to ask is -does the experience, religious or secular, bring us into closer relationship with GodLove. Ah well enough of this heresy. God’s shalom to you. Tony.

    Comment by Tony Duncan — July 22, 2010 @ 11:10 am

  3. Thanks Tony. Appreciate the experience you share.

    It does raise a question – “how do we discern the shape of “GodLove”” to use your phrase? What are the values and criteria we use, and where do they come from?

    To be provocative, drugs like E give a sense of PLUR – peace, love and respect. They are used at rock concerts. Is that “Godlove” you talk about?

    It’s fascinating and what I was trying to wrestle with in the paper, of which what I posted was just a fragment.


    Comment by steve — July 22, 2010 @ 4:24 pm

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