LESSONS FROM SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION FOR CORONAVIRUS TIMES
U2's SONG OCTOBER FOR CORONAVIRUS TIMES

IS JESUS PLAYING HARD TO GET? OR...

RichMullins7-19-1997

A Tweet from my friend Brendan Mulgrew, early in the week, set off a Sunday sermon thread in my imagination:

“That is a day full of bad news. Where is the light?”

That went rather well with the last sentence of the Lectionary Reading from Exodus 7: 1-7:

“Is the Lord among us or not?”

Those two phrases had me immediately hearing in my head a song by the late Rich Mullins. I was actually thrilled to find a potent reason to use Rich’s song Hard To Get in a Fitzroy sermon.

Hard To Get is I believe Rich at his most spiritually honest, vulnerable and insightful. It is also one of his cleverest lyrics and best honed songs. Not part of this blog but a blog in itself is the incredible line - “And I know it would not hurt any less/

Even if it could be explained”. Let that depth charge seep!

Sadly, we only have a poor quality version of Rich singing it, into him boom box. The late Rick Elias does a great version on the main CD of the Jesus Album. For our Fitzroy sermon I used a version by Belfast singer songwriter Andrew Patterson.

Hard To Get is a questioning of God. In fact it pushes the lines towards blasphemy as it turns almost into an interrogation. Accusing God of playing Hard To Get isn’t part of the regular diet at modern worship services! 

Rich asks Jesus who is now in heaven, radiance and eternity whether he ever thinks of us who are left on earth and in time. Has he forgotten about us because as Rich prays in the dark night of his soul Jesus seems to indeed be playing Hard To Get:

 

“You who live in radiance

Hear the prayers of those of us who live in skin

We have a love that's not as patient as Yours was

Still we do love now and then

Did You ever know loneliness

Did You ever know need

Do You remember just how long a night can get?

When You were barely holding on

And Your friends fall asleep

And don't see the blood that's running in Your sweat

Will those who mourn be left uncomforted

While You're up there just playing hard to get?”

 

There is acknowledgement of the incarnation and Jesus living among us but have you forgotten us now.

I used the song as the central thread of a sermon preached in Covid-19 Times on a text about the Israelites wondering if God is still among them as they thirst in the wilderness.

Many of us might feel like those Israelites and wonder if God is with them or playing hard to get. Many of us might feel like every day is full of bad news and wonder where the light is.

Rich leads us on and then ambushes us with his final insight. A spiritual twist in the tale. He acknowledges Jesus love for him and how that love was demonstrated in the incarnation. He concludes with that twist. It is not so much Jesus playing hard to get as it is us finding it hard to get the ways of God. Powerful!

 

“And I know you bore our sorrows

And I know you feel our pain

And I know it would not hurt any less

Even if it could be explained

And I know that I am only lashing out

At the One who loves me most

And after I figured this somehow

All I really need to know

Is if You who live in eternity

Hear the prayers of those of us who live in time

We can't see what's ahead

And we can not get free of what we've left behind

I'm reeling from these voices that keep screaming in my ears

All the words of shame and doubt blame and regret

I can't see how You're leading me unless You've led me here

Where I'm lost enough to let myself be led

And so You've been here all along I guess

It's just Your ways and You are just plain hard to get"

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