Friday night was my second "live" introduction to Peter Rollins. He was here in Grand Rapids fifteen months ago, and I had the opportunity to spend a number of hours with him over several days. This time things were quite different though. Pete on stage doing his thing is different than face to face conversation... yet it was still good.
Peter is a good story teller and an equally good host. He and his co-conspirators on this tour were interesting and provocative at times. Creativity and art along with song, particularly poetry, brought stories to life. An hour after the show was over, Peter was still mingling among the crowd who had come for the evening/.
For some of my friends, the stories and ideas of the night carried the evening. Sometimes the words of Peter ask his listeners if they are honest with faith claims? i.e. If we claim to follow Jesus, are we really living lives that reflect the resurrection? Theologians may jump onto Peter's back for not claiming Jesus lived and died 2000 years ago. Yet he and his friends talked about Jesus as the Prince of Peace, proclaimed him the Son of God, and invoked "Hallelujah" on more than one occasion. If this language of the faith doesn't suffice for the critics, nothing short of an alter call and a five point sermon will quiet those who question Peter's theology.
While I appreciated the words of Peter and company, it was the crowd of people who remain etched on my scratchpad. Just a mile from the downtown, the venue was a hidden blue collar sort of place, and yet people began to congregate two hours before Peter was to take the stage. A crowd of two hundred plus people hanging out, many of whom don't frequent these sort of places, and certainly not on any regular basis, were faithfully gathering during the pubs 'happy hour'.
What brings two hundred people out on a Friday night? A good percentage of these people were tired from a week of work. A good number of these people don't think of a bar atmosphere as a place to hang with friends. But Peter and friends are offering a way of following Jesus that isn't thought of too often from the confines of the church.
Pete suggests another way of thinking about following Jesus. Peter suggests that people of faith, people who follow Jesus Christ, can be people who don't simply conform to the standard doctrinal positions with clean questions and answers. Rather, in the asking of the questions, we can hear our pains and our joys. We can hear and see and smell real life ooze withe the reality of brokenness and of hope for a better tomorrow -- hope for the resurrection of all living things.
In these questions and partial answers we hear and experience the biblical text coming to life. We live into the reality that the gospel demands of us when we feed the poor and cloth the orphan. In so doing we live into the resurrection.
The lasting impression for the night: If followers of Jesus want the church to become what it is intended to be at this moment in history in this particular community called Grand Rapids and/or West Michigan, then we need to persist that our lives collectively represent the one whom we claim to follow. Two hundred people didn't show up at a local pub to drink a beer with several Irishmen. Although we would have, we didn't. We showed up because we still have hope in the one we follow, but we hope that we may follow in ways that we have yet to find.
For these Rollins fans, most regular churches won't allow for the kind of creativity necessary for them. This is not to say local churches are not doing their tasks well, but for some people even the hundreds of churches in Grand Rapids and beyond don't allow for them to grasp the ways of Jesus in the ways that they long to become their reality.
~ On the way out the door I said to Pete, "Let's do 'Two Days With Pete' sometime next winter here in Grand Rapids. With that question, I got more than a nod. I don't think we're done hearing from Pete or the two hundred people who showed up longing for...