this past weekend i had the privilege of attending & speaking at a great conference in Pittsburgh, PA called Jubilee. Jubilee has long been a spiritual pilgrimage for me…i think this was 7th or 8th time attending, though it was my first time leading breakouts (one on porn & one on youth ministry).
Jubilee is put on by the CCO, a group that transforms college students to transform the world. what it does better than any other conference that i’ve been to or know of is in challenging and enabling participants (mostly college-aged students) to grasp and live how Christ’s redemptive and restorative power is at work throughout the entirety of culture. business, entertainment, education, healthcare, vocational ministry, social sectors, arts, literature…you name it and He wants us to be his agents of redemptive change.
another piece that jubilee does beautifully is the mixing together of radically different speakers, artists, practitioners and culture makers. last year Chuck Colson and Donald Miller spoke on back to back nights. it seems to me that that’s unlikely to happen in most places. this year a player from the Pittsburgh Steelers shared about his faith before an incredible jazz band played, explaining to us and enlightening the redemptive themes of their music. the worship band for the weekend had cellos & trumpets, piano players & guitar bangers, and somehow melded old-school Delirious worship choruses, rich traditional hymns, and brand new songs of worship all together into meaningful and exuberant sets.
but the whole point of this post is about one line in a song that was brought by Justin McRoberts. i’m a long-time fan of Justin, from road-tripping to his concerts back in my college days, and have always appreciated his honesty, clear faith, bare-boned music style, and dry humor. as a fellow guitar player, i see courage in someone willing to brave a stage with solely their voice and stringed instrument…no back-up band needed here. as he sung the following words off the lead song of his new CD, they took up a permanent echoing residence in my brain that i haven’t been able to shake:
the question isn’t are you gonna die,
you’re gonna die…
but will you be done living when you do.
all weekend long this theme resonated through the various presenters. Bill Strickland, founder of the Manchester Craftsmen Guild, painting beautiful pictures of what it means to value all of humanity, even the poorest of the poor, and exemplifying with his life what it means to utterly pour yourself out into your community, where he’s lived all his life and will live until he dies, according to his own words. Leroy Barber, president of Mission Year, who reminded us that loving our neighbors is amongst our highest callings in life and doesn’t come without sacrifice. Andy Crouch, who called us to sing with our lives, not apathetically but with discipline and with loose jaws. and many, many more.
we’re trained and taught our whole lives to live safely. to strategically position safety nets, to test the waters, to do trial runs before we really risk something. and while i agree there’s something to be said for planning & purposeful decision-making, we can’t afford to continue to co-opt the extravagant serving of grace and love that the Gospel serves up by doling it out in teaspoon sized portions. we need to live extravagant & ridiculous grace. wasteful and overflowing love. redemptively in ways that willingly defies reality.