Jimmy Fallon, U2 and the Kingdom of God

I came across this video recently on Facebook, even though the actual event took place back in May 2015.

Here’s the gist: Jimmy Fallon and U2 enter a busy subway station in New York in disguise and put on an impromptu performance. It’s worth a watch on so many levels.

I love this video on so many levels. I love Jimmy Fallon’s playfulness that he exudes continuously on his show. I love the U2 is willing to go along with it. I love watching the people’s utter surprise and bewilderment. Most of all I just love the joy that spontaneously erupts up on people’s face when they discover who is in their midst.

I don’t want to over-spiritualize this event, but the video did make me think about the kingdom of God and God’s surprising appearances in and around us.

Now that I am in official “ministry,” I find it all too easy to become discouraged at a lack of displays of God’s kingdom breaking forth. But is this because it is not happening or is it rather a result of not training my eyes to see and my ears to hear? Like some of the people in the video, rushing to catch their train, without noticing what is currently happening, is my life too much like this?

Worse yet, but probably truer: do I write off what I see as nothing because it looks/sounds like U2 in disguise? If I was in that subway station that day, I know for a fact that I would not have given that band another look or listen: “Just another mediocre street performer peddling for money.” How often do I dismiss the seemingly insignificant because in my sinful heart I crave the spectacular? I don’t want to hear a street band perform U2; I want to see U2 perform with all the bells and whistles.

But if I can slow myself down, internally and externally, and train myself to have eyes to see and ears to hear, I might actually notice that the street performer is more than just a street performer. I might actually notice the very spectacular and significant in the most unusual of places.

So much of the story of God at work in this world recorded for us in the Bible is the story of God using the unexpected, the forgotten, the castaways to accomplish his divine purposes. Rahab a gentile prostitute. Ruth another gentile who becomes the great grandmother to King David. And, in the midst of the Advent season, the Christmas story is the story of God showing up in the most obscure places. Easy to quickly walk past. Easy to forget. But there is the Eternal Son of God moving into our world to display God in the most profound and yet simple ways.

It did not stop with his birth—it continued throughout his life, most notably around a table in people’s home, and ultimately culminating in dying a criminal’s death. If I was alive during Jesus’ life, seeing him crucified, I would have written him off. Just another fake in a long line of unfulfilled promised Messiah (and this is exactly what happens, see Luke 24:13-35).

My simplest and quite possibly most profound task as a pastor is to give voice to the work of God first in my own life, and then in the lives of those God has me walking beside. But this takes a willingness to slow down and notice a subway station music group, which might turn out to be the best work yet.