One of my favorite Bruce Springsteen songs is “My Hometown.” In the song Springsteen vividly describes the rugged beauty of a hometown right alongside of the town’s very real brokeness as a community. If you’ve never heard the song – watch this video. Springsteen poetically nails the reality of every hometown. Each place already carries the glory of God’s graces in ways that need hardly any adjustment. At the same time, each place carries the brokeness of humanity’s flight from God that needs radical adjustment.
I was reminded of these two realities in my own hometown last night. Aleta and I bought tickets to see one of our favorite comedians – Mike Birbiglia – do his routine at the old Rio Theatre where Faith Community Church got its start. It was crazy seeing the Rio packed out for comedy in a way it was never packed out for worship. As I stood in line, nearly gagging from the pungent aroma of weed being inhaled behind me, genuinely concerned I would have a contact high, I was struck by the brokeness of our city. At the same time I was also struck by the joy and the freedom of the people standing in line – a real mark of the city of Santa Cruz. I was even more struck by the humor of this place when during Mike’s act he asked if anyone had ever been arrested. An older woman in the second row raised her hand and said, “I’ve been arrested!” Birbiglia asked, “Why were you arrested!” I couldn’t hear her first response,but Mike immediately started laughing and asking, “Did you just say what I think you just said? You were arrested for what!?” Then she repeated herself much more loudly, “I was arrested for ‘Animal Compassion!'” At that moment the entire room erupted in laughter. Aleta and I began to laugh with that very ugly face you get when your laughter is completely out of your control. Then Birbiglia said this about my hometown, “Only in Santa Cruz right!?” He was absolutely right – only in Santa Cruz.
The older I get I have come to realize this love for my hometown actually involves two seemingly contradictory realities that are polar opposites of each other. On the one hand, I treasure and admire the beauty of the place, the openness and the freedom of the people that make this community so good, and so touched by God’s grace whether people know it or not. On the other hand, I hate the general commitment to flee from God and all of the broken consequences that flow out of that flight from Him. But I’ve come to believe it’s all love for my hometown. How about your hometown? How is it already reflecting the goodness of God to all humanity? How is it in need of redemption?