In a brief recorded message, Bono made an appearance at Willow Creek Community Church near the end of the 5:30 p.m. worship service on Saturday. The church, located in the south suburbs of Chicago, was wrapping up its “Celebration of Hope,” an annual series challenging members to think theologically and practically about social justice issues.
Earlier in the service, filmmaker Richard Curtis spoke in an interview with founding pastor Bill Hybels. Widely known for his comedy screenwriting (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, Love Actually), Curtis spent time talking about his role creating Comic Relief and Red Nose Day. He is also the founder of Make Poverty History and helped organize Live 8. During the interview, he made a passionate and articulate plea for continued support of Africa and the ongoing effort to eliminate senseless poverty.
As Hybels concluded the worship gathering, he told audience members that Bono had contacted him after hearing about several of the church’s initiatives to help raise funds for and promote awareness of the current refugee crisis. Bono is no stranger to Willow Creek. He has appeared in recorded segments for two of the church’s annual leadership conferences. In a 2006 interview with Hybels, Bono challenged leaders to respond to the AIDS crisis in Africa with compassion and urgency.
During Saturday’s church service, Hybels introduced Bono, saying that he keeps in loose contact with the lead singer as they discuss common concerns and efforts to serve the poor, and then played a message that Bono had sent to him in the middle of the previous night.
Hey, Bill. Hey, Lynne. Hello to everybody at Willow Creek. I’ve been thinking about you all recently and the heroic work you’ve been doing on the refugee crisis. Thank you, thank you.
“I was a stranger, and you let me in.” Matthew 25. It would appear that exile was close to the heart of who Jesus was. I’m also thinking of Matthew 8: “The foxes have holes, the birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Not just “no room at the inn,” Jesus was a displaced person—his family fleeing to Egypt for fear of the life of their firstborn child. Yep, Jesus was a refugee.
Now, our closeness with Christ is not always about proximity to the poor and the vulnerable. But if we’re honest, it often is. “Love thy neighbor—as we’ve all shared in Willow Creek before—“Love thy neighbor” is not advice, it’s a command. In a globalized world, the definition of neighbor is not what it used to be. But, the principle hasn’t changed.
“When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner amongst you must be treated as your native born. Love them as yourself, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.” [Lev. 19:33-34] This refugee crisis, is defining us here in Europe—and less so in the United States—but the whole world has a job to do. And it’s not easy. We have political figures from across the political spectrum demonizing refugees. And we as believers are called to take a stand. I know you will.
Thank you for your leadership, Willow Creek. Thank you.
Not unlike the messages he was preaching a decade ago when crusading for ONE and (RED), Bono continues his call to justice, as well as his rationale to do so from a biblical basis. Once a fierce antagonist of institutional religion, U2’s frontman seems to be extremely comfortable with and genuinely grateful for churches that pursue social justice as an authentic part of their Christian witness.
Bono’s presentation will also be played at the regular Sunday morning services, and is available for streaming at https://willowcreek.tv/.
UPDATE (04/24/2016): Bono’s presentation is available to watch here.