People Get Ready

12From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing…(Matthew 11)

Sometimes American pop culture is able to transcend itself.  Last night’s episode of American Idol is an excellent example.  The evening’s theme was “Inspirational Songs.”  Crystal Bowersox, held by most to be the frontrunner for season 9, put down her guitar and served up this cover of “People Get Ready.”  More after the jump:

I never stopped to listen to this song or consider how it will preach.  Had Jesus preached in a modern setting, it wouldn’t have been surprising to hear him use this train metaphor for the Kingdom of God.  Check out some of the lyrics:
People get ready, there's a train a comin'
You don't need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin'
Don't need no ticket, you just thank the Lord

How many of us are still struggling to understand that last sentence?  Still trying to buy a ticket, and all we have to do is jump on with a thankful heart.

But be warned.  This message does have a bit of a sharp edge:
There ain't no room for the hopeless sinner
Who would hurt all mankind just to save his own
Have pity on those whose chances grow thinner
For there's no hiding place against the Kingdom's throne

I think the key word here is hopeless.  Hopeless, not because God refuses to help, but hopeless because we refuse to be comforted.  That’s what’s behind Jesus’ invitation: “Repent for the Kingdom of God is near.” It’s also behind his exasperation: 37O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing (Matthew 23).”

Today, let’s be willing.  Let’s stop searching our pockets for a ticket we can’t buy anyway and just jump on…

I would be remiss if I didn’t throw in a link to Curtis Mayfield singing this one, too.  After all, it was his song first. A more qualified historian could speak to this song’s importance to the Civil Rights Movement.  Since Mayfield, dozens of artists have done their own versions. (I’ll spare you the Bob Dylan cover.  You’re welcome.)