redemption center


    About a month ago, as I was sitting in church, my mind bounced from one hymnal to another as we sang something familiar from our song book and the next thing I knew the song playing in my head was an old Sunday night favorite from my Baptist days:

    Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it
    Redeemed by the blood of the lamb
    Redeemed by his infinite mercy
    His child and forever I am

    (The tune most people know is this one, but my favorite is Aubrey Butler’s version.)

    I spent about a week working through a blog post on what the word redeemed means to me, starting with licking S&H Green Stamps for my grandmother so we could go together to the Redemption Center and turn them in for stuff. When I was in seminary, I used to drive by the an S& H Redemption Center and imagine lines of people waiting to be changed, in much the same way I wish, when I hand my parking ticket to someone and ask to be validated that they would say, “You’re awesome.”

    Every time I have tried to write about all of this over the last few weeks, I get here and I don’t know where to go. Though I love the melodies, I have always struggled with the sacrificial atonement as it was taught to me because I never understood who needed to be satisfied. (A discussion for another post or seven.) Somewhere along the way in my life, the word took on real meaning for me because of a phrase in the King James Bible that occurs twice (Ephesians 5:16 and Colossians 4:5):

    redeeming the time.

    I always read the phrase to mean making meaning out of what was happening. I came back to the phrase and my vain attempts at writing about redemption after reading the article on Bruce Springsteen in the new Rolling Stone that called out at me in the supermarket line this morning as I stopped to buy cereal and applesauce on the way to work. As he talked about how he grew into his life as a rock singer, he said,

    But if you learn to organize your desires and demands and shoot them into something that is more than just being you, you start to communicate. I wanted to be a part of the world around me.

    Wait – there’s more.

    All you want is for your voice to be part of the record, at a particular time and place. You try to be on the right side of history. And maybe some other kid will hear that and go, “Oh, yeah, that sounds like the place I live.”

    At the risk of being overly quoteful, one more:

    And the fire I feel in myself and the band – it’s a very enjoyable thing. It carries an element of desperateness. It also carries an element of thankfulness. We are perched at a place where we want to continue on – with excellence. That’s our goal. And all the rest of the stuff – we’re gonna figure it out.

    Though I wonder if Fanny Crosby and Bruce have ever been mentioned together in a blog post before, I have no doubt she knew of the creative tension between desperation and gratitude that Springsteen so beautifully names. If the two were street names, we would know the address of the redemption center: that place where we continue on with excellence, figuring the rest of the stuff out.



    1. I’ve always thought, when traveling on the backroads of Maine, where there isn’t much going on but tractor /snowmobile dealerships, abandoned farmhouses and white churches advertising bean suppers, that the term “redemption center” for the place you returned your pop cans for five cents, was a signpost for something huge that we could barely understand. Flannery O’Connor could help us out here.
      Thanks for another great post.
      Anne (presently from Michigan)

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