Pink Floyd’s 1975 album Wish You Were Here is one of my favourites. The theme of the evocative album is the band’s feeling about Syd Barrett, their former bandmate, who had crashed out due to drugs and a mental condition that made it impossible for him to play his part in the band.
Wish You Were Here
The melancholy Wish You Were Here is the centrepiece of the album and its best known song. In it the band describe their feelings for Syd’s decline and how he had fallen from the band’s original high aspirations:
Did they get you to trade
Your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
How I wish, how I wish you were here
The second verse ends with these words:
Did you exchange
A walk on part in the war
For a lead role in a cage?
I think those lines are devastating.
A lead role in a cage?
I was listening to this song recently in the car, when I saw an awful parallel.
The kingdom of God – the biggest game in town
Jesus announced the coming of the kingdom of God on earth. The game changer that would begin to offer hope and healing to all people and to the earth itself.
Proclaiming good news to the poor.
freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
setting the oppressed free,
and proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favour
(from Luke 4:18-19)
And he calls us to join him in making a difference. Continuing what he had been doing and doing even greater things than he did (hard to imagine, but that’s what he said – John 14:12).
It’s spiritual “warfare”, fighting “principalities and powers”, which you can interpret as spiritual or human evil. But so often it’s done via sacrifice and inconvenience and giving up time and money and energy to help someone else.
Yet too often we turn away from this noble calling to play in our own little kingdoms.
The dangers of professional ministry
It’s easy for any of us to allow ourselves to be caged, But I think it is especially a danger for ministers and pastors.
They have their jobs and they need to keep them. So too often they play the game that keeps the congregation happy and comfortable, and their denomination off their back.
Too often they’re worried about keeping bums on seats, and keeping the income coming in.
Too often they’re worried about their own status and self esteem.
And too often these things keep them from taking risks, challenging their congregations, challenging their denominational status quo, challenging themselves.
They’re only human, after all, and if we were in their position, we’d likely be the same.
But in the end, too often, it’s the lead role in a cage, when they could have an important walk-on part in the real war.
Wish You Were Here (Live)
Pink Floyd on stage, 1973, two years before Wish You Were Here was released (National Archives at College Park [Public domain], via Wikipedia).