She’s hilariously quirky. Her song is trite. Her musicianship is weak. Her presentation is garish. But it works. All of the pieces come together in a wonderfully light-hearted way that is both self-expressive and ego-free, which in itself is a huge accomplishment. Here’s Lorraine Bowen singing her self-written Crumble song on Britain’s Got Talent.
In a very real way, she reminds me of the Church when we’re at our best. Yep, our best. The Church is a quirky bunch. There’s no getting around it. There are worship leaders who think they should’ve been rock stars and pastors who try to be hipsters. Both are ridiculous. But I guess that’s part of being a quirky bunch. They’re kind of like Lorraine’s aluminum foil dress.
The beauty of the Church is our oddity.
We are mixed and matched jumble of peculiar personalities. One of my favorite books that walks through the peculiarities of God’s people throughout the Bible is Frederick Buechner’s Peculiar Treasures. Name by name, Buechner highlights with deft humor the non-heroic oddities who inhabit the pages of our Bibles. But amid the laughter, he writes, “What struck me more than anything else as I reacquainted myself with this remarkable rag-bag of people was both their extraordinary aliveness and their power to make me feel somehow more alive myself for having known them.”
The fact that the Bible has no heroes other than God himself is a comfort to the rest of us non-heroes. Every biblical character has her wart or his tragic flaw just like you and me. And the Bible’s bald honesty about the messiness of God’s people throughout all generations enables us to be honest about our sins and shortcomings. At least, it should.
We don’t apologize for our quirks. Those quirks are our apologetic. They prove the love of God to those who question it.
In a world that strives for perfection, we can be imperfect. We can be real, because we know we’re loved in the very midst of our imperfections. After all, “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:7-8). That’s real love.
The way our world works is that supermodels who start to show some aging get ditched for the new beauties. Athletes who start to slow down get cut for quicker, stronger, better players. And so it goes. As long as you look and act perfectly, we’ll give you the riches of the world. But the moment you sag or lag, we turn our backs on you.
That’s what’s so refreshing about Lorraine Bowen, as she flaps her arm fat to the laughter of millions. She’s good at something (making crumble!), but she feels no need to be perfect. And I don’t believe it’s self-confidence that enables her to be so odd and flawed in front of the masses. I believe it’s a sense of being loved no matter what by God or family or some sort of community (even if it’s a community of cats).
And that’s what the Church is like when we’re at our best. A gathering of cast-offs who know that we’re loved and therefore able to do hilariously beautiful things for a world that is trying way too hard to do it on its own.
And what’s super cool is that God gives gifts (he’s really generous that way) to all of his odds-and-ends people. As gift-receivers, we immediately become special. But what’s best about these gifts is that they are themselves meant to be given away. They aren’t meant just to the receiver, but to those that the receiver uses them for.
(By the way, Lorraine Bowen has been doing the same kitschy performances with her Casio and ironing board for 25 years. And we’ve been laughing the whole time.)
(Oh. And I’m not good at making crumble. But my wife is.)