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You Got A Fast Car

I am not one to watch award shows. It seems there is an award show every week with the Emmys, Oscars, CMAs, AMAs, BAFTAs, Tony’s…. you get my point. One award show at the beginning of February, to my surprise, did get my attention. The Grammys. 

I am also not one to listen to country music, though I have listened to more since marrying a Montanan.

So it was a total accident that I then scrolled across a video of country music singer Luke Combs sharing his “story of the year” at the 2024 Grammys, where he explains why he chose to cover Tracy Chapman’s 1988 song “Fast Car” which hit #2 on the Billboard Top 100 earlier this year. In the video the country singer explained that Fast Car was his favorite song before he knew what a favorite song was, listening to it play on cassette as he rode in his dad’s. He decided to cover the song just because he loved it so much, not for anyone but himself. Describing how the song makes him feel, Luke Combs shared, “You get to see people having the experience you had with it. It could be felt and related to by all kinds of people, around the world,” adding that even being associated with Tracy Chapman in any way is, ”super humbling for me.” 

After the video, in a surprise performance, Tracy Chapman came out with Luke Combs to perform Fast Car live for the first time in almost 10 years. 

At 33 years old, Luke Combs is a 33 year old straight white country singer from North Carolina at the pinnacle of his career. At 59 years old, Tracy Chapman is a black lesbian folk singer born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio who hasn’t performed live since 2015. Yet in this mountain top moment they came together for a surprise performance as two voices bridging a generation of differences. After the performance Luke Combs bowed toward Tracy Chapman, acknowledging his deep gratitude for her work as an artist as the crowd (including T-Swift) offered a standing ovation. I felt God at work at this moment. Though from the outside having almost nothing in common, these two singers were acknowledging their deep connection, beginning on a cassette tape in an old truck somewhere on a North Carolina road. 

Often it is just easier to focus on our differences because without getting to know one another our differences speak the loudest. This is amplified by the fact that in most spaces we get to choose to stay with our own generation, spending time with friends who share the same common experience in a common context. I am guilty of this, filling most of my friend group with millennials and much cooler elder Gen Z friends who think I am cool for reasons I will never understand. 

This is where I feel the church can be a place of radical inclusion, rooted in what brings us together rather than what the world says makes us so different. The church is the fast car, if we are open to put our foot on the gas. 

Like Tracy Chapman being open to something new built on her legacy, and Luke Combs sharing his authentic desire to honor the past, we have an opportunity as the church to lean into God doing something new.  This opportunity to harness cross generational wisdom, a gift rarely really seen elsewhere in our society today, does take work on our part to be open to new ideas that may take time to come together. 

We as the church are called to make an investment in each other. To learn each others story, to mentor and to be mentored, to assume that another had the best intentions rooted in love, even if the outcome or process challenges our understanding, and then with enough love for each other to ask “why” when we just don’t get it. 

As we continue our journey through Lent, into Holy Week, and end March celebrating the Risen Christ on Easter Sunday, I challenge you to do so not alone but in community. Find someone 25 years younger or older than you and learn their story. Share wisdom and gain wisdom. Be the church, together, because in the words of poet Tracy Chapman, “You still gotta make a decision. Leave tonight, or live and die this way.”

As you are in this moment of change, please remember that Jesus love you, and so do I.

Pastor Dan


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