Over a decade ago, before Fi and I had tied the knot or were even an item, we went to a Sting in concert at Leeuwin Estate. It was a big deal to score some tickets and see someone play who’d long been on my bucket list.
There’d been a time when I was travelling through Italy and unwittingly missed him playing in Rome by one day but that was unexpected. This time it was planned.
The logistics for arriving at Leeuwin were tight but comfortable. I’d pick up Fiona from the school where she was teaching and then continue south.
We made decent time, passing through Bunbury with the clock on our side. In any case, missing the advertised time by an hour or so wouldn’t be a big deal. There was a support act.
What happened between Bunbury and the venue is hazy. We got a little lost. Ok, more than a little. These days, you’d just pull out the phone and let Maps take you there. Those were not these days. Neither of us was too concerned, though. In our estimation, Sting wouldn’t be on until 8:30pm-ish and we were a long way off that. Worst case, we might miss the first tune.
As we drove along, we speculated on the idyllic opening song. We settled on ‘Desert Rose’. The intro had all the ingredients for a perfect opening: a rolling melody line that was instantly recognisable, an atmospheric gathering of intensity, and the opportunity to put Sting’s vocal in the spotlight early.
We finally found the entry and had a bit of a walk to the amphitheatre – there were cars everywhere. No problem, though, we could hear the crowd noise building but no music at this point.
As we shuffled to towards the entry, we could hear the audience reaching a crescendo and 100 metres from the entrance, the music began. The luscious, warm overtures of ‘Desert Rose’. Perfect.
We made our way towards the front, stage right, and quite coincidentally found ourselves standing beside four friends. As the song ended and the crowd applauded enthusiastically, I reached over to my mate, Scott, tapped him on the shoulder and said: “How good is this?” Sure, a bit lame, but it was loud and any comment seemed an understatement at that point.
He leant back over and from the corner of his mouth said: “Yeah, so good. You realise this is the encore, right?”.
No. No, I didn’t.
We weren’t quite sure how to respond. We’d just missed the lion’s share of one of the more highly anticipated acts on my list. Given that one or two of those acts have passed away in the intervening years since that concert, it was a big deal.
But the thing was, we hadn’t missed a Sting concert, we were at a Sting concert. And he was singing right now. To lament the situation would be to miss precious Sting-time.
We quickly resolved to unpack the debacle later and do our best to derive a concert’s worth of enjoyment from an encore’s worth of music. An easy equation to overcook.
The encore delivered some gems: A Thousand Years, Sacred Love, If I Ever Lose My Faith in You, and Every Breath You Take. No, I don’t have an encyclopaedic memory for these things, but there are websites that do.
A fine encore, no doubt but, let’s face it, hardly a concert’s worth of Sting-goodness.
We commiserated with a few other friends that we bumped into at the concert before walking back to to the car, half an hour after we’d arrived, in a state of anaesthetised disbelief. Really? We missed Sting cause we got lost and late? That’s not just poor planning, that’s poor form.
In Matthew 20, Jesus tells a story to paint of picture of His Kingdom. It’s set in a vineyard (a bit like Leeuwin) and it compares those who arrived late on the action to those who were there at the advertised time.
Those who are there from the get-go are paid handsomely for their day of work. They work the full twelve hours and are paid well for their labour. Others arrive later in the day, others later still, all the way down to the Sting encore-goers who arrive with an hour of the work day remaining. They’re all paid for a day’s work.
The Master of the vineyard pays the late-comers first. They’re paid the full-day rate. This makes the others think they’re in for some sort of windfall so when they’re paid the generous amount originally agreed, they’re bummed. It’s not that they were short-changed but it feels like it because others got the same for less work.
What’s the point of this kingdom story? It’s highlighting the economy of God’s Kingdom where all are invited and those who respond are included in the action.
There’s no hierarchy of inheritance of this kingdom. There’s no kingdom-lite version for the poor, the prolific sinners, or even those who missed most of the show. They’re all in on the whole action.
Jesus finishes by saying that the last shall be first and the first shall be last. It highlights God’s desire to reconcile us to Himself and the depth of His kindness to us in Jesus.
At some level, I get it.
On another level, I wonder: “Why would anyone stumble around lost on Caves Road when they could be enjoying the sweetness of a full Sting concert?”
Technically, whether you were there from the opening bar or only caught the closing one, you’ve been to a Sting concert. For the latter group, though, I can’t help thinking: “You sure missed a whole lot of fine music.”
Jesus is talking about the fullness of his Kingdom versus the glimpses that we experience right now. My thinking is that the glimpses are magnificent and why would you deny yourself and others the beauty of the Kingdom now (even though it’s a mirror dimly and even though the laggards will inherit the kingdom-come in all its goodness).
Get in on the action now, I reckon. Don’t leave it until later and keep driving on the outskirts when you can drive through the gates and exchange your sin-dead life for a spirit-filled one.
This sacred love won’t be filled with dreams of gardens in the desert sands in the future. Every little thing will be magic.
By the way, around 9pm at the Leeuwin Concert, the support act came on – some hokey country and western outfit. Hardly worth turning up late for – but hey, what sort of losers would do that sort of thing?