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Do you know the Violent Femmes? If not, you surely know their song, “Blister in the Sun”. The Femmes released that song in 1983 on their debut album, and it’s one of those songs that has eclipsed the band’s own popularity. It’s been in movies, commercials, karaoke… it pops up everywhere.
The Femmes aren’t exactly a one-hit wonder. They have a passionate, loyal fanbase. They still release albums and tour – I actually got to see them here in Dallas a few years ago.
But unquestionably, “Blister in the Sun” has escaped the circle of their fanbase.
I’m always fascinated when a band has a song like that – what happens when you see them live? Most of them save that song for the encore – when we saw Sir Mix-a-Lot, he played “Baby Got Back” second to last (after asking us to stay to hear one more brand new song). And when we saw Leigh Nash – the singer of Sixpence None the Richer – a few years ago, she wove “Kiss Me” into the middle of her set, doing it as a stripped down, acoustic version.
I assumed the Femmes were going to do the same — play some of their favorites up front, fill the middle of the set with a few new songs and end — or maybe encore — with their big banger.
So I was pretty surprised when they opened with “Blister in the Sun.” Right out of the gate, here’s the song that blasted into the stratosphere.
I was surprised, but then I got the message: If you came here just to hear that song, you can go now. The rest of the concert is for the real fans.
It’s probably the most punk rock thing I’ve ever experienced at a concert. They knew exactly who they are, who their fans are, and what it means to have one of those songs that really blows up.
They also know they have a career for the fans who keep buying albums and support more than just that one song.
So they created a live experience that caters not to the one-hit-wonder fans, but to the fans of the band.
The Femmes illustrate what we see in Jesus in this last week of his life. He came to Jerusalem as God among the people, to show us what a truly faithful human life looked like in the face of the power of Rome and the collaboration of the urban elites.
And today — on Palm Sunday — Jesus is welcomed into the city by the throngs of peasants who have traveled to Jerusalem with him. They hailed him as the Messiah, which meant they had a very particular song they expected him to play.
But Jesus steadfastly refused to play any of the hits. He offered none of the classic Messiah songs. Because Jesus didn’t let anyone else define what kind of Messiah he was. He came, if I can stretch this metaphor, to play the songs he wanted to play — the songs God gave him and no others.
Today, we’re going to explore Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and what his faithfulness looked like in the midst of all those competing expectations about him.