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Vol. 80 - No. 10
Oct 2009

WORD FROM THE PASTOR:             

Beatle Thoughts

"Beatlemania is in the air!" exclaimed a teenaged member of our congregation recently. Indeed it is: remastered versions of the original Beatle albums are selling like hotcakes, while a recently-released Rock Band videogame allows players to participate in their music. You can’t walk into one of the big booksellers today without hearing a Beatles song. Once again, the Fab Four is taking the nation by storm.

The first time I remember hearing about the Beatles was in a barber shop when I was eight years old. The barbers were fretting that, if the mop-top hairstyle came into vogue, they would lose a lot of business. I remember one of the barbers asking me, "So, David, are you going to grow your hair like the Beatles?" I mumbled something like "Probably not."

The Beatles were big then, and they’re still big now. Not, however, bigger than Jesus–despite John Lennon’s unfortunate 1966 comment that "We’re more popular than Jesus now." Jesus still sits at the right hand of the Father and has all authority and power in His hands–you don’t get bigger than that! The recent surge in Fab Four popularity motivates me–as a follower and preacher of the Holy Lord who is still bigger than the Beatles–to offer a few reflections on the Beatles and Christian faith.

The power of cooperation and community. Someone once remarked that the Beatles almost seemed to discover their music rather than creating it–the music was so extraordinary, while the lads who created it seemed so ordinary. It was almost like they were receiving it from some Higher Realm. I don’t think that "All You Need Is Love" or "Ticket to Ride" were lowered down from heaven–but I do think that the Beatles’ music gives a great example of the power of people working together. The group had a chemistry that enabled it to achieve much greater things together than its members could have achieved alone. (Entertainment Weekly was able to list "The Fifty Greatest Beatles Songs". Could anyone name five really great songs that individual Beatles created alone, after the band’s breakup? I can only think of two that make the grade–Harrison’s "My Sweet Lord" and Lennon’s "Imagine".)

So the Beatles stand as a great example of people working together to achieve something they couldn’t accomplish alone. This is also a principle from Holy Scripture:

It is not good for the man to be alone. (Genesis 2:18)

Two are better than one, for they have a good return for their labor (Ecclesiastes 4:9)

This "power of the plural" is ultimately based on the fact that we are made in the image of God–and God is Three as well as One, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The three persons of the Trinity always work together to accomplish their purposes. So we humans, created in God’s image, were made to work together, to cooperate.

When we listen to the Beatles, then, let’s remember the power of people joined together in a common effort. And let’s remember that this applies above all to the church:

Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body. (Romans 12:4)

John Lennon and Jesus. John Lennon once said that he soured toward organized religion at the age of 14, when a Church of England priest kicked him out of a worship service for giggling. Yet, in an odd way, Lennon kept circling back to Jesus. In a 1969 interview, he actually claimed that the Beatles were "a Christian band" , and proclaimed himself "a big fan of Jesus". He also said that the "we’re more popular than Jesus" comment had been misunderstood.

"Imagine", of course, is a very anti-religious song–"imagine there’s no heaven...and no religion too." Yet this song, which renounces the idea of heaven, is really about heaven-whether Lennon realized it or not. Where else could his goals be realized–no wars, no countries, no hatred, people "living for today"–except in heaven? People do indeed attempt to create utopia, heaven on earth, in this world. But all such attempts inevitably lead to hells of repression and totalitarianism ("We will force mankind into happiness!" declared the Russian Communist party on the eve of seizing power–a vision that led to lots of force and very little happiness). So Lennon is really expressing a longing for heaven. (Actually, in heaven, there really is "no religion"–certainly we need churches here in this life, but of heaven the book of Revelation says:

I saw no temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. (Revelation 21:22)

A few years before his death, Lennon circled back again to Jesus, and actually proclaimed himself a Christian. On television, he watched Billy Graham and the "Jesus of Nazareth" mini-series and ultimately had a powerful spiritual experience: "He allowed himself to be touched by the love of Jesus Christ and it drove him to tears of joy and ecstasy," wrote one of his biographers. He declared himself "born again". Unfortunately, his wife Yoko was decidedly unsupportive, and pulled him away from Jesus. (Indeed, when Bob Dylan underwent a similar Christian conversion shortly afterward, Lennon mocked him). Yet in is last interview, Lennon said that he still read the Bible. Interestingly, when Lennon was killed, his wife and son issued this statement: "John loved and prayed for the human race. Please do the same for him."

Lutherans do not believe in "once saved, always saved"–rather, Jesus says that "the one who endures to the end will be saved." (Matthew 24:13)) But we can still hope that, in his final moments, Lennon once again circled back to Jesus, and found that place of harmony and beauty that he "imagined". That place was purchased for us by the blood of Jesus Christ, and through faith in Him we are assured that we will ultimately live there forever.

God loves you and so do I!

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