Rev Dr Edgar Mayer – Living Grace Lutheran Church, Toowoomba – Date: 8 December 2013 (#228)
For more sermons and other writings, please check the following homepage: www.livinggracetoowoomba.org
During the offering, play the video of John Lennon’s song “Happy Xmas”.
So This Is Xmas
How do you like John Lennon’s song? Does it get you into the Christmas mood? There are [cymbals that sound like the bells on Santa’s sledge driven through snow and] the children’s choir singing like angels: “War is over if you want it”? “War is over if you want it.” The children are singing the message again and again and maybe they remind you of the angels who were singing [saying] on the night of Jesus’ birth – the original Christmas night: “Glory to God in heaven and peace on earth” (Luke 2:14). Everything seems so positive! Happy Xmas! A very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!
Not surprisingly, John Lennon’s song has been covered by numerous artists such as The Fray, Celine Dion and Sarah McLachlan but – to quote one internet source – “…the original is a masterpiece, a secular hymn, if you will … no other version is as comforting, inspirational and rejuvenating as John Lennon’s dreamy version of this monstrously popular Christmas classic” (http://voices.yahoo.com/happy-xmas-war-over-john-lennon-story-behind-666141.html?cat=33).
Yet, we are wrong – at least my first impression (which lasted for many years) was wrong. John Lennon wrote anything but a dreamy version of the classic Christmas sentiment. His is a protest song at the height of the Vietnam War – written in 1971 (New York City) – when young men were being drafted for military service and dying overseas. Every night, disturbing images on the TV screen confronted the nation (United States). So John Lennon asked a most penetrating question in the first two lines of his song: “So this is Xmas. What have you done?” Christmas should be all about peace and merry family celebrations. There should be “fun for the near and the dear one” and plenty of food. There should be no war – not in Vietnam or anywhere else – and accordingly John Lennon made the music sound right – he nailed the Christmas sound with cymbals and children’s choir – but life (the daily news) did not meet the expectations of Christmas. Therefore, this was his question: “So this is Xmas? What have you done?”
Someone made a video to the song which is confronting to watch but drives home the intention of the song.
[Show a minute of the video “So This Is Xmas - Happy Xmas (War Is Over) Confronting Video”.]
Such nice music but what a sad world! “So this is Xmas? What have you done?”
Make no mistake. There is blame in John Lennon’s words. What have you done? Are you at fault for having a less than perfect world this Christmas – in your own family, at work and in the church? We probably are. However, this is not a new insight and even God agrees. We are to blame. We have done evil in this world. The whole point of the Christian message and any Christian celebrations of Christmas is that we – the human race – have been so entangled by immorality and rebellion against anything that is good – enslaved by sin (to use an older word) – we have been brought o so low by pride and greed and jealousy and malice and revenge – that we could no longer help ourselves. Only God could provide hope and he did through his Son Jesus Christ who came from heaven to be born as a human baby – born of a virgin whose name was Mary.
God – in his Son – entered our human condition – suffered with us and for us the pain and the wars – and humbled himself to such an extent that he let human hands strike him, human mouths spit at him, human hands nail him to a cross, humans mock him as he was dying – (we humans demonstrated what is common in all of our hearts by mistreating Jesus who was a good man without sin) – so that by his suffering and death – by this voluntary sacrifice – he would make atonement for our misdeeds. John Lennon sings: “So this is Xmas and what have you done?” But we are not just interested in what we have done and we do not buy John Lennon’s appeal to human self-help: “War is over if you want it. Let’s stop all the fight now.” We do not look to man but God and what he has done: “So this is Christmas and this is what God has done. He entered our world to give us hope so that everyone who believes in Jesus Christ – (in his sacrifice on a cross) – shall be forgiven and receive eternal life (cf. John 3:16).”
Even when Jesus was born the world was not perfect. Jesus’ human mother and her fiancé were poverty stricken and under the yoke of foreign invaders – (the Romans in Israel). Executions were a common sight at the time. Yet, the birth of Jesus brought hope and his death and subsequent resurrection confirmed the message of hope. Jesus made a way for us to celebrate Christmas no matter the circumstances.
John Lennon – in his song – was absolutely fixated on overcoming the war at Vietnam but he missed an even bigger war which was far more damaging and essential for human kind because it has eternal consequences – our war with God – which we started and have been waging ever since.
Show picture of “War Is Over” poster.
Slide of Poster
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Happy_Xmas_%28War_Is_Over%29: “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” was the culmination of more than two years of peace activism undertaken by John Lennon and Yoko Ono that began with the bed-ins they convened in March and May 1969, the first of which took place during their honeymoon. The song’s direct antecedent was an international multimedia campaign launched by the couple in December 1969—at the height of the counterculture movement and its protests against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War—that primarily consisted of renting billboard space in 12 major cities around the world for the display of black-and-white posters that declared “WAR IS OVER! If You Want It – Happy Christmas from John & Yoko”.
The best news of Christmas is that the most important war is over if you want it – that is the war with God. You may not see the posters in our city but you see the churches and the carol nights and the preaching and services on radio, TV and the internet. I read from the Bible:
This is what Jesus brought to us and what we celebrate at Christmas – grace and eternal life for sin and death.
John Lennon wrote “Happy Xmas” in 1971. [There is no reference to any god in the song but] a few years earlier (1966), he got himself in trouble by saying that The Beatles – his band – was “bigger than Jesus”.
Play “Bigger Than Jesus” video clip.
Many took offense at Lennon’s words but was he right? Can you image what it must have felt like for The Beatles to have people – especially girls – screaming at them for excitement (losing their heads)? They even created a new word for the phenomenon: Beatlemania. One blogger has this to say:
Show picture while quoting some of the blog below.
Kyle Hill (http://sciencebasedlife.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/the-beatles-were-more-popular-than-jesus-for-one-week-in-1966/): … If we extend those heavenly numbers back to 1966, the year Lennon committed his sacrilege, that means that between 68,000 and 68,500 copies of the Bible left book shelves every day to spread the good news. That is one popular book, but maybe not as popular as “Norwegian Wood” and “Drive My Car.”
Rubber Soul, a tour de force of rock n’ roll, sold an amazing 1.2 million copies in 9 days when it debuted in 1966. Doing the same math as we did for Bible sales, this equates to 133,000 copies of Rubber Soul souled (sorry) per day during that period.
Given the wiggle room in the Bible sales figures we have, it wouldn’t be a sin to say that there is a good chance that The Beatles were bigger than Jesus during the intense rush to snatch up all the Rubber Souls in sight.
The evidence before John Lennon and The Beatles – (all this Beatlemania) – did lead to a valid conclusion. They may not have been “bigger than Jesus” but they were worshipped instead of Jesus. (It was crazy.) And this is what we humans are like. God – our creator – made us for worship. This is in our DNA and if we do not worship him, we worship something else and be it dead figures made of stone or wood – useless idols – which frustrated God in the Bible. John Lennon must have felt like one of those idols. He could no longer leave his home because people mobbed him in adulation and wanting to get a piece of him for their own benefit – being uplifted by this man who made pop music.
This must have been confusing for a young man which led to his challenging words of being bigger than Jesus but the reaction of people must have confused him even more. Christians responded to him and his words with hate rather than love and their behaviour undermined the very message of grace – undeserved love – God’s humble pursuit of us sinners. Christians were threatened by The Beatles which betrayed their insecurity and lack of confidence in God who can do anything and who will accomplish his mission here on earth. Are you threatened when someone questions your faith? Our God actually inspires any good music and then performs signs and wonders – grants peace and joy and certain hope of eternal life – so that there is no danger of him becoming irrelevant.
I prefer John Lennon’s confronting words about Jesus to the modern disinterest in discussing faith. At least he thought about the meaning of life. He was a sensitive soul. Listen to his journey:
By Jonathan Wynne-Jones, Religious Affairs Correspondent (www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/2403617/Bigger-than-Jesus-The-Beatles-were-a-Christian-band.html) 8:16PM BST 12 Jul 2008:
But 28 years after his death, in an interview being broadcast for the first time, he claims that on the contrary, he hoped to encourage people to focus on the Christian faith.
Despite his familiar image as a hippy icon who invited us to imagine a world without religion, Lennon says he was “one of Christ’s biggest fans” and felt emotional in church.
In the interview, which was recorded in 1969 and is being aired on BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme, he talks about the Church of England, his vision of heaven, and expresses disappointment at not being allowed to marry his second wife, Yoko Ono, in church.
The interview was conducted by Ken Seymour of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation when Lennon and Ono were at the Bed-In for Peace protest in Montreal. It was bought three years ago by National Museums Liverpool, which is playing an extract at a new exhibition at World Museum Liverpool.
Christians around the world had been dismayed by Lennon’s boast in an article in London’s Evening Standard about the popularity of the Beatles, but the singer says he was misunderstood.
“It’s just an expression meaning the Beatles seem to me to have more influence over youth than Christ,” he says. “Now I wasn’t saying that was a good idea, ‘cos I’m one of Christ’s biggest fans. And if I can turn the focus on the Beatles on to Christ’s message, then that’s what we’re here to do.”
He blames “the hypocrites” for being too “uptight” in reacting to his comments. “If the Beatles get on the side of Christ, which they always were, and let people know that, then maybe the churches won’t be full, but there’ll be a lot of Christians dancing in the dance halls. Whatever they celebrate, God and Christ, I don’t think it matters as long as they’re aware of Him and His message.”
He acknowledges a strong belief in the power of prayer but says he dislikes all the church trappings. “Community praying is probably very powerful? I’m just against the hypocrisy and the hat-wearing and the socialising and the tea parties.”
His aversion to institutional religion was shaped when a “ludicrous” vicar banned him from a church when he was 14 because he and his friends were “having the giggles”.
“I wasn’t convinced of the vicar’s sincerity anyway. But I knew it was the house of God. So I went along for that and the atmosphere always made me feel emotional and religious or whatever you call it.
“Being thrown out of church for laughing was the end of the Church for me.”
He continues: “I would have liked to have been married in a church but they wouldn’t marry divorcees? That’s pure hypocrisy.” The Church’s position on the issue changed in 2002.
On heaven, he says: “I haven’t got any sort of dream of a physical heaven where there’s lots of chocolate and pretty women in nightgowns, playing harps. I believe you can make heaven within your own mind. The kingdom of heaven is within you, Christ said, and I believe that.”
The author Paul Du Noyer, who has written extensively on the Beatles, said: “He was chastened by the reaction he got to his Jesus remarks and it probably made him think more carefully about religion.
“These comments would have been a great boost for churches if they had come out at the time.”
1966 quote: Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that; I’m right and I’ll be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first—rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.
An excerpt from The Gospel According to the Beatles by Steve Turner
In March 1977 Yoko travelled with John Green to Catagena in Colombia to meet a witch who had been recommended to her as someone “who could do anything.” Green had to accompany her to check out the witch’s validity. Yoko paid the witch sixty thousand dollars to perform a series of rituals culminating in the sacrifice of a dove. When they returned to New York; Yoko insisted that they had to fly via Los Angeles and Alaska to avoid having to fly in a north-easterly direction because she believed this would bring her bad fortune.
Next came one of the most extraordinary turnabouts in John’s life. A television addict for many years (it was his way of looking at the world since he could no longer walk around anonymously), he enjoyed watching some of America’s best-known evangelists—Pat Robertson, Billy Graham, Jim Bakker, and Oral Roberts. In 1972 he had written a desperate letter to Roberts confessing his dependence on drugs and his fear of facing up to “the problems of life.” He expressed regret that he had said that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus and enclosed a gift for the Oral Roberts University. After quoting the line “money can’t buy me love” from “Can’t Buy Me Love” he said, “It’s true. The point is this, I want happiness. I don’t want to keep on with drugs. Paul told me once, ‘You made fun of me for taking drugs, but you will regret it in the end.’ Explain to me what Christianity can do for me. Is it phoney? Can He love me? I want out of hell.”
Roberts sent him a copy of his book Miracle of Seed Faith and several letters explaining basic Christian beliefs. In the second of his letters Roberts said:
John, we saw you and the Beatles on television when you first came to America. Your talent with music was almost awesome and your popularity touched millions. Your influence became so widespread and powerful that your statement-the Beatles are more popular than Jesus- might have had some truth in it at that moment. But you know, our Lord said, I am alive for ever more. People, the Bible says, are like sheep and are often fickle, following this one day and something else the next. However, there are millions who have received Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour and have been filled with the Holy Spirit. They love him. To them He is the most wonderful and popular man who ever lived because he is the Son of God and His name endures.
I thank God that you see this, John, and finally regret thinking any man or group could be more popular than Jesus. Jesus is the only reality. It is Jesus who said “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” So, you see, your statement that because of your hard background you’ve never wanted to face reality is actually really saying you’ve never wanted to face our loving Lord. What I want to say, as I tried to say in my other letter, is that Jesus, the true reality, is not hard to face. He said, “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. … For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” You said, John, that you take drugs because reality frightens you. Remember as you open your life to Jesus, He will take all the fear away and give you peace. Peace that passes all understanding.
This correspondence and his exposure to TV evangelism didn’t appear to have any effect until he suddenly announced to close friends in the spring of 1977 that he’d become a born-again Christian. He had been particularly moved by the U.S. television premiere of Franco Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth, starring Robert Powell as Jesus, which NBC showed in two three-hour segments on Palm Sunday, April 3, 1977. A week later, on Easter day, he took Yoko and Sean to a local church service.
Over the following months he baffled those close to him by constantly praising “the Lord,” writing Christian songs with titles like “Talking with Jesus” and “Amen” (the Lord’s Prayer set to music), and trying to convert nonbelievers. He also called the prayer line of The 700 Club, Pat Robertson’s program. The change in his life perturbed Yoko, who tried to talk him out of it. She reminded him of what he’d said about his vulnerability to strong religious leaders because of his emotionally deprived background. She knew that if the press found out about it they would have a field day with another John and Jesus story. John became antagonistic toward her, blaming her for practicing the dark arts and telling her that she couldn’t see the truth because her eyes had been blinded by Satan.
Those close to the couple sensed that the real reason she was concerned was that it threatened her control over John’s life. If he became a follower of Jesus he would no longer depend on her and the occultists. During long, passionate arguments she attacked the key points of his fledgling faith. They met with a couple of Norwegian missionaries whom Yoko questioned fiercely about the divinity of Christ, knowing that this was the teaching that John had always found the most difficult to accept. Their answers didn’t satisfy her, and John began to waver in his commitment.
In an unpublished song, “You Saved My Soul,” he spoke about “nearly falling” for a TV preacher while feeling “lonely and scared” in a Tokyo hotel. This must have referred to a trip to Japan at the end of May when he stayed at the Okura Hotel for over two months while Yoko visited relatives. Feeling isolated because of the language barrier, he locked himself away in his room for long stretches of time. At night he suffered terrifying nightmares. According to John Green, who makes no mention of the born-again period in his book, John told him, “I’d lie in bed all day [in Tokyo], not talk, not eat, and just withdraw. And a funny thing happened. I began to see all these different parts of me. I felt like a hollow temple filled with many spirits, each one passing through me, each inhabiting me for a little time and then leaving to be replaced by another.”
The image was remarkably like one suggested by Jesus and recorded in Luke 11. It’s hard to imagine that John was unfamiliar with the passage. Jesus was warning of the danger of merely ridding oneself of evil spirits without taking in the good. He says that an unclean or evil spirit, finding nowhere to rest, will return. “And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.”
Whatever happened in Tokyo, it marked the end of his personal interest in Jesus. “You Saved My Soul” said that he “nearly” fell for the TV preacher, but that Yoko “saved me from that suicide.” So the salvation of the title refers to being saved from God, not by God. Yoko had again become the captain of his soul, the mistress of his destiny. Yet his life didn’t improve. He sank into a depression, concerned that his creativity had deserted him and that he had no real purpose in life. The only real joy he experienced came from spending time with his son, Sean.
His life was out of his control. He worried about his health and his eyesight, about making the right investments with his money, about his personal safety. The only way out, as far as he could see, was to pay for the services of people who claimed to see into the future. But then, which ones could he trust? If the advice of the tarot card reader contradicted that of the astrologer, which should he follow? Instead of the freedom he wanted when he broke away from the Beatles, he was now completely enslaved. He couldn’t travel anywhere without advice from a directionalist, do deals with anyone without knowing their star sign, or make plans for the future without consulting the I Ching.
In January 1979 he and Yoko travelled to Cairo, having heard that there was a major illicit archaeological dig taking place. Both of them believed that ancient Egyptian artefacts contained magical powers, and Yoko had dedicated one of the rooms in their apartment to Egyptian artefacts. “I love Egyptian art,” she said. “I make sure I get all the Egyptian things, not for their value but for their magic power. Each piece has a certain magic power.” They stayed at the Nile Hilton and toured the pyramids, but when word got out about their intentions they were prevented from visiting the dig.
By the time Frederic Seaman became John’s personal assistant in February 1979, John’s main interest was reading books on religion, psychic phenomena, the occult, death, history, archaeology, and anthropology. Specific books Seaman can remember him asking for included Rebel in the Soul: An Ancient Egyptian Dialogue Between a Man and His Destiny, by Bika Reed; Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today, by Margot Adler; and Practical Occultism, by (Madame) H. P Blavatsky. He also listened to a thousand dollars’ worth of taped lectures by Alan Watts.
Vacationing in Florida in the spring, he again watched Jesus of Nazareth on its by now regular Easter showing, but his reaction was completely different from the one he had had two years before. He kept joking that they should just get on with it and fast-forward to the crucifixion. Seaman, who was present with John’s sons, Sean and Julian, recalled, “John began working himself up into a tirade against Christianity, saying that it had virtually destroyed what was left of pagan culture and spirituality in Europe-a great loss to civilization.” He then announced that he was now a “born again pagan.”
Later in the year Bob Dylan recorded Slow Train Coming, a gospel album born out of personal experience. Dylan told Robert Hilburn of the Los Angeles Times that he’d recently accepted that “Jesus was real … I had this feeling, this vision and feeling. I truly had a born-again experience, if you want to call it that. It’s an over-used term. But it’s something that people can relate to.” Hilburn asked him what “born again” meant. “Born once,” he answered, “is born from the spirit below, which is when you’re born. It’s the spirit you’re born with. Born again is born with the Spirit from above, which is a little bit different.”
Slow Train Coming was a direct and challenging album. Unlike most gospel recordings, it didn’t simply praise Jesus but attacked opposition to him, whether that was religious syncretism, false saviours, or lack of commitment. It was addressed to people like John. In “Precious Angel,” the first single, Dylan sang, “Ya either got faith or ya got unbelief and there ain’t no neutral ground.’ In the title track he sang of “Fools glorifying themselves, trying to manipulate Satan.”
Dylan’s transformation took John completely by surprise. After all, Dylan had been the Beatles’ only peer and remained someone whom he deeply respected. What made it particularly galling was that everything Dylan sang about on the album was delivered with a confidence that had always seemed to elude John. Dylan seemed certain that his sins were forgiven, his eternal security was assured, and that God was actively involved in his life.
When asked in 1980 about his response to Dylan’s conversion, John was less than honest. He said he was surprised that “old Bobby boy did go that way,” but “if he needs it, let him do it.” His only objection, he said, was that Dylan was presenting Christ as the only way. He disliked this because “There isn’t one answer to anything.” This is why he favoured Buddhism. It didn’t proselytize. In what can now be seen as an allusion to his own born-again period, which hadn’t yet been made public, he said, “But I understand it. I understand him completely, how he got in there, because I’ve been frightened enough myself to want to latch onto something.”
His private feelings about the conversion were expressed in his song writing. He was particularly incensed by the track “Gotta Serve Somebody” because it opposed his view that there was no single truth. The song said, as bluntly as possible, that whatever your station in life, you were either serving God or the devil. This wasn’t an avoidable choice. John wrote a riposte titled “Serve Yourself,” arguing that no one can save you. The only person you have to serve is yourself. “He was kind of upset [about Dylan’s song] and it was a dialogue,” said Yoko in 1998. “He showed his anger but also … his sense of humour.”
On the one hand, John Lennon found the disciples of Jesus thick and ordinary – twisting things that ruined it for him – but, on the other hand, he – (that was worshipped himself) – (to whom people looked for answers) – was searching himself: “It’s true [money can’t buy me love]. The point is this, I want happiness. I don’t want to keep on with drugs. Paul told me once, ‘You made fun of me for taking drugs, but you will regret it in the end.’ Explain to me what Christianity can do for me. Is it phoney? Can He love me? I want out of hell.” According to his own discernment, John Lennon was in hell – craving love and happiness – and he became sick of drugs because they were a poor substitute for what he really wanted. Could it be that Jesus was the answer for him?
John Lennon listened to TV preachers and Oral Roberts corresponded with him but – except maybe for a brief period – Lennon did not “get” the Christian faith – the personal relationship with Jesus. Why? There is always human pride but the Bible also says this – 2 Corinthians 4:4: “Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.” John Lennon may have underestimated Satan’s power of deception – (even though he resisted the dark arts in his brief time as a Christian). He may have thought that consulting witches and psychics and putting his faith in the magic power of Egyptian artefacts was somehow okay but it closed him off to the Good News of Jesus until he became a born-again pagan rather than a born-again Christian. What are you exposed to? Whose power is gaining control over your thinking?
In the end – in reaction to Bob Dylan’s claim that one either serves God or Satan – John Lennon wrote the song “Serve Yourself” which left him in the old loneliness and despair: “You say you found Jesus Christ; He’s the only one … You got to serve yourself, Ain’t nobody gonna do it for you. You got to serve yourself, Ain’t nobody gonna do it for you …” In the end – at least for himself – John Lennon did conclude that he was “bigger than Jesus”. (Jesus could not do anything for him.)
Bob Dylan was different and maybe (this morning) you don’t want to end up where John Lennon ended up but are intrigued by what Bob Dylan and all Christians experienced:
Karen Hughes Interview, Dayton, Ohio, May 21, 1980:
Bob Dylan stretched out his hand and reached for a cigarette from a half-empty pack on the table. “It would have been easier”, he sighed “If I had become, or a Buddhist, or a Scientologist or if I had gone to Sing Sing”
I asked him if many of his friends had forsaken him.
“Any REAL friends?” Dylan responded tellingly, blowing cigarette smoke away from my face, in the tiny hotel room in Dayton, Ohio, where we talked as his tour was cutting across America’s Bible belt and winding its way back to Los Angeles, Dylan’s home of nine years.
“At every point in my life I’ve had to make decisions for what I believed in. Sometimes I’ve ended up hurting people that I’ve loved. Other times I’ve ended up loving people that I never thought I would.”
“You ask me about myself” Dylan said at the end of an intensive session of questioning, “but I’m becoming less and less defined as Christ becomes more and more defined”.
“Christianity”, he explained, “is not Christ and Christ is not Christianity. Christianity is making Christ the Lord of your life. You’re talking about your life now, you’re not talking about just part of it, you’re not talking about a certain hour every day. You’re talking about making Christ the Lord and the Master of your life, the King of your life. And you’re also talking about Christ, the resurrected Christ, you’re not talking about some dead man who had a bunch of good ideas and was nailed to a tree. Who died with those ideas. You’re talking about a resurrected Christ who is Lord of your life. We’re talking about that type of Christianity”.
“It’s HIM through YOU. ‘He’s alive’, Paul said, ‘I’ve been crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live. Yet not I but Christ who liveth in me’. See Christ is not some kind of figure down the road. We serve the living God, not dead monuments, dead ideas, dead philosophies. If he had been a dead God, you’d be carrying around a corpse inside you”.
Dylan speaks of having constant dialogue with Christ, of surrendering his life to God’s will much in the same way as Joan of Arc or St Francis of Assisi would have done. It is, he says, the only thing that matters. When you ask about his band, he replies “I think Jim Keltner and Tim Drummond are the best rhythm section that God ever invented”.
His view on American politics is, “God will stay with America as long as America stays with God. A lot of people maybe even the President, maybe a lot of senators, you hear them speak and they’ll speak of the attributes of God. But none of them are speaking about being a disciple of Christ”.
“There’s a different between knowing who Christ is and being a disciple of Christ and recognizing Christ as a personality and being of God. I’m more aware of that than anything and it dictates my very being. So I wouldn’t have much to offer anybody who wants to know about politics or history or or art or any of that. I’ve always been pretty extreme in all them areas anyway”.
Whether on or off the road Dylan worships whenever he can at the Assembly of God, a fundamentalist, pentecostal, evangelical denomination that believe in the literal Bible and speaking in tongues. He came to Christ through a revelation, a personal experience with Jesus.
“Jesus put his hand on me. It was a physical thing. I felt it. I felt it all over me. I felt my whole body tremble. The glory of the Lord knocked me down and picked me up”.
“Being born again is a hard thing. You ever seen a mother give birth to a child? Well it’s painful. We don’t like to lose those old attitudes and hang-ups”.
“Conversion takes time because you have to learn to crawl before you can walk. You have to learn to drink milk before you can eat meat. You’re re-born, but like a baby. A baby doesn’t know anything about this world ant that’s what it’s like when you’re re-born. You’re a stranger. You have to learn all over again. God will show you what you need to know”.
“I guess He’s always been calling me”, Dylan said gently. “Of course, how would I have ever known that? That it was Jesus calling me. I always thought it was some voice that would be more identifiable. But Christ is calling everybody; we just turn him off. We just don’t want to hear. We think he’s gonna make our lives miserable, you know what I mean. We think he’s gonna make us do things we don’t want to do. Or keep us from doing things we want to do”.
“But God’s got his own purpose and time for everything. He knew when I would respond to His call”. [Reprinted from the New Zealand newspaper The Dominion, August 2, 1980.]
Bob Dylan had an experience of entering into a relationship with Jesus: “Jesus put his hand on me. It was a physical thing. I felt it. I felt it all over me. I felt my whole body tremble. The glory of the Lord knocked me down and picked me up.” “Jesus was real … I had this feeling, this vision and feeling. I truly had a born-again experience, if you want to call it that. It’s an over-used term. But it’s something that people can relate to.” “Born once, is born from the spirit below, which is when you’re born. It’s the spirit you’re born with. Born again is born with the Spirit from above, which is a little bit different.”
John 3:3-7: Jesus: I tell you the truth: only someone who experiences birth for a second time can hope to see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus: I am a grown man. How can someone be born again when he is old like me? Am I to crawl back into my mother’s womb for a second birth? That’s impossible! Jesus: I tell you the truth, if someone does not experience water and Spirit birth, there’s no chance he will make it into God’s kingdom. Like from like. Whatever is born from flesh is flesh; whatever is born from Spirit is spirit. Don’t be shocked by My words, but I tell you the truth. Even you, an educated and respected man among your people, must be reborn by the Spirit to enter the kingdom of God.
No one can birth himself but God will do this for you and there will be an experience also for you. (Otherwise – I think – you have permission to dismiss the Christian faith.) The Bible talks about the joy of salvation and supernatural peace. [Romans 1:16: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes …”]
Acts 8:5-8: Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city.
1 Thessalonians 1:5-7: ... our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction … you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.
I close with another observation about John Lennon’s song “Happy Xmas”. He wanted to change the world – stop the Vietnam War and all wars and generate happiness for the weak and the strong, the rich and the poor, the black and the white. His method based on his own faith let him down because blaming people who are incapable of saving themselves does not work. “So this is Xmas. What have you done?” The first two lines of his song are not a message of hope but there is – hope – for the entire world – you included. This morning – consider Jesus, dare to reach out to him in faith and experience salvation – being born again. Then, you will say: “So this is Xmas. What he has done – also for me.” Amen.