I know that this sounds similar to how I started last week’s sermon. But… according to legend, Frank Zappa once said this thing.
You see, a long time ago, way back in the 1980s, there was this group call the PMRC: the Parents Music Resource Center.
The PMRC was very upset about some of the music that the kids were listening to those days. Just like their parents had been upset about the music that the people in the PMRC listened to. Just like their grandparents had been upset about the music that the parents of the people who were in the PMRC listened to.
They were upset about the lyrics to songs by artists like Prince (fair enough), Twisted Sister (I guess), and Cyndi Lauper (oh come on).
And they had forgotten what their parents had said about Elvis Presley and the Beatles… and what their grandparents had said about ragtime and jazz… and what their ancestors had said about Antonio Vivaldi.
And they were worried that their kids would listen to the lyrics… and the lyrics would influence the kids… and the kids would end up doing things that they—the people in the PMRC, not the kids—did not want the kids to do. And they wanted Congress to do something about it.
And there were musicians who did not like the PMRC and the kinds of light censorship that the PMRC wanted. One of those musicians was Frank Zappa. And, according to legend, he once said this thing: “There are more love songs than anything else. If lyrics could make us do anything, we’d all love each other.”
And he was right… and it’s not just songs. It’s books and tv shows and movies and plays and stories and every other bit of human culture. We build monuments to love. We are surrounded by testaments to love.
You’d think we would be better at it.
It is officially summer. It’s officially that season when we take a break from the lectionary readings. It’s officially that season when we get to explore themes that we wouldn’t normally get to explore. And this summer, we are doing two sermon series…es. And they’re kind of intertwined.
You see, three times this summer, we’ll have a worship service out at TYCOGA, followed by a service here. On those three Sundays, we’ll have a sermon series called Why Church?
And during the rest of the summer—more or less—we’ll do something kind of like the thing that we did last summer.
Last summer, we had a new banner, and I preached about the themes that were written on it.
Be the church. Protect the environment. Care for the poor. Forgive often. Reject racism. Fight for the powerless. Share earthly and spiritual resources. Embrace diversity. Love God. Enjoy this life.
And this summer, we again have a new banner. And I am going to preach about the themes that are written on it. But, for some reason, when I was getting things ready, and planning things out, I got things out of order… so… I’ll be preaching on this:
Be a blessing. Lead with love. Pray often. Practice peace. Give thanks. Be joyful. Be kind. Do good. Have courage. Work for justice. Be the light. Encourage others.
And that means that this week, we’re talking about this: Be a blessing. Lead with love.
In the gospel according to John, on the night that he is betrayed, Jesus speaks to his disciples.
He tells them that they cannot follow him where he is going. And then he creates a new commandment and shares it with his friends: “Love one another. As I have loved you, love one another. That is how people will know that you are my disciples: by how you love one another.”
And the disciples miss it. Simon Peter jumps right to asking him, “What do you mean, we can’t follow you? I would do anything for you. I would lay down my life for you. I’m totally gonna follow you. Guy thinks I can’t follow him…”
And I get why they run past it. It get why it gets lost in the rest of the long speeches that John’s Jesus gives. It’s a big ask. It’s a heavy lift. Love one another. Like… really… love one another. Like… as Christ loved us… love one another.
God loved the world this way. God came into the world as one of us, to share our common lot, among a dispossessed people in an occupied land. And he lived and he loved and he showed us how to be human. And we hung him on a cross and buried him in a tomb. And he got up again and told us that he wasn’t through with us yet.
God is patient and kind. God does not envy or boast. God is not arrogant or rude. God does not insist on their own way like some kind of divine tyrant. God is not irritable or resentful. God does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but in the truth. God bears all things… and believes all things… and hopes all things… and endures all things…
…for the sake of the world that God loves. And God invites us into that: “Love one another. As I have loved you, love one another.”
Love one another that way.
Guy thinks I can’t follow him… … …he may be right.
Frank Zappa was right: there are a lot of songs about love. And not just songs. There are books and tv shows and movies and plays and stories and every other bit of human culture. We build monuments to love. We are surrounded by testaments to love. It is the commandment. It is how we follow Christ into his kingdom. Love!
And I know that we think we’re good at it. I know that I think I’m good at it. But…
The hard truth is that we tend to love within boundaries. We build walls and set up barriers. And then we forget they’re there. And inside those walls, we love. But outside those walls… those people… over there… well…
We are not patient and we are not kind. We envy them and boast about ourselves. We are arrogant and rude. We insist on our way. We get irritated and we resent them. And we might not quite rejoice in wrongdoing, but… we might do a little fist pump when they get what they’ve got coming.
And when I say we, I mean… y’know… people. And when I say we, I mean… y’know… Christians. And when I say we, I mean… y’know… me.
Because I know that there are folks outside of our walls and beyond the boundaries of our property who look at the church—not just this church, but the whole church—and who do not see love.
I know that there are folks outside of our walls and beyond the boundaries of our property who look at the church—not just this church, but the whole church—and who see walls.
And they know that the people inside the walls might love each other. And they know that the people inside the walls see them as… those people… over there… on the outside.
And the hard truth is that those boundaries that we have created? Those walls that we have built? Those barriers that we have forgotten about? They don’t just keep those people over there out. They keep these people in here in.
We are trapped in a prison of our own creation. And it keeps us from loving as we are called to love. And what God invites us to is not a big hard arduous task. What God called us to… is freedom.
I am pretty confident that when someone came up with the idea for that banner and wrote down the words lead with love, they meant: let love be the first thing that you put out there. Lead… with love.
But when I read it… and when I thought about it… and when I started writing a sermon about it… I heard: be leaders in love. Lead… with love.
We are called to erase the boundaries that we have set up… to tear down the walls that we have built… to find the barriers that we have forgotten about and break. them. down.
We are called to love as Christ loves. We are called to step into other people’s worlds and share their common lot. We are called to bear and believe and hope and endure. We are called to love.
And, maybe, if we do that… if we love…
…not sing about love, or tell stories about love, or build monuments to love, but do the thing…
…if we love, we can learn to be human. And we can learn to be free. And we can follow Christ right into his kingdom.