Monday, December 28, 2009

Hey Jude!

Photograph of The Beatles as they arrive in Ne...Image via Wikipedia

WAY BACK WHEN, in my junior high school days, I remember going to a little "dance" party at a friend's house (a birthday party if my memory serves me correctly), some one put on the Beatles "Hey Jude" which was considered a "slow-dance" song. So there we were "slow-dancing" to "Hey Jude," and as you know the ending of the song includes a long section of "na-na-na-na-na-na's" they only problem for our little group of dancers was that the record got stuck and we didn't figure it out for a good 10 minutes or more. The sight of 10 junior high couples going round and round for minutes on end must have been something to laugh at. Thankfully, I really "like-liked" the girl I with whom I was dancing. Ah, junior high love.

Now, you might be asking yourself, "Self, where in the world is Pastor Randy going with this?" Well, I will tell you. I am going to Jude. Not the song title (which seems to have nothing to do with drug abuse and the use of heroin, but was written about John Lennon's son, Julian), but I am going to that second to the last book in the Bible, the Book of Jude, all one chapter of it.

Paul McCartney's song really does have similarities to Jude's letter to the Church, within limits of course. McCartney's song calls for a young man to deal with the hard things that are being dealt to him, and to not let those things dictate his life. In Jude's letter to the church there is a call for the followers of Jesus to deal wisely and actively with the things being dealt to them by those who might say they believe in Jesus, but who in reality are living quite contrary to the call of Christ.

Jude's words (all 619 of them) come hard and fast. He spends the first part of his letter pointing out those who are bringing destruction to the church. Warning his readers of the ultimate end to those who continue to walk contrary to the design of God. His condemnation comes against those who are 1) self deluded, 2) self polluted, 3) self promoting, and 4) self-empowering even over the "powers" in heaven. (Jude 1:8-11)

His letter would be completely discouraging if it were not for the words of challenge he brings after his words of condemnation. He brings a strong call to the church to rise up and live as it was designed to live.

It is these words of challenge that I am going to focus upon in this week's sermon with the hope that his words will bring a proper call to commitment as we embark upon a new year. Jude reminds us that we must 1) remember the Apostle's teaching, 2) be built up in the faith, 3) pray, 4) abide, 5) wait, 6) practice mercy, and bring salvation. (Jude 1:17-23)

I guess the biggest difference between the song and book could be found in the reality that the strength is not to be found in our self to make the difference in our lives ("...Then you can make it better...,") but rather found in the One who can "Keep you from stumbling." (Jude 1:24) May we all so be committed to the Lord and His work in this coming year.
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the Beatles song reference should I ever find myself witnessing to a Beatles Fan. I agree that it is not important (and might even at times be disappointing) to know for certain what the artist (who may or may not have been under the influence of drugs at the time a popular song was written) really meant. Abstract art’s value to me is similar to an ink blot test in terms of telling us more about the person interpreting the art than it does the artist who created it. Thus art is most valuable when it becomes a mirror with which we can look inside our own souls to see what might be living or lurking there (regardless of what the artist intended).
I remember once seeing a local art exhibit with a group of friends. I noticed someone I worked with won an award for a decoupage on canvas. The next time I saw the artist, I congratulated him on his award and shared our “interpretation” of what his abstract art might mean. To us it seemed to hold a profound message that material possessions are not spiritually fulfilling.

He chuckled and told me (whispered) he had just finished smoking a “joint” before randomly cutting things out and pasting them on the canvas. The sports car? It was there because he really wanted a sports car just like that one some day. The coffee cup? Well, he liked cappuccino. His artwork was nothing more than a board with pictures of his favorite things as well as many pictures of things he hoped to own one day pasted on it. He made it clear that the artwork had no deep meaning at all. In fact, he seemed to get a kick out of the fact that he won the award for something he didn’t even put much effort into.

I remember feeling a little dejected and uninspired after learning what was really going on in his less than genius, drug induced state of mind when that “work of art” was created. It seemed to me like any five year old with a pair of plastic scissors and some Elmer’s glue could have easily created something just as impressive although I have to admit, he did have a good sense of design that a five year old may have lacked.

That experience (along with other experiences) had a profound effect on me though. I hesitate to hold mere human beings in awe. For instance, there is one theory that Mona Lisa’s famous smile came about simply because Leonardo DaVinci painted a realistic picture of a woman who coincidentally just happened to have very high cheekbones, so that if you look at her eyes she seems to be smiling, but if you look at her lips, she is not smiling – an optical illusion that could easily have been purely accidental on the artist’s part.

What I like about the book of Jude though is the writer is not just “messing around” like my artist friend nor is it a “coincidental” piece of writing that just happened to get canonized because the audience (readers) liked it.

It is a book that was truly inspired by the Holy spirit. The writing is very accessible. The author says what he means and means what he says and doesn’t leave any room for interpretation. It is not written by an artist. It is inspired by the Holy Spirit and written by a shepherd whose only intention was to tend God’s sheep.

For instance when he says, “For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.,” his meaning is crystal clear as is the rest of the book of Jude. The author probably does not want to risk controversy or leave any “wiggle” room due to the importance of the message.

If one is not walking the walk, it could be unpleasant reading. However, for those walking the walk, it could be comforting to be reminded of our Christian boundaries so that we are less likely to wander off the straight and narrow road that leads to life.