May 18, 2014
Texts: I Peter 2:2-10; John 14:1-14
The Beatles, “Eleanor Rigby” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LOgMWbDGPA&feature=kp
The year is 1966. In August, The Beatles release Revolver, their seventh studio album, though if you know something of the history of The Beatles you know that albums were released differently in the United States, and this was their eleventh US album. Someone has written of Revlover “This almost flawless album can be seen as the peak of the Beatle’s creative career” (The Beatles: an illustrated history, 54). “Eleanor Rigby” comes from this album.
The Beatles were a phenomenon. Ever since they hit the shores of the United States in February 1964, the world was struck with Beatlemania. Given the proliferation of media outlets I don’t think we will ever see something quite like the Beatles again. Beyond all the hype and publicity, though, the songs have held up well over time.
Given their success, there were people who wanted to attach themselves to the group in one way or another. Occasionally, someone would try and claim the title “the fifth Beatle.” One of the first to do so was a New York disc jockey named Muarry the K. Doesn’t that sound like the 1960s! At times other musicians were given the title the fifth Beatle – Harry Nillson, Billy Preston.
For The Beatles, 1966 was also a year marked by controversy. Early in the year, John Lennon had given an interview with a British journalist in which he said about The Beatles, “we’re more popular than Jesus now.” Months later the remarks were reported in the United States, and they created an uproar. Radio stations in Alabama and Texas banned Beatle’s music from being played. Some organized Beatle’s record burnings, as did other groups.
If being the fifth Beatle means doing something rather “Beatle-like,” maybe Jesus would qualify. Listen to these words again from John 14. “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these.” Greater than Jesus! When John Lennon was making his rather awkward comment on Jesus, he was trying to say something about the state of the church in England at that time, echoing things even English church observers were noting about the decline of the church in that country in the 1960s. When Jesus was speaking, he was making a more dramatic claim.
If Jesus can be thought of as the face of God turned toward us, we are often the face of Jesus for the world. Jesus wants to touch the world through us. God wants to love the world through us.
The year is 1966. A cornerstone is placed in a building constructed at the intersection of Sixth Avenue East, Mesaba Avenue, and Central Entrance. It is our cornerstone, but we are now inheritors of the traditions of two earlier churches, Chester Park United Methodist Church – for many years at 18th Avenue East, and First Methodist Church, formerly at Third Avenue East and Third Street. While we have a cornerstone that turns fifty in just a couple of years, our inner cornerstone is Jesus himself – a living stone, and we are being “built into a spiritual house.” It is another image for this idea that Jesus wants to touch the world through us, that God wants to love the world through us. Those who live the Jesus way, the Jesus truth, the Jesus life, are involved in the very work of Jesus, and may even do some greater things, touch more people, bringing good news to wider circles, feed thousands.
So what are we up to? How are we doing? Just this week, we distributed over 220 shares of food through Ruby’s Pantry, which is now nearing the end of its fourth year here. In speaking with someone earlier in the week, I was told just how helpful Ruby’s Pantry has been to their family, and how they share some of the food they get here with others. Thank you for being about the work of Jesus, for letting Jesus touch the world through you, letting God love the world through you.
The end of the week, our social hall became a mobile packing site for Feed My Starving Children. It was part of an effort by The United Methodist Church in Minnesota to pack one million meals to be sent to hungry people across the world. Our site packed over 100,000 meals Friday evening and Saturday. Thank you for being about the work of Jesus, for letting Jesus touch the world through you, letting God love the world through you.
We served our roast beef dinner last week. While it is indeed a significant fund-raiser for the church, we are also giving to others through this dinner. This summer we will help feed youth on a mission trip to this area with some of the leftover beef. Following the dinner, we took some meals to Harbor House Crisis Shelter in Superior, and heard back this week about how for many it was the best meal they had eaten in awhile. They were very grateful. Thank you for being about the work of Jesus, for letting Jesus touch the world through you, letting God love the world through you.
We heard some this morning again about our on-going work with Lake Superior Elementary – mentoring, the clothes closet. Thank you for being about the work of Jesus, for letting Jesus touch the world through you, letting God love the world through you.
This week we ministered to the grieving. I officiated at a service for Bill Sharp. Yesterday we hosted a service for Elsa Hurmi Campbell, a long-time member. We walk with people in grief. We are all saddened this week by the death of our friend Dave Miller. I know how much your love and care and prayers have meant to Dave’s family as they walked the journey of his last days. Thank you for being about the work of Jesus, for letting Jesus touch the world through you, letting God love the world through you.
Letting Jesus touch the world through us, letting God love the world through us is not just a matter of what we do, of being busy all the time. It is about the work, but it is also about becoming certain kinds of people. It’s not just what we do, but also who we are. “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of the one who called you out of darkness into God’s marvelous light.” We are being made different, shined up a bit, so that God’s love, care, compassion radiate just a little bit more brightly in our lives. Thank you for letting God’s Spirit continue to form your hearts, for letting Jesus touch the world through you, letting God love the world through you.
We are not perfect. We mess up. I know I mess up. But we are on a journey together. We are on the way.
The year is 1963. John F. Kennedy is president. The Beatles had released two albums in the United Kingdom, but none yet in the United States. Abraham Joshua Heschel, a Jewish theologian sends a telegram to the president, the day before a scheduled meeting with him which will include other religious leaders. He writes the president about civil rights, which will be the topic of the discussion. Heschel writes: “Please demand of religious leaders personal involvement not just solemn declaration. We forfeit the right to worship God as long as we continue to humiliate the Negros.” Heschel, whose daughter I had the pleasure of knowing a bit at Southern Methodist University, Heschel ends his telegram: “the hour calls for high moral grandeur and spiritual audacity.”
Jesus makes an audacious claim, that others will be bigger than him. “The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these.” We continue to try and take that seriously here – doing the work of Jesus, being people of the Spirit, letting Jesus touch the world through us, letting God love the world through us. It is all pretty audacious, but should our response to God in Jesus ever be anything less than moral grandeur and spiritual audacity? Amen.