Silly Love Songs

By: Candace Chellew-Hodge

Preached February 13, 2010 at Jubilee! Circle, Columbia, SC

Readings:
Psalm 138: "The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me"
Luke 5:1-11: "For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken."
  Hear this sermon at the Jubilee! Circle Web site.

Carrie Newcomer is a singer-songwriter from Elkhart, Indiana. We've done a couple of her songs and she wrote our sending forth song that we've been doing. Newcomer is a Quaker whose songs are deeply spiritual, and fit very deeply with the spirituality we're fostering here at Jubilee! Circle. This song is called "Be True" from her 2005 album "Regulars and Refugees."

V: Love will ask you to stand, take you,
Where you don't think you can
Love calls and calls and waits for an answer,
Yes, yes, be true

V: Love is best when it listens,
Beware there is no compromise
Love calls and calls,
And waits for an answer,
Yes, yes be true

Ch: For a promise made is a promise given,
A love like this cannot be hidden
Show me now where it's written,
Yes, yes be true
I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; I bow down towards your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness;

That's how this ancient psalm begins, an ancient silly love song, praising God with our whole heart for steadfast love and faithfulness of the holy. I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart - with my whole heart - with my whole heart. This is not a song to God about kinda sorta liking God - no this is a song where we profess how silly in love with the holy we really are. No holds barred, nothing else on our minds - this is a shout it from the rooftops, sing it out loud and proud, kind of love for the holy. How can we hide this kind of love?

We can't, we've got to sing our silly love song to the whole world.

If the Psalms tell us anything about God it is that God loves music. The Psalms are poetry, but more importantly, they are lyrics and they are meant to be sung. The Psalms contain a wide array of music genres - sorrow songs, laments, good old country loved 'em and lost 'em songs, as well as songs of praise and songs of love for the Holy.

God delights in our musical creations, whether we write or sing opera, classical music, country, rap, rock, hip-hop, be-bop, or good old bubblegum pop. Music is God's beautiful gift to us. The Psalms are a celebration of that gift and despite all the different kinds of songs we find in the psalms, there is one underlying theme - love. The psalmists write of how much they love the Holy and creation, but they also sing songs of lament, of love lost, of love hidden, of love betrayed. They sing of the fear of losing God's love, the fear of seeking the Holy and not finding it, the fear of being abandoned by God's love. No matter the mood, happy, sad, fearful, or abandoned, they are all silly love songs, daring us to sing them to the world.

In the Psalms love calls and calls and waits for an answer - it waits for us to be true - to ourselves and to the Holy.

V: Love will ask you to open your heart,
And mind and not turn away
We are all waiting, waiting to say,
Yes, yes be true

Ch: For a promise made is a promise given,
A light as like this cannot be hidden
Show me now where it's written,
Yes, yes be true

Tomorrow, we celebrate the mother of all silly love song days - Valentine's Day. The day didn't start out that way. It was an official feast day in honor of two St. Valentines who were martyred for their faith. Valentine of Rome was martyred in 269 AD, and Valentine of Terni was martyred in 197 AD. There's nothing romantic about either of their lives or gruesome deaths.

Valentine's day got its association with love in 1382 in a poem by Geoffrey Chaucer that celebrated the first anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia. In the poem Chaucer writes:

For this was on Saint Valentine's day
When every bird cometh there to choose his mate.

It's thanks to Chaucer that we speak of people in love as "love birds."

But, of course, we wouldn't even have a Valentine's Day if someone hadn't found a way to make money off of it. The sending of poetic verse to loved ones on this day can be traced back to late 1700s England, and by the next century, factory made cards were being distributed for sale. According to Wickipedia, the first mass-produced Valentines in the United States were made of "embossed paper lace (and) were produced and sold shortly after 1847 by Esther Howland of Worcester, Massachusetts."

Valentine's Day is not just an American or British phenomenon, however. It's also celebrated in places like Sweden, where's it's called "All Heart's Day," in Finland where's it's called "Friend's Day" and people are encouraged to remember all those they love. Slovenia's celebration has a decidedly creation spirituality theme. A Slovenian proverb declares that "St. Valentine brings the keys of roots," so "on February 14, plants and flowers start to grow (and) the first work in the vineyards and in the fields begin. It is also said that birds propose to each other or marry on that day." So, on this day, in Slovenia at least, marriage is for the birds!

Valentine's Day is even observed in the Philippines, where the Wikipedia entry notes "It is usually marked by a steep increase in the price of flowers."

We spend a lot of our money on Valentine's Day:

  • About 110 million roses, most of them red, will be sold and delivered within a three-day time period around Valentine's Day.
  • About 1 billion Valentine's Day cards will be bought and exchanged - making this the largest seasonal card sending occasion of the year, next to Christmas, of course.
  • And, all that spending isn't always on our human loves. About 3 percent of pet owners will give Valentine's Day gifts to their beloved animal children.

That may seem like business just taking advantage of the day, but it has a deeper meaning. What it reveals is that true love is costly - not just to your wallet, but to your soul, to your spirit, and sometimes to your physical life.

Love demands a high price from us, asking us to open our minds and hearts and not turn away from those in this world who are desperate to hear a few silly love songs. Love is persistent - it calls and calls, and waits for our answer. Will we be true? Are we willing to sing silly love songs in this world?

Breathe deeply.

V: Love shines out like a beacon, I am,
I am just what I am,
I believe love is a land without borders,
Yes, yes be true

Ch: For a promise made is a promise given,
I might be down but I'm not quittin'
Show me now where it's written,
Yes, yes be true

After the Beatles broke up, Paul McCartney formed a band called "Wings" that featured some great musicians, and his wife Linda. In 1976, they recorded the song we'll do tonight. It's called "Silly Love Songs." It went all the way to number one on the US pop charts, proving people really do still love silly love songs.

You'd think that people would have had enough
Of silly love songs
But I look around me and I see it isn't so
Some people wanna fill the world with silly love songs
And what's wrong with that I'd like to know
'Cause here I go again

I love you, I love you
I love you, I love you

In the Jesus story, we find our boy out for a walk along the sea of Galilee. The fishermen are out dropping their nets, working hard for a living. Jesus spots a boat, gets in and asks the boat's owner, a guy named Simon, to push him out into the lake. Simon complies and Jesus begins to teach the crowd that had gathered on the shore to hear him. We're used to stories about Jesus teaching to the crowds, but this story is different. We're told that Jesus teaches, but we're not told about this sermon from the boat.

Instead, Luke is not interested in Jesus' teaching to the crowd - he's more interested in how Jesus teaches one person - Simon. After the sermon, Jesus has some fishing advice for Simon. He suggests changing his fishing spot - to go out into deeper water. You can just imagine Simon's reaction: "Who is this carpenter to tell me my business? I know how to fish. I've done this for years. The nerve of this guy."

That's what I hear Simon saying even though Luke records his reaction a bit differently. Simon tells Jesus, "We've worked all night long and we haven't caught anything." Simon resists Jesus suggestion - he's tired and he wants to go home. But, Simon is a fisherman after all, and the temptation of finally catching something is so great, he'll even take a gamble on a carpenter's suggestion of where he might find some fish. So, he puts the boat out, and lo and behold, they catch so many fish they have to call others in to help get them all to shore.

Simon's opinion of this carpenter guy instantly changes. Before, when he didn't like the idea of this carpenter calling the shots he called him "Master" or "Teacher." But, when he gets back from his big haul - his tune has changed. He's calling Jesus, "Lord" and declaring how unworthy he is of Jesus' obvious expertise in fishing.

Jesus rejects Simon's idol worship. He doesn't say, "Yeah, that's right, bow down, little man because you've met God in the flesh." No, he simply tells Simon, "Don't be afraid." But, aren't we always afraid when love calls, when love asks us to get out of the shallow end of life and fish in the deeper waters? Don't we always resist, out of fear of the unknown, when we feel that urging from the Holy to go a little deeper in our own spiritual life - to fish deeper waters of theology, deeper waters of spirituality? Don't we always resist, out of fear, when love calls us from our own comfort zone and into service to others - often times those we'd rather not serve?

Jesus says, "don't be afraid" because when you hitch your boat to the divine these kinds of incredible miracles will happen every single day. When we move further away from the shore into the deeper waters of love - we are rewarded beyond our wildest dreams. The abundance of love that we receive is so great we have to get others to help us take it all in - we have to build whole communities like this one at Jubilee! Circle, to even be able to handle all the love coming our way. When we dare to wade into love's deeper waters, the amazing becomes the norm, because when we open ourselves to the divine - when we start singing silly love songs inspired by the Holy, the ordinary becomes extraordinary, the mundane becomes miracle, the boring becomes blessed.

When we give all to the Holy, the Holy gives all to us - inviting us to fall in love with ourselves, with others, and with the world. And when we're in love, we can help but sing silly love songs.

I can't explain the feeling's plain to me,
Now can't you see
Ah, she gave me more, she gave it all to me
Now, can't you see
What's wrong with that I need to know,
'Cause here I go again

I love you, I love you

Love doesn't come in a minute
Sometimes it doesn't come at all
I only know that when I'm in it
It isn't silly, no, it isn't silly
Love isn't silly at all

Love isn't silly - it isn't silly at all - in fact, love is downright dangerous. Simon and his fellow fishermen took that first step in love that day by the sea. The stepped out in faith and followed this Jesus guy. Perhaps they were intrigued by this idea of a new kind of fishing - whatever their reason, they followed, and got the ride of their lives.

Following Jesus' teachings were difficult for them. They spent most of their time with Jesus asking him questions and thoroughly missing the point of what he was asking them to do. We're no different. We think we understand what we're called to do - then we mess it up, get it wrong, neglect our responsibilities, or just plain run from what God calls us to do.

That's because what love calls us to do is difficult. Jesus and his disciples spent their lives singing silly love songs about God - about how God could bring about a world of justice, a world of equity, a world of equality - a world where love could conquer war and bring a lasting peace. When you put it that way, it does sound a little silly, doesn't it - almost like a kumbayah moment where we all just hold hands and try to smile and get along. But, love is hard work - it means we have to overcome our own hatreds and prejudices first. It means we have to overcome our own low self-esteem and disgust for our own shortcomings. Love means embracing both the good and the bad, not only in ourselves, but in everyone around us. It doesn't mean turning a blind eye to evil or despair, or not acknowledging the pain and brokenness around us. Instead, singing silly love songs requires us to go deeper - to push further away from shore and fully immerse ourselves into the world's anger and despair - and sing our silly love songs even amid the pain.

Singing silly love songs in a world of hatred and war is never easy.

People scoffed at Jesus and his disciples, and each of them suffered an untimely death because they refused to stop singing those silly love songs. The world will not appreciate your tune. Those in power especially hate to hear silly love songs, because they know love has the power to overcome all evil - and that means their power to keep us all in fear is threatened. Singing silly loves songs frees us from fear - even as we push further and further away from the false safety of the shore.

The psalmist invites us to give thanks to the Holy with our whole hearts - to sing our silly love songs before the other gods of this world - the gods of money and power, even the gods of our obsession with romantic love.

I invite you, Jubilants, sing silly love songs with your whole heart this week - don't let the world's indifference, the world's anger, and the world's displays of evil keep you from loving it all unconditionally. Don't let your own fear, your own shortcomings, your own doubts, keep you from singing silly love songs. People have not had enough of silly love songs. In fact, they are dying to hear them, so, I challenge you - fill the world with silly love songs.

I love you, I love you
I love you, I love you

You'd think that people would have had enough
Of silly love songs
But I look around me and I see it isn't so (oh, no)
Some people wanna fill the world with silly love songs
And what's wrong with that

Oh, Yeah!

Candace Chellew-Hodge is a recovering Southern Baptist and founder/editor of Whosoever: An Online Magazine for GLBT Christians. Her first book, Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians, published by Jossey-Bass is now available at http://www.bulletproofbook.com. She currently serves as the pastor of Jubilee! Circle, a progressive, inclusive community in Columbia, South Carolina. She is also a spiritual director and is currently taking on new directees. She blogs regularly at Religion Dispatches. She can be reached by email at editor-at-whosoever.org or by using the suggestion box.

Copyright by the author All Rights Reserved

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Endorsed by such religious leaders as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Bishop John Shelby Spong and named one of the Best Spiritual Books of 2008, Whosoever founder Candace Chellew-Hodge's first book Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians is making an impact in the lives of LGBT Christians.

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