This sermon focuses on a Beatles song called “The Word,” which loudly proclaims that “the word” is love. As I say in the sermon, the Beatles got it mostly right: according to another, more famous John, Jesus Christ is the Word. The Word is God. And God is love. So the word is love—so long as we understand what and, more importantly, who the Word is.
The apostle Paul places the same priority on love in 1 Corinthians 13 that the Beatles do in the song. Without love, Paul says, we’re nothing. As Paul makes clear, however, this kind of love is difficult and costly. Fortunately, we have a Savior who paid that cost on our behalf.
[Please note that there is a short glitch in the video at the 18:00-minute mark.]
The following is my original sermon manuscript with footnotes.
When I was 15, I was at a Wednesday night youth Bible study. We had just returned from a youth retreat the previous weekend. Chuck, my very best friend in youth group, had a powerful conversion experience on the retreat. He publicly recommitted his life to following Jesus. Like me, Chuck loved the Beatles, but unlike me he also loved heavy metal and hair metal. In the wake of his retreat experience, he wanted to offer a testimony at the Wednesday night meeting about what the Lord had done for him. So he did: He described how his life had gotten off course, in part, he said, because of his obsessive interest in rock and roll. So he resolved to change. And he was ready to prove it. He pulled out his stack of records. One by one, he smashed them over his knee and threw them in the trash. Now, this didn’t bother me much when he was pulling out records by Motley Crüe, Quiet Riot, Judas Priest, and Ozzy Osbourne. But when he pulled out a pristine vinyl copy of the Beatles’ Abbey Road—one of the greatest albums ever—I was like, “No! Give it to me!” But he broke it and threw it in the trash.
Even as a young, impressionable Christian teenager, who read the Bible and prayed nearly every day and was very involved in church, I just couldn’t go along with Chuck on this. I knew, by their own admission, that the Beatles weren’t Christians; I knew they used drugs; I knew John Lennon once got into trouble saying that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus. But four years earlier, when I bought a prerecorded cassette of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in the wake of John Lennon’s murder, I fell in love with the band. They helped instill within me a lifelong passion for music. I knew that their music was good—and good music, like all good things, is a gift from God. Besides, I also knew that their songs often spoke to deep, spiritual longings. In fact, I would argue—as I will argue in this sermon series—that at times their songs pointed in the direction of the God revealed by Jesus Christ—even if they didn’t intend them to.
This prerecorded cassette had a profound impact on my young life.
Theologically, I now know that isn’t an accident—I know that the Holy Spirit is very resourceful; and he can even work through things like Beatles music to reveal Jesus Christ to the world.
Earlier, the Vinebranch Band did a Beatles song called “The Word,” which comes from their 1965 album Rubber Soul. It was the first Beatles love song that wasn’t about a boy-meets-girl or boy-loses-girl kind of love. It wasn’t about romantic love at all. It was about a love that was deeper, more profound, more universal. Paul co-wrote the song with John. Paul gave an interview around that time in which he said: “[‘The Word’] could be a Salvation Army song. The word is ‘love,’ but it could be ‘Jesus.’ It isn’t, mind you, but it could be.” The word could be Jesus. Of the four Beatles, Paul, a nominal Catholic, had the least amount of exposure to church and the Bible. But I wonder if he could appreciate just how close he was to the truth.
After all, the song echoes the writing of another, even more famous, John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This same John identifies the Word as Jesus, who is God. Elsewhere he even says that “God is love.” So, according to the Bible, Jesus Christ is the Word. The Word is God. And God is love. So John and Paul got it right: the word is love—so long as we understand what and, more importantly, who the Word is. Read the rest of this entry »