“The Word Is Love”: New Beatles-related sermon series

April 3, 2013

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I’ve been preparing to preach this sermon series—unconsciously at least—since I was 10 years old. I grew up in the ’70s with two older sisters who listened constantly to Top 40 radio. And the airwaves were inundated with one ex-Beatle in particular, Paul McCartney, and his underrated ’70s band, Wings. In fact, the first 45 RPM record I bought for myself was “Coming Up,” a number one song in the summer of 1980. (The B-side, the Wings’ live version from Glasgow, was actually the hit in America.)

Months later, around Thanksgiving of that same year, I was listening to Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 on Atlanta’s late great Z-93. He introduced a Top Ten song called “(Just Like) Starting Over” by John Lennon. I remember thinking at the time, “Wasn’t Lennon in the band that McCartney was in before Wings?”

This prerecorded cassette had a profound impact on my young life.

This prerecorded cassette had a profound impact on my young life.

Don’t laugh: I was only 10. As hard as it is to imagine now, McCartney had worked for ten years to get out from under the shadow of his former band—with great success. There were Wings fans who weren’t also Beatles fans.

Anyway, Kasem played “(Just Like) Starting Over,” and I thought it might be the greatest song I’d ever heard. Only a couple of weeks later, of course, Lennon was murdered. Perhaps it was morbid curiosity, but I pored over pages worth of articles about Lennon and the Beatles in that evening’s Atlanta Journal. I saved the front section of that paper for a couple of years, referring to it often. I watched hours of news coverage and TV specials in the aftermath of his death. Finally, I purchased a prerecorded cassette of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band in January 1981, and I was hooked. Their music has been an important part of my life and imagination ever since.

As much as I love the Beatles, however, I’m hardly a theologically undiscerning listener—of them or any other band or artist. After all, neither John, Paul, George, nor Ringo were professing Christians; few of their songs touch on explicitly religious themes; and some ideas in their songs run counter to the Christian faith. There’s no danger, then, that I’ll preach the Beatles. I’ll preach the Bible, as always, and connect themes and ideas that emerge in their songs to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I do believe, however, that their songs often affirm the gospel truth, unconsciously or not. And in this series, I’ll gladly point to some ways in which they do.

Each week, the Vinebranch Band will perform a couple of songs by the Beatles that relate to that day’s sermon. For example, on April 14, the first week of the series, the band will perform “The Word” (from Rubber Soul) and “I Will” (from the White Album). My sermon text will be 1 Corinthians 13.

As the song says, “A splendid time is guaranteed for all.”

What Beatles songs do you think would be worthy of theological reflection? Feel free to let me know.

2 Responses to ““The Word Is Love”: New Beatles-related sermon series”

  1. Brent Meyer Says:

    I am Brent Meyer – pastor of the First Baptist Church in Jerseyville, IL – is the sermon series on the Beatles in print form? I’ve been thinking of s similar series and would like to see what another Brent did with it?


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