Posts Tagged ‘The Kinks’

“Waterloo sunset’s fine”

April 19, 2017

As a lily among brambles, so is my love among the young women.

– Song of Solomon 2:2

During my quiet times recently, I’ve been reading the Song of Solomon. This poem, among other things, celebrates erotic love between husband and wife without blushing. But notice I said “among other things”: traditionally, the Church (alongside Judaism) has also interpreted it as a celebration of God’s love for his people. This interpretation is completely in keeping the Bible’s many references to Israel and the Church as “the bride” or wife, with God (or Jesus) as the bridegroom or husband.

This interpretation has fallen out of favor over past hundred years or so as belief in the inspiration of the Bible has waned. Once you accept, however, that God has given us the exact Bible that he wanted us to have (which isn’t hard to do), it’s easy to accept that the Song of Solomon, in addition to describing erotic love between a man and woman, also describes God’s love for his people.

That being the case, think about what this means: God, like the man in the poem, wants you, desires you, is passionately committed to making you his own. For this to be true, we need to throw out that medieval nonsense about God’s impassibility—that God is incapable of feeling emotion—and embrace the full-blooded, biblical belief in God’s passionate love for us. As Roger Olson, among others, has argued, if God doesn’t experience emotion, then entire books of the Bible, like Hosea, make no sense.

At the risk of understatement, God not only loves you, he also likes you. Do you believe it? Or is this so self-evidently true that it doesn’t need to be said?

I don’t think so. In my own life, I fall into this trap in which I believe that God loves me—because of course that’s what God has to do—because of the Cross; thanks to Jesus, God has no choice but to “put up with me,” even though I’m a miserable sinner who fails him time and again.

Does this ring a bell with anyone else?

But suppose the Song of Solomon is true: God loves us like the man loves the woman in that poem. What are our sins compared to that? We all know (I hope) what it’s like to fall in love and have our love returned: in the eyes of our beloved, we are perfect—or at least perfect enough. Theologically speaking, isn’t this what Christ’s imputed righteousness means? There’s a sense in which we Christians are perfect in God’s eyes.

Here’s where this hits home with me: I am an ambitious person, and my ambition has not served me well. In fact, it’s harmed me badly. Since I was a child, I’ve wanted to achieve things, objectively speaking, of which other people will have no choice but to stand up and take notice. They will recognize me, appreciate me, praise me. “If only you accomplish this, Brent, then you will be somebody. Then you will be accepted. Then you will be loved.”

Of course, whenever I get what I think I need, I’m never satisfied.

But suppose the Song of Solomon is true: to say the least, I don’t need anything from anyone other than the One whose love for me is true. I have nothing to prove to him. Whether I succeed or fail, his love for me is undiminished. My value to him isn’t based on what I accomplish.

A thousand love songs other than the Song of Solomon express this truth, but nearly my favorite is “Waterloo Sunset” by the Kinks. It’s the story of lovers Terry and Julie, who, the narrator observes, need absolutely nothing other than their beloved: “But they don’t need no friends/ As long as they gaze on Waterloo sunset/ They are in Paradise.”

Dear Lord, let me fall in love with you the way you have fallen in love with me.

The Lord’s love is your only true home

October 8, 2015

George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) is elated to find himself home again.

A few years ago, months after my mom’s death, we sold my mom’s home. It was the house I grew up in. My parents bought it two years before I was born. Just before we closed on it, my friend Andy—my oldest friend who spent many days and nights there with me over the course of our childhood—said that we should go back and spend one more night there. We could bring sleeping bags and set up a TV in the basement rec room along with my old Intellivision video game system (which I still possess). We could pop popcorn, listen to CBS Radio Mystery Theater on a boom box, and play video games all night.

We didn’t do that, of course. We both had too many adult responsibilities to pull it off. But his suggestion filled us both with longing. If only we could go back home.

Timothy Keller understands this longing. In his sermon on Psalm 103, the psalm that I preached this past Sunday, he uses an illustration from It’s a Wonderful Life to make a point about verses 15-16: “The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.”

There is nothing worse—no worse nightmare—than that place in It’s a Wonderful Life, the Frank Capra film, when Jimmy Stewart—remember George Bailey—he’s sent back to Bedford Falls, New York, right? And his place remembers him no more. He’s sent back, and it’s as if he’d never been born. He goes to see his mother. His mother has no idea—“Who are you? Get out before I call the police.” He goes to see his brother. Well, his brother is dead because—remember that? He’s in the cemetery because George wasn’t around to save him. He goes to see his wife—his wife, Mary. Doesn’t know who he is! Goes to his house—his house! His home.

Now what is home? Every other place you fit in. But home is the place that fits you. Home is the place where the chair’s where you want it. A real home is the place where the colors, the architecture, the furniture—everything is where it ought to be. The smells, the fire, the chair by the window. The ultimate home fits you. The ultimate home is everything you want.

And he goes to his ultimate home, the perfect home, and it’s a ruin. And it’s a nightmare. He says it’s a nightmare. Of course it’s a nightmare! He goes back to the place where he grew up. Verse 16: “And his place remembers him no more.” He’s a man without a place. He’s a man without a home. What a nightmare, right? Why?…

Why is our place so important? I don’t know. But the one thing we do know is that this is the human condition… Over and over and over again we go back and we find that our place remembers us no more. No matter how hard we try, houses crumble, we can’t make the mortgage, people break up, people get divorced, children won’t speak to you… that beautiful field you always remembered has a shopping mall now!

Why? What is this getting at? What it’s getting at is, we all need a place, we all need a sense of home, and until, we’re being told, you realize what your heart is really after, you’re going to spend all of your life chasing will-o’-the-wisps. You’re going to spend all of your life working too hard. You’re going to spend all of your life searching for something, and where can you find it?

Take a look at the contrast. It’s amazing. Its place, verse 16, remembers it no more, but… verse 17: What’s the replacement for that? “From everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him.” The Lord’s love is the home. The Lord’s love is the place. The Lord’s love is the only place that when you go there, they have to take you in. The Lord’s love is the only place where the fire never goes out in the fireplace. Jesus Christ says to his disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you.” Where? “In my Father’s house there are many rooms.” The ultimate home your heart is looking for is in there. The ultimate absolute safety you need is in there.

God knows I spent too many years of my life looking for home somewhere else! Don’t make the same mistake.

The following is a song about home from the Kinks’ 1969 masterpiece, Arthur, or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire. Any home we try to make outside of our Father’s home won’t satisfy us.