Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Gospel According to Jimi Hendrix

The Gospel According to Jimi Hendrix
[video link]
Sermon preached on Sunday, October 16, 2011 All Saints Church, Pasadena

“And the Pharisees plotted to entrap Jesus …” So begins the gospel appointed by our lectionary cycle for this Sunday in October … and I promise we’ll get to that in a minute.

But I want to start out this morning with a reading from a different gospel … the Gospel According to … Jimi Hendrix. And it goes like this:

When the power of love
overcomes the love of power,
the world will know peace.

Being a child of the 60’s and a student in the 70’s I’m old enough to remember this text in context … but it took seeing it last week on a protest sign in the hands of a twenty-something Occupy Wall Street protester to remind me of the power of those words – and promise of that power.

When the power of love
overcomes the love of power,
the world will know peace.

WHEN the power of love overcomes the love of power.
Not IF the power of love overcomes the love of power.

That’s the distinction that elevates this quote from Jimi Hendrix from "cool sign" to Good News … which is, of course, the root of the word Gospel – which literally means “good news” … and good news comes from a variety of sources. In my ordination vows I swore that I did believe the Bible to contain all things necessary to salvation. Those vows did NOT, however, say that ALL things contained IN the Bible were necessary to salvation – cases in point being some chunks of Leviticus and those Psalms about smiting enemies and dashing babies against rocks. They also did not preclude finding Good News – finding Gospel – in texts beyond the Bible … even in such unlikely places as a quote from a 60’s rocker on an Occupy Wall Street protest sign:

When the power of love
overcomes the love of power,
the world will know peace.

And it is into that power … that promise … that we baptize Liam, Sheldon, Gilead and Siena today.

We do so knowing that baptism is a mystery … not to be confused with magic. Ed Bacon is not going to splash hocus-pocus water around and magically presto-chango them from heathan/pagan babies to children of God. That’s not how a sacrament works. A sacrament – which you either remember, have forgotten or are about to learn – is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace – it is something we do as a community of faith to outwardly claim what God has already done inwardly.

These children – created in God’s image -- already belong to God. We’re just going to celebrate that this morning with the sacrament of baptism – the outward and visible sign – is how we as a community mark and recognize what God is already doing or has done.

And I can’t resist telling one more story about my Brian. I’m remembering, when he was a little guy and “The Lion King” made its first appearance in theaters. Of course we went to see it … and at that wonderful moment in the beginning when the lion cub is handed over to the spiritual head of the community (a baboon, but let’s not go into that!) and he cracks open a coconut and splashes the forehead of the cub … raising him up for the community to see and celebrate.

And Brian … who did not at that point in his life posses an “inside voice” said “They baptized a LION????” … and I was torn between embarrassment as all the heads turned and delight that my Brian knew a sacramental moment when he saw one.

He knew it because he was raised in a community of faith where we teach our children to recognize an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace long before we teach them to define one. We show them what it means to live lives in alignment with God’s love and justice and compassion. And we promise them that no matter who they grow up to be or no matter where they find themselves on the journey of faith there will always be a place for them here.

So what we’re doing this morning for Liam, Sheldon, Gilead and Siena is -- arguably -- programming their spiritual GPS for the journey ahead.

We are giving them the gift of knowing that whenever they need to they can just hit that icon called “home” and find their way back.

• Where all are welcome.
• Where all are Loved.
• Where all are Included.
• Where all are Fed.

And where all are challenged to go out into the world to make a difference by putting the power of God’s love to work overcoming the love of power so the world will know peace.

It is -- my brothers and sisters -- a tall order. Make no mistake about that. Here’s how Sojourner’s Jim Wallis describes the challenge:
“Even a candidate who runs on change, really wants it, and goes to Washington to make it, will confront a vast array of powerful forces which will do everything possible to prevent real change. What it will take is a new spiritual revival to finally make serious social change really possible.

Changing hearts and minds and forging a constituency who will demand nothing less than a new direction. Remember, President Lyndon Johnson didn't become a civil rights leader until Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks made him one. And that's what we need again now.”
Nothing less than a new direction.
Nothing less than the power of love mobilized to overcome the love of power.

That is EXACTLY what we need again now … and that is why what we do here this morning is so important. Not just important for Liam, Sheldon, Gilead and Siena who are being baptized today but for ALL who dare to take on the brave, audacious challenge of taking up the ministry of Jesus on earth – of BEING the Body of Christ in the world – of daring to, once again, say “I will” to the covenant questions asked at each and every baptismal occasion:

• Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
• Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
• Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

These promises – this covenant – is our job description, our strategic plan and our marching orders as Christians all rolled into one.
It is what empowers us and sustains us to be part of that “spiritual revival” committed to making serious social change really possible … to live out the promise that:

When the power of love
overcomes the love of power,
the world will know peace.

And the Gospel according to Jimi Hendrix leads me back to this morning’s Gospel according to Matthew: “And the Pharisees plotted to entrap Jesus …”

It wasn’t the first time the “powers that be” had plotted to entrap Jesus. They’d been out to get him since he preached that first sermon in his hometown of Nazareth … the one where he presumed to tell them that the Year of the Lord’s Favor foretold by Isaiah was not somewhere out in the by-and-by -- but was right there in front of them in the here-and-now. That one almost got him thrown off a cliff.

This morning’s reading is actually the first of three encounters Matthew tells us about in the 22nd chapter of his gospel. It starts out with today’s “economic question” – is it lawful to pay taxes or not? Then the “family values” follow up …whose wife will the widow who married seven brothers-in-a-row be in heaven? Finally the religion question: which is the greatest commandment?

Remember the 22nd Chapter of Matthew the next time someone suggests that “gotcha” questions are an invention of the 21st century media – or Katie Couric –
because they are not. They are as old as 1st century “powers that be” threatened by the radical rabbi from Nazareth with his radical message of God’s love, justice and compassion available to absolutely everybody. And they are as current as the latest episode of As the Anglican World Turns.

Just this week we kicked up a little dust when I posted a quote from the rector’s sermon Sunday up next to a quote from the Bishop of South Carolina’s letter to the clergy of his diocese. You ready? See if you can guess which is which:
"God is always working with and through us to expand the circle of God's love until it includes absolutely everybody." -- The Reverend Canon J. Edwin Bacon, Rector of All Saints Church, Pasadena
"We face a multitude of false teachings which I have called the false Gospel of Indiscriminate Inclusivity.” -- The Right Reverend Mark Lawrence, Bishop of South Carolina
And there you have it.

The love of power pulls the drawbridge up.
The power of love draws the circle wider.

And we choose this day what church we're going to be at All Saints Pasadena. And we choose the power of love.

• The power of love stands with the 99% on Wall Street and marches with the Veterans for Peace on the 10th anniversary of the War in Afghanistan.
• The power of love lights the candles lit at the vigil to end the death penalty and signs the letters sent to support the Dream Act.
• The power of love supports a Protect Marriage movement that protects all marriages and inspires a Family Values coalition that values all families.
• That’s the power we both claim and proclaim here at All Saints Church as we live out the Gospel According to Jimi Hendrix:

When the power of love
overcomes the love of power,
the world will know peace.

[Liam] [Sheldon, Gilead and Siena] – in a moment we will baptize you into the household of God, invite you to proclaim with us Christ’s resurrection and to share with us in Christ’s eternal priesthood -- to join us in making God’s love tangible 24/7.

Because there is a hurting world out there in dire need of a new direction. And so my prayer for all of us today is that the experience of this baptismal celebration empower each and every one of us to go out and be the church in the world – to draw the circle wider – and to BE that power of love that WILL overcome the love of power.

And then there will be peace.



DREGstudios! The Art of Brandt Hardin said...

Beautifully written! Jimi invented Metal and everything Rock knows about the guitar after 1970 came from his psychedelic twisting of what the instrument could do. I paid homage to Hendrix with a portrait called Purple Haze on the anniversary of his passing recently. You can see it at and tell me how the voodoo child’s music has influenced you!

LGMarshall said...

Hendrix was a good guitar player, but had a sad life. He chose the army rather than prison for stealing cars, (a year later he said he feigned homosexuality to get a discharge) he was a drug user, a violent brute toward his numerous girlfriends, and soundly rejected the teachings of Jesus Christ. Hendrix also said, 'I don't have nothin to regret at all in my past', 'let me live the way I want to', 'I'm just gonna do what I feel', 'music is my religion'.

Jesus taught something quite different.

"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword....mt10.34 "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you, not as the world gives..."jn14.27 "I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble." jn16.33.

Gotta give you credit though, for the ultimate juxtapostion -- Jimi Hendrix & infant baptism.

danielj said...

Hendrix may hwve had a sad and short life...but this is not what the post is about. The statement about power and love is very valid, and I thought Rev. Susan wrote a very good piece.

And IMHO, the Jesus saying concerns the radical nature of the Kingdon of God and how that will cause big upsets with spme of the religious status for the secular status quo as well

blessings danielj

MarkBrunson said...

I find most right-wing "christians" have really sad lives. Obviously, they are not people to listen to, yes?

danielj said...

Well, Mark...some do; some don't, just like from any other group. I am saddened over what passes for Christian a lot of times...christianity itself bears much of the blame here; often not being a religion that has much to do with the teaching of Jesus. but that is changing in some quarters.

What I find interesting is that non christian sometimes seem to "get it". recently on the Daily show, Jon intervues two of his wearing a team christian T shirt, the other wearing a team morman T shirt. He gets them to agree that both religions share some "doctrine" about Jesus. And when he starts talking about the actual teachings OF Jesus, both T shirters start to mutter and shake their heads no. One actually says, "I am pretty certain that Jesus was a free market kind of guy"! the point of course is like what Bill Mayers says "being a fan of Jesus is not the same as being a follower of Jesus". here in lies the basic and continual problem with Christianity.

As for not listening to right wingers...would not it be nice if some of them could actually gain the ability to hear themselves with the ears of Jesus? We would all do better with bigger Jesus-ears!

blessings danielj

MarkBrunson said...


I think everyone ought to be listened to, if only to hear their pain. I respond harshly sometimes, because what I hear tells me that's what's needed - sometimes the "villain" causing the pain is yourself.

However, LG, as usual, is trying to cloudy things up a bit by pointing out the "sad life" of Jimi Hendrix. I was trying to point out that, if that's a criterion for simply rejecting the usefulness of what they had to say, then we ought to apply that to . . . say . . . everybody. We've all had sad lives and done absolutely appalling things to ourselves and others - even Jesus had a "short, sad life" by our standards, as did St. Francis, Bernadette Soubiroux(sic; lousy at French), Jean d'Arc, . . . on and on.