Sermon: The Gospel of The World

Posted January 6, 2013 @ 6:15am | by Tripp

I have this thing for the Dave Matthews Band. I'm a fan. I like to think that they got their start in Virginia, you know. I have no choice.

A friend took me to hear one of their concerts almost twenty years ago and I've been a fan ever since. Well, they have a new album out and I tend to pay attention to such occurrences. Like many long-lived bands, not all of Dave's albums have been popular or even all that good, but this most recent effort, released just last fall, caught my attention. 

You see, Dave is sharing some of his spiritual side. I like it when he does that. He's better known for his fantastic parties and finding ways to get kicked out of Chicago for poor behavior on a tour bus (Yes, you can get kicked out of Chicago. It is possible.), but Dave has a deepth and spirit to him that I admire.

The first song he released from his album is entitled "Mercy." I'm going to play a video the band released. It's a "lyric video." I want you to pay attention to the words that flash on the screen as you listen. 

I was struck by the beauty of the music and by Dave's use of some liturgical language...Yes, liturgical language.

Lift up your eyes.
Lift up your heart.

The second phrase is, in many Christian traditions, a common invitation to Communion. 

Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord. 

I wonder if Dave had this in mind as he composed "Mercy." I don't know that he did, but there's that phrase and it's stuck with me. Mercy...lift up your eyes...Mercy...lift up your hearts...The world is what we make it, so we gotta get together. We all have to be just a little bit stronger for one another. Mercy.

It's beautiful.

Well, making the video turned out to be an interesting project of its own, too. Maybe you noticed at the end of the video that there would be news about ways that fans of the band could participate in the making of the official music video for the song. People sent in pictures and short video clips of themselves singing and sharing and smiling this.

Over 14,000 people participated. So many people. Children. Adults. All wanted to participate in this musical project called "Mercy."

Dave went out into the world. He sent an invitation through the ether and...well...something beautiful was created. Something proclaiming Mercy and asking for us to give of ourselves was proclaimed. Mercy, what will become of us? One by one can we turn it around? Maybe carry on just a little bit longer and I'll try to give you what you need.

I'm haunted by this song and it's message to the Church. I'm haunted. And I feel like any relief I might have is found in this story of the Epiphany...
...The star-gazers, astronomers really, from a far away country come to find God...swaddled in a manger. God is small, helpless, and in need of Mercy. Knowing that to return to Herod would put the young family at risk, the astronomers decided to be just a little bit stronger and returned to their homes by another road. 
Who called these wise people? They weren't in the story earlier. They weren't foretold in prophesy. They simply saw a star. That's all. They were “in the world” and took the initiative to follow a star that was also in the world. There's something surprisingly worldly about the Gospel, no? This is where it happens: in the world...
...a place that requires wisdom, courage, and mercy...that requires that we come together to face the dangers of tyranny and fear, of the insanity that sometimes comes with power. The world is what God loves.
Sometimes, I find for myself, that it is easy to forget how much God loves the world. I get stuck in my churchy ways of doing things, but then someone like Dave Matthews comes along showing me the world, pulling me out of myself and back into what's actually happening reminding me that the church actually is in the world, too, and...well...I have to return home by another road. I simply cannot live the same way. I have to change.
This is the's found by returning home by another road, another way than the one that got us here. It's the call to do something different, to lift up our eyes and see the star, to lift up our hearts and take courage. To live a life of Mercy.
I love that this word comes from some guy who got kicked out of Chicago for being too much of a rock star. Can't we see? Can't we hear? The Gospel does not belong to the Church. It never did. It belongs to the world, to any and all who lift up their eyes, their hearts. Dave is a present day Magi.
...Dave looks out at the world in a way that I cannot (or will not) and sees a solution to what ails us all. It's called Mercy. It won't take much to live out. It just asks us to be a little bit stronger, to try. Dave sees this as ready and available in the world. He asked people to contribute and they did...they shared and danced and sang and offered themselves.
This is what is found in the world. This is, I believe, the Gospel of The World. The Gospel of The World is Mercy.
Love is not a whisper or a weakness.
No, no, love is strong.
It sounds in the darkness
like a star shining on the horizon...
Mercy. Will we overcome this?
Have we come too far to turn it around?
Does it ask too much to be a little bit stronger?
No. Of course not. 
We merely return home by another road.
One-by-one...turn it around. 
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