This Church Goes to Eleven
"If the sun refused to shine,
I would still be loving you.
Mountains crumble to the sea,
There would still be you and me."
- Led Zeppelin
"Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."
-1 Corinthians 15:58
In a display of the irony of first world/third world contrast, Phil Collins appeared at 1985's Live Aid not once but twice. In two different places. He had to fly a jet to appear at stadiums Wembley and JFK, respectively. He sang as a solo artists in England, then flew across the pond and drummed for Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin (!) in Philly. There is some great irony in the excess of flying half way around the world to sing for starving children. Very rarely do paradox and incongruity meet, embrace, and get married via a balding pop superstar. But, there was a time, my friends. Oh yes, there was a time...
That Phil drummed for Led Zeppelin might seem like a sidebar until you understand what a difference there is between him and John Bonham (nickname: Bonzo), the Zep drummer who died in December of 1980. John was everything that, today anyway, Phil is not. John was bombastic. He lived large. He never wrote a song for a Disney film. He never sung about not being able to dance. He never expended large amounts of jet fuel to play a show that was a benefit for kids who didn't have a bowl of oatmeal, let alone jet fuel, let alone a jet to put that fuel in and to eat their oatmeal on.
I don't want to be too critical of ol' Phil. Sometimes, people get caught up in the moment, and mistakes are made. So, if you like Phil Collins, I'm sorry. Put on your Yanni CD and relax. This blog post will be over soon. It'll be alirght.
I like a lot of motion around me. Sometimes I observe this motion, and sometimes I partake. But I like to know there is a lot going on. It comforts me. I get more work accomplished when there is more work to do. I thrive on it. I usually languish, however, when there isn't enough to keep me occupied. It's probably why I really like it when God's people are doing something, and I really, really like it when God is doing something. I like it very much when I'm moving, too. And I become very disgruntled when people complain, and then sit on their hands. Don't look now. There is a metaphor for the church coming that will smack you up side the head if you're not careful.
And it's an easy metaphor. Get out. Get out of your bubble. Get out of your comfort zone, think outside the box, shift the paradigm and insert your overused business-speak phrase here. After you've done all that thinking and shifting, contemplate the life of Mr. John Bonham.
Born in England, John started drumming on tin cans at age 5. He copied his idols Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich when he got his first proper drum kit at age 14. He'd play with bands while working with his father in construction. He eventually met up with Robert Plant, who met up with Jimmy Page, and the rest is deafening history.
He used the longest and heaviest drum sticks available, which he called "trees". He beat the crud out of his drums at every performance, and mastered different musical styles when called upon to do so by the songwriting of Plant and Page. He was the first drummer to use synthesized drums on stage. He also lived the true, stereotypical rock star lifestyle, cutting a swath of destruction and leaving a path strewn with liquor bottles. But, whatever he did, good or bad, smart or stupid, he did with everything he had, with every ounce of energy. It was, we might say, extreme behavior.
In a time when extremists are very bad people, we forget that "extremists" (people with serious passion and tenacity) can be good, too. A better word for this kind of life might be "focused." There was another guy named John that lived a focused life, eating only wild honey and locusts, wearing camel's hair clothing, and preached in a desert. Why couldn't he just do it like everyone else had? Well, does history ever remember anyone who lived like everyone else did? Take it home and frame it: history (and you and I) remember the exceptions to the rule. You don't win friends with salad, and you don't win friends by calling them a brood of vipers, either. But they will remember you…
Those of us who are faithing it sometimes think we have absolutely nothing to learn from the world. We really think we have nothing to learn from famous actors and musicians, but seem to use their product at every turn for sermon illustrations and musical backdrops. Sure, some of that behavior is down right annoying and pompous (I could do without the protesting and testifying before Congress, for example), but there is plenty to garner from those ultra-liberal, left-brained, artsy-fartsy, namby-pamby and….I've run out of dashes. But you get the point: education is where you find it.
Yes, John Bonham lived an erratic life. Yes, he did indulge in behavior that was reckless and sinful. God grieves when His creation doesn't live the way He intended, the way He created us to live. I'm not endorsing the behavior, but the spirit by which it was born. Please don't miss the point if you're focused on the flaws and sin of someone. I don't intend to gloss over it; it's just not the point that I'm making. The big picture here is that we need to live the life that is vital, its pulse pounding with the energy of the truest, Good-est News that ever was. As Paul said, "always give yourselves fully." The church, like John Bonham, needs to live a life that goes to 11.
If you don't know what that last sentence means, go rent "This Is Spinal Tap."