Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sloppy wet kisses

Powerful story of the song "How He Loves" by John Mark Macmillan.

Okay, so a side comment on the lyrics. Originally the lyrics in the second verse say, "Heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss." I vividly remember the first time I heard this song. It was at the late service last summer at Central Lutheran Church -- well, actually, at Lions Park in Elk River, just across the street from Central, because that's where we hold the outdoor worship service in the summers, there in the big amphitheater. Kaycee Robertson was leading worship and she had lyric sheets printed up of this song and at first I thought, "I'm not sure I like this song." Then as it went on, and the chorus was "Oh, how he loves us" over and over like a hammer pounding on my heart until I actually realized that Jesus truly does love us, really, not just like we say it on Sunday mornings in the sanctuary but for real ... I started to like the song.

Then we started the second verse, which says, "We are his portion and he is our prize / drawn to redemption by the grace in his eyes / if grace is an ocean, we're all sinking / so heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss / and my heart turns violently inside of my chest / and I don't have time to maintain these regrets / when I think about the way, he loves us ..."

And I thought, "sloppy wet kiss"?! What's going on here? Then I looked at the lyric sheet and I realized, this is talking about the incarnation of Jesus. It's talking about what the prophets had foretold so many centuries before, how Jesus became flesh, and in that becoming, heaven -- the state of being in which God is sovereign over all -- truly does meet earth, and it truly is like a sloppy wet kiss. It's messy. It's intimate. It's tangible. And it does make my heart turn violently inside of my chest. Jesus becoming human to live and die and rise for me is a mess, but he did it anyway.

So when the David Crowder Band redid the song and changed the lyrics to "heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss" I was not happy. Because Jesus' incarnation was not only foreseen, it was predicted. When he was born and laid in a manger in Bethlehem, there were dozens of prophecies being fulfilled. It was NOT unforeseen.

So I prefer the original version instead of the sanitized one.

The explanation I heard (third-hand) is that the David Crowder Band didn't want a song that would stop people in their tracks and make them say, "Huh?" in the middle of worship.

But sometimes I think that's exactly what we need to do in the middle of worship. We need to stop and say, "Huh?" because there's so much we take for granted. We come into the presence of the God of the universe, the Almighty and Ever-living One, and he longs for nothing so much as a personal relationship with us, and we just gloss over that and wonder how long the sermon is going to be today. We need to be jarred a little. We need to have our sensibilities shaken up and our perceptions challenged and our preconceptions shattered by the fact that Jesus got into the middle of our mess, the mess that we usually try to hide from everyone including our best friends.

To make my point, read the Bible. There is LOTS of stuff there that stops you in your tracks and makes you say, "Huh?" Here's a partial list off the top of my head.

1. Why does God want to create stuff?
2. How does God go walking in the garden in the cool of the day?
3. Why is Eve made from a rib?
4. Why does God warn Cain and then Cain kills Abel anyway?
5. Why does Cain -- exiled to wander the earth -- immediately build a city?
6. Who does Cain build a city for?
7. Skipping ahead a bit, why doesn't Noah, who was so good he pleased God, say anything in the story until he curses his grandson Canaan?
8. Why does God make a covenant with Abraham using a bunch of split carcasses?
9. Who is Melchizedek? Is it God in human flesh before the incarnation? So, God the Son who will someday become Jesus, experimenting with incarnation before it gets trendy? Or is it just some pagan king of Jerusalem?
10. Why does Jacob spoil his son Joseph so bad that all the other sons hate him? Is Jacob really so clueless?
11. How come God doesn't lose patience with this bunch? How is it possible that he's willing to put up with all their garbage?
12. Why does the book of Exodus affirm the midwives for lying to Pharaoh?
13. Why does Moses resist God to the point of making him tear his hair out, claiming that he can't speak well, and then when Moses and Aaron get in front of Pharaoh Moses does almost all the talking?
14. Why does the Exodus take place in the most well-documented civilization of the ancient world, but yet we have no secular record of the Israelites' slavery or their escape?
15. Why are the Israelites so amazingly obtuse? Why can't they just once get it right? Why do they keep grumbling, rebelling, complaining, and messing up in every conceivable way?
16. Why does Moses get banished from the Promised Land for one tiny mess up after the Israelites have been pardoned time and again?
17. Skipping way ahead, why doesn't Job ever learn about the bet between Satan and God over whether he'll curse God or not?

I'm going to stop at 17. You see, there are hundreds -- thousands -- of "Huh?" moments in scripture. If we're going to relate to God we'd better get used to them. We didn't even get halfway through the Old Testament.

Sloppy wet kisses. It's as good a phrase as any for this messy way God gets involved in the details of our lives, and how he doesn't fix stuff, he just gets into the middle of it with us. If you haven't watched the video at the top of this post, go back and click on it. It's worth your time.