REV. DR. MICHELLE J. MORRIS HAS A MASTER OF DIVINITY DEGREE AND A PH.D. IN RELIGIOUS STUDIES BOTH FROM SOUTHERN METHODIST UNIVERSITY. SHE ALSO SERVES AS A UNITED METHODIST PASTOR IN ARKANSAS. SHE STARTED THIS BLOG AS A PLACE TO HAVE INTELLIGENT AND FAITHFUL REFLECTIONS ON THE BIBLE.

Call to Worship Wars: Beatles v. Bon Jovi

Sometimes I like to imagine I am more of a rock and roll pastor than I actually am.  Maybe I am feeling a little more rock and roll here lately because I finally own my first ever leather jacket.  Sure, I got it from an estate sale, and sure it only cost me $6, and sure the sleeves are too long, but I feel cool in it nonetheless.  Of course, how rock and roll is it to say, “I feel cool nonetheless.” Not very. 

Anyway, when I have these attacks of delusions of grand rebellion, I like to imagine coming in for worship while some great rock song is playing.  Lately, I have been stuck on the idea of either coming in while The Beatles song “Come Together” plays, or while Bon Jovi’s “Lay Your Hands on Me” plays.  For kicks, and because I feel like we could revel in the sublimely ridiculous today, I thought I would debate with myself the potential for either song to serve as a Call to Worship.

First, the Beatles.

It took me a while to come around to this song.  Honestly, it took the Gary Clark Jr. and Junkie XL version appearing in Justice League to hook me. I am equally hooked on the original now, though.  There was something about that song that kept hanging with me, and hanging in my God brain. Some songs get stuck in there and bounce around like a pinball.  I can’t see how they fit, but there is something agitating me to keep listening for God. Eventually I remember to ask my go-to questions.  There are three: does this song relate to a biblical passage, could I sing this song to Jesus, or could Jesus sing this song to me? 

It was the chorus that finally caught hold: “Come together… over me.” It was as if I could hear Jesus saying that, and then it sounded like the definition of worship.  If there is anything that Christian worship is, it is coming together over Jesus. 

So now it sounds like a reason to worship.  And then I listened to the rest of the song.  What a weird collection of characters it describes.  So I don’t know if the song means to describe the weird character as the “me” or not, but it started to sound like a litany of people we should be willing to invite to worship.  Shouldn’t we welcome in old flat top who is groovin’ up slowly, even if he has ju-ju eyeball?  After all he is one holy roller.  Or what about the guy who has no shoe shine but toe jam football and a monkey finger.  We should welcome him as he says, “I know you, and you know me.” Because one thing I know is we all got to be free, and there is no better way to be free than to know Jesus.

So if you are looking for a call to worship that declares even the oddest among us are welcome to come together over Jesus, might I recommend this Beatles classic?

But let’s say the vibe you are trying to set is less one of radical hospitality and more one of miraculous power?  For that, let’s turn to the boys from Jersey.

Now, I will admit, there are some obvious sexual overtones to this song.  But that is the magic of Bon Jovi’s music, which is anchored regularly in faith imagery as well.  There is something transcendent in the blending of these realities. 

Also, my husband says that Bon Jovi’s slogan could be, “Give the keyboardist a chance!” The intro to this song is positively organ-ic and definitely recalls the sound of an enthusiastic church organ blaring as the choir comes down the row.  Except there have to be spotlights moving in all directions.  Because honestly, the reason that I want this song to work as a call to worship is for the first 1 minute and 35 seconds of the intro.  I really wish all of us would start church with the kind of anticipation, the kind of build up that happens in this song.  And then the first words:

                “They say that to live for your body, you gotta free your mind. So come on. Check this out.”

Again, quite a powerful call to worship.  Then the theme is set for a healing service. “Lay your hands on me. Lay your hands on me. Lay your hands on me.”  

If you are really uncomfortable about the double entendre stuff, you could honestly stop right there.  You would have a pretty sweet call to worship. 

I don’t think I can make a call between these two.  I think they serve different purposes.  They serve different worship emphases.  I could see using one in one context and the other in another.

Of course, I am still a pastor who has an ill-fitting leather jacket, so I doubt I will even actually be in a position to try either one of these out as calls to worship.  But I would love to know your opinions of which one you think works best, or if you have other ideas. And who knows? Maybe someday I will be the opening preacher at a rock concert.  We can all have our dreams. 

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