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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Dinner with Don Henley

Because my wife has a mutual friend with Don Henley, we had a brief conversation with him the other night after dinner. (Dinner itself was compliments of Mr. Henley, as mine consisted of a tomato bisque made from tomatoes from his own garden and a grilled cheese sandwich with roasted garlic bread and gruyere cheese. He chided me for not trying the pork shoulder, but c'mon? Tomato soup from Don Henley? How cool is that?)

Anyhow, I digress because I want to point out one of the greatest lines from music that pretty much sums up the Christian religion: Mr. Henley once wrote, "I think it's about forgiveness, even if you don't love me anymore." (Apologies to readers in Illinois, Minnesota and North Dakota who have heard numerous sermons on this line.) It comes from this song "Heart of the Matter." Go ahead and listen. I'll wait.

(waiting.)

If you want to think of forgiveness as a kind of love (and all my learned Hebrew friends are probably thinking that), I have no problem with that. If you think of forgiveness as a kind of love, then Mr. Henley's song makes sense in that solipsistic way of all pop music, where it only references the song, and has little connection to any reality outside of the song. But if you think that "forgiveness" is something different then "love," then the song has a simple brilliance.

What I take from this song is that something survives through all the death, decay, failure, despair, and frustration that makes up so much of our lives. And what survives--forgiveness--comes about from someone, something, somewhere else, but it isn't love. What could survive death, create forgiveness, and motivate the world if not love? What is "the heart of matter" if it isn't love?

The Christian tradition has always answered that question with one word: God. Although God is love, love is not god. And it's God who decides what love is, and not love who decides what God is. We only know love because it's about "forgiveness," and that is what Mr. Henley noted in his song.

Sitting in his dressing room, a 1/2 hour before an Eagles concert, I was struck by how shy and self-deprecating this uber-famous man was. Here was a man whose best friends include the greatest rock stars of the last 40 years, a man who gets awards; but just a guy who cares about his kids, the environment, his wife, and all the stuff all guys do. But when the lights came on, when the music began to play, he wasn't just a guy anymore, he was Don Henley and all his Eagles mates. He was the rock star, and the women still go crazy...

But I'll always have the tomato soup...

May your tables be full, and your conversations be true.

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