Monday, June 8, 2009

The Gospel According to the Rolling Stones

Yes, from the same band who gave us “Sympathy for the Devil” come some words of wisdom.

“I can’t get no satisfaction. Though I try, and I try, and I try, and I try, I can’t get no satisfaction.”

We can learn a lot for Mick, Keith, and the boys. After all, they were just repeating the thoughts of the hymn writer. We seek riches, or fame, or fun, or substance, or substances, or whatever, in a search for something that will satisfy.

Possibly, the Stones knew their history: Ponce de Leon and his search for the fountain of youth... The seekers of El Dorado... The Crusaders in quest of the Holy Grail... Marco Polo... Columbus... The Apollo program...

Searching for that indefinable something.

Perhaps Jagger and Richards were students of mythology. The myths are full of the search for satisfaction: King Midas, who longs for gold, only to destroy his own family... Icarus, who longs for his place with the gods, only to see his wax wings melt as his son Daedalus falls to his death... Pandora, who longs for answers, only to unleash horrors on the earth... Narcissus, who longs for himself, only to drown in the pursuit of his vanity...

Maybe they were going back even further in getting the inspiration for their song. It was, after all, Solomon - whose soul’s sad cry was mocked by all of his possessions, his wives, his money, his kingdoms, his palaces, and his helpful proverbs - who declared “vanity, vanity, all is vanity. A chasing after the wind.” For those of you who are not proficient in Biblical languages, what he is saying is “I can’t get no satisfaction.”

Satisfied comes from the Latin word satis, which means “enough.” Being satisfied does not equate with driving the right car, or smoking the same cigarette as a rock-n-roll idol, or having the wealth of Solomon. Being satisfied comes from having enough.

You see, we know we are poor and thirsty, so we try, and we try, and we try, and we try, and we pant for the unfindable fountain.

What we find is that we gather dust, and we thirst. Oh, there may be fine things and bottomless wineglasses at our fingertips, but it is not enough. We can’t get what we want. Our souls crave.

But there is a fountain. There is one who opened the lifegate, who satisfies our longings. We need no other argument or plea.

I remember the first time my choir sang Bob Mulloy's arrangement of Clara Tear Williams' hymn "Satisfied." It was an arrangement that Bob sent to our choir before it was even typeset. We tried hard to read our copies of Bob’s handwritten manuscript during rehearsal. You see, Bob was dying, and he wanted to hear us sing his song. He had no time for publication schedules.

The old hymn includes these words: "All my life long I had panted for a drink from some cool spring that I hoped would quench the burning of the thirst I felt within. Hallelujah, I have found Him, whom my soul so long has craved. Jesus satisfies my longing. Through His blood I now am saved."

When the time came to sing it in concert, I remember Bob in the front row, left (as I looked out from the choir loft), of the balcony. His tired, sick, drawn body was unable to restrain the Hallelujah pouring from his countenance. His breath was failing, but he was saved. He did not get what he wanted, but he got what he needed. He did not have to try, and try, and try; he had found satisfaction.

I don’t know what satisfies you. I don’t know if it is career. I know something about that, for I have made a signifant career move. It was the right thing for me and my family, and I made it following God’s leadership, but it was not enough.

I don’t know if it is family for you. I have a great family. My wife and my three kids and my parents are all in my church. We spend time together and we play together and we pray together. God has given me that family, but it is not enough.

Perhaps for you it is found in your friends. I have the greatest friends in the world. I can push any of several speed-dials on my cell phone and know without doubt that anything I need on this earth will be lent, or given, to me if I am in trouble. I know that a shoulder and an ear and a heart are reserved for me. There are tears and cheers. Blest be the tie that binds our hearts. But it is not enough.

You see, Solomon teaches us that we can have career and money and family and friends and be empty. Come to think of it, we can learn that from David and from Saul and from Napoleon and from Nero and from Marilyn Monroe and from countless other rich, popular, gloomy souls. Come to think of it, we can learn that from the Rolling Stones.

On the other hand, we learn from Job that we can lose career and money and family and friends and yet find that we do indeed have enough.

For what is a man profited, if he gain the whole world but lose his own soul?

After Peter and John healed a man and amazed the crowd, there is a verse in scripture (Acts 4:13) that says this:"When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus."

You see, enough comes from only one place. Enough is Jesus, and it does not matter what else you have or don’t have to go with it. You can be making a big career move or you may have been laid off this week. You can have a Ph.D. or be an "unschooled, ordinary" person. You may be wealthy or you may be destitute. There is nothing wrong with jobs and education and money, but they are not enough. There is nothing comforting about unemployment and lack of opportunity and empty pocketbooks, but they cannot stop – indeed they cannot even contain – satisfaction. Jesus is a rock in a weary land. He fills our cup.

That is what Bob Mulloy and Clara Teal Williams wrote about. And it is what I hear when the Stones sing that they try and they try and they try and they try and they can’t get no satisfaction. We don’t earn it or try for it or buy it or smoke it or sleep with it. We don’t get educated enough or rich enough or popular enough.

The hymn says that we thirst and that all we find is dust. Jesus said it this way:
"Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

Believe it or not, it is the Stones themselves who provide the answer: “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you just might find you get what you need.”

He is rich enough. He is broad enough. He bears our burdens. He is what we need.

The historical, mythological search is over. We do not have to try and try and try.

He is enough. I am satisfied. I have found Him. I am saved.

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