“Eternity is in our hearts,” was the theme of yesterday’s meditation. We are frustrated and saddened by the swift passage of time, and the Bible tells us of a place beyond time that God has prepared for us. But John Lennon was not interested. In one of the biggest hits of all time Lennon proclaimed a very different message.
IMAGINE by John Lennon
Listen at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RwUGSYDKUxU
Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace
You, you may say
I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world…
This song by John Lennon came out in 1971, the year after the Beatles broke up. Lennon called it as good as anything he had ever done. Rolling Stone magazine has it at #3 on their list of the 500 all-time greatest hits. It has a wonderful melody, but one must think carefully about the words. Just try to imagine, he sings, no heaven and no hell. And where do we hear about heaven and hell? From religion; so he adds, imagine ‘no religion, too.’ ‘It’s easy if you try;’ and then, with that nasty old religion out of the way we can all live as one, be at peace, and share. So what’s the problem?– religion. Get rid of that and we will be all right. The wonderful world John Lennon dreams of, a world with no hunger, greed, or killing is possible only by imagining no heaven, no hell, and no religion. Then we could live only for today and all together in brotherhood. Who could want anymore than just ‘today?’
What rings more true for you?– the description of our frustration with time in yesterday’s meditation, or, John Lennon’s Imagine? I have a friend who has terminal cancer. He is grateful for every day he gets; but do you know what he would like? More days. More time. And his hope and comfort is in the Christian promise of something more beyond the death that awaits him. John Lennon might see the hope of heaven as a problem. But if there is such a thing as heaven, I want to know about it, and, I want to find out whatever I need to know, do, or believe so I can be in on it. It saddens me to think of those people whose hope for heaven might have been destroyed because this wonderful melody led them to believe these foolish lyrics.
John Lennon was not only one of the most talented musicians of the 20th century, he was also a world-class smart aleck. He was always making arrogant and infuriating comments on a wide variety of subjects. Here is a famous Lennon quote from 1966, a few years before he wrote Imagine: “Christianity will go… It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue the point; I’m right and I will be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now. Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary.” So there! Christianity is on its way out and we will all be better off without it. But I am sure Jesus was thrilled to hear that the great John Lennon approved of him anyway, even though his followers weren’t up to Lennon’s standards. Actually, despite the church’s many failures, a strong case could be made that it has been the Christians through history who have brought more sharing, peace, and brotherhood to the world than any other movement or group.
The song wants us to imagine living for today only, with no religion and no hope for heaven. The song makes this all sound so pleasant and wonderful, but there is, of course, an unpleasant side to such imaginings. John Lennon could have told the whole truth by adding another verse that could have gone something like this:
Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
When you’re dead, you’re dead, that’s all
Nothing to hope for, no where to go
Just a body in a box in the ground, or ashes in a urn
As for me, I’d rather imagine a heaven, and not only imagine, but examine, and question, to see if it might be really be there. Tomorrow, we’ll imagine that.
Ecclesiastes 3:18-20 — I also said to myself, “As for humans, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.”
James 4:13-15 — Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”
John 3:16 — For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Lord, here we are, do with us as seemeth best in thine own eyes; only give us, we pray, a penitent and patient spirit to expect thee. Lord, make our service acceptable to thee while we live, and our souls ready for thee when we die. Amen.
–William Laud (1573-1645)