Back in college, I had a music theory/history teacher who had the amazing ability to improvise in the style of any composer. It’s not that he could play something written by any composer (though I’m certain he could). No, he would just flat make stuff up as he went along, and you’d swear it was Bach or Mozart or Rachmaninoff. He’d always say, “Let’s just write some Mozart...he won’t care because he’s dead.”
He could do that because each composer has something of a voice. Traits that make them who they are. Composers today are no different. There’s a reason, for example, that people say Morton Lauridsen only wrote one song. Lately even Eric Whitacre has been accused of the same. And over the last few days I’ve been listening to film scores again. Gosh, Glory sounds a lot like Titanic and Braveheart. James Horner is James Horner. Hans Zimmer is Hans Zimmer. You hear about a bar and a half and think, “well gosh, this sounds a lot like…” And usually you’re right.
I’ve said before it’s good they only let me preach once a year, because if I preached any more often everyone would know I only have one sermon. Some pastors will go farther and tell you the Bible really only has a handful of sermons to offer if you boil them down to the bare, bare essentials. While that may be something of an exaggeration, I nevertheless take the point.
Even Jesus really didn’t have much in the way of sermonic material really. In the end, he summed it all up—the whole law and prophets and his own teachings—by saying you should love God and neighbor. And by the way your neighbor is everyone. If you boil them down, both the stories about him and his stories about others fit nicely into that single directive.
That’s one of the great paradoxes of the Christ: his mandate is at once simple and impossible. All we have to do is love everyone. But how in the world are we to love everyone?
That said, we get into trouble when we try to make it harder or more complicated. It makes me wonder if we were ever supposed to unpack it in the first place. Is it so hard to accept that our call is to love, and not really all that much more? Why does it have to be so hard? Because life seems so darn complicated. We weave tangled webs. Our complex problems seem to elude the relatively simple answers and directives of Christ.
Most often simply applying Christ’s commandment to love God and neighbor shines the light on the best way forward. Consider that next time you have a disagreement in what seems a hopeless mess of a situation. Leave the complexity behind for a moment and ask yourself only what the loving way forward is. To me, that is the miracle of the Christ. That is making the rough places plain. And that is what leaves me fulfilled when I put my head on my pillow at the end of a long day.