Sunday, May 23, 2010

Dylan on a Sunday

The preacher quoted Dylan today. That's what he called him. "Dylan." I moved to the edge of my seat. "Dylan got it right," he said. Finally, something interesting! What would the quote be. I was hoping for obscure, clever, ironic, because these kinds of things hold the possibility of meaning. Obvious is nearly always a disappointment, a cliche, a belly-laugh thief.

And I got obvious. Dang. Church ought to be, but seldom is, the place where you should get something other than obvious. If the world was in good shape, then God should be obvious. If not, then God has to be a surprise, something between the lines, a cure for hiccups.

I got, "You gotta serve somebody." The best thing about this song is the back-up singers. It's not that its bad, exactly. It's not bad. It's just so obvious. And it's an easy dualism. This or that. And those don't go down well with me. I like it all just a bit more complex.

Now, I didn't really expect anything different. I was shocked to hear Dylan's name at all. If I hadn't been so shocked in the first place, I would've guessed "Serve Somebody" or something old like "Blowin in the Wind." No chance it could have been, "Not Dark Yet," or "What was it You Wanted," or even something like "Highway 61 Revisited."

After my Pepperdine presentation, someone who evidently reads this blog (sorry can't remember who), expressed mock surprise that I didn't quote Dylan in my sermon. And I'm pretty sure that I never have. I don't think we have that kind of relationship. I've quoted the Rolling Stones, Heart, U2, Pink Floyd, but never Dylan.

And today's experience convinced me that no one should. The Dylan stuff that would fit in a sermon, at least most sermons, is not his best stuff. And his best stuff doesn't go with anything else. The world of a Dylan song is incommensurate with other worlds. And so is the world of a good sermon. You don't just casually shuffle those kinds of things together.

So, Dylan on a Sunday is always a good thing. But maybe not in a sermon.

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