Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Enjoy Every Sandwich

My colleague in the ministry, Rev. Mason Beecroft, has a post about the latest dust-up in the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod - this time, yet another scandalous use of lawyers and their threatening letters directed at men who are doing nothing wrong, but simply using the gifts God gave them to further the Gospel - which the synod said could not be done under the synod's banner in a financially responsible way. The fact that they are doing it and succeeding independent of the synod seems to irk some of the suits at the Purple Palace.

In his analysis, Pr. Beecroft made a fleeting reference to Warren Zevon and his iconic pop song "Lawyers, Guns, and Money." Indeed, this ditty often comes into my head when I ponder the sorry state of the Missouri Synod these days. While guns aren't being used, there sure are a lot of lawyers sucking the life out of our fellowship, like parasitical vampires draining the very blood of Christ from the Church itself. And just about every communication from synod and its districts involves its not-so-subtle fundraising program couched under the biblical imagery of ordination: Fan Into Flame (I guess my idea "When the Coin in the Coffer Rings..." didn't catch on with the marketing wonks in St. Louis).

So, "Lawyers, Guns, and Money" may not be the perfect anthem to describe our synod, but as Meat Loaf would say, "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad."

I do believe that if our synodical hierarchy enjoyed the kind of power that church bureaucrats had at the time of the Reformation, we would see the duo of lawyers and money rounded out by guns as well. Thanks be to God that the Missouri Synod cannot threaten people with the stake or the inqusition - but can only resort to the more "civilized" intimidation and bullying from hired "guns" in the form of corporate lawyers.

Or, as I believe Scripture generally calls them: "teachers of the law."

But anyway, for a few weeks now, I have been re-discovering the late Warren Zevon's music. As an artist, he was creative. As a rock-singer, he was unique. He wrote not only catchy tunes, but clever lyrics with tongue-in-cheek plays of words and a dark graveyard humor showing the gritty underbelly of original sin at work. He also demonstrated an epic James Bond sort of imagination combined with vivid (and at times even lurid) storytelling. And, unlike a lot of singers of his genre, he actually had a melliflous and melancholic voice that hints of real musical training and polished showmanship. Over the years, Warren Zevon struck up a friendship with Late Show host David Letterman, and was a frequent guest on the program.

After he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in 2002, Zevon made his final appearance on Letterman, and the entire program became a tribute, almost a premortum obituary, a touching, and yet irreverent and bittersweet celebration of the art and work of a cheeky pop singer who always seemed to have the Grim Reaper looking over his shoulder. When Zevon was introduced, the Late Show band played his song "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead."

The video above is taken from that performance, and is one of my favorite Warren Zevon tunes (which was David Letterman's favorite as well): "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner." This was to be his last public performance, and is a rollicking modern folk tale about a European mercenary who fought in Africa, was killed by a traitor in cahoots with the CIA, but who takes his revenge in the afterlife as a headless ghost.

When asked if his diagnosis taught him anything, Zevon quipped: "Enjoy every sandwich." This off the cuff remark became a posthumous motto, and was repeated back to Zevon by Letterman at the end of the program. After the show, Zevon presented his guitar to David Letterman, and asked him to take care of it.

Warren Zevon died at the age of 56 on September 7, 2003 surrounded by family. His last album, a sort-of last will and testament, The Wind, was made when he knew he was dying, and includes a cover of Bob Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door."

In 2004, a group of musicians released a tribute album featuring Zevon's music, calling it Enjoy Every Sandwich. And since it is now noon, that's just what I am going to do with my wife and son!


WM Cwirla said...

Great song; great observations.

Anonymous said...

I love Play it All Night Long- It would give a new twist to this ain't your grandfather's church.

"Grandpa p*(&(*ed his pants again...

Sweet home Alabama (Missouri), Play that dead band's song."

We could have some fun with Zevon's music and our current state. "Poor, poor, pitiful me." "Excitable Boy."

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Wm:

Thanks. The sandwich was really good. Enjoyed every bite. ;-)

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Mason:

Indeed, Warren Zevon's music begs to be parodied - and somehow I think Warren would approve.

Here is my little tribute to Todd and Jeff, sung to the tune of Lawyers, Guns, and Money...

Well, we taped another podcast
The way we always do
How were we to know
That Jerry wasn't through?

We revived Issues, Etc.
The Gospel bearing fruit
Synod lawyers, goons and money
Were threat'ning with a suit

We're a layman and a pastor
Somehow we got stuck
Between the threats of the lawyers
And an abandoned trademark
And an abandoned trademark
And an abandoned trademark

Now we're being hassled
By a desperate man
Synod lawyers, goons and money
Ablaze!(tm) has hit the fan

Anonymous said...

Good stuff. Here's one from a corporate perspective:

I went to charm the people
The way I always do
How was I to know
They listened to Issues, too

We're evolving in the synod
And we took a little risk
Send lawyers, guns and money
They can get us out of this

I'm an ablaze lackey
But somehow I got stuck
Between a rock and a hard place
And I'm down on my luck
Yes, I'm down on my luck
Well, I'm down on my luck

Now I'm working in the Palace
And I'm a desperate man
Send lawyers, guns and money
The flame has hit the fan

Send lawyers, guns and money {4X}

Anonymous said...

Replace: "I'm down on my luck" with "I'm down on my bucks." :)