“It only takes a spark , To get a fire going
And soon all those around, Can warm up in its glowing
That's how it is with God's love, Once you've experienced it
You spread His love to everyone, You want to pass it on”
(Verse 1 “Pass It On” by Kurt Kaiser)
Last week at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church we began a sermon series with the title “Thessalonian Songs,” relating a Christian song or hymn to a passage from the First letter to the Thessalonians. Our first sermon looked at a hymn by Baltimore's own R. Kelso Carter, “Standing on the Promises.”
This week we move on to consider 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8 and I'll be referencing a more recent song, written by Kurt Kaiser, called “Pass It On.” The song first became known as part of a musical called “Tell It Like It Is” that Kurt co-wrote in 1969 with Ralph Carmichael. The late 1960s and 1970s saw the genesis of many Christian youth musicals, a genre that would be replicated on Broadway. In 1971, “Godspell” by Stephen Schwartz, and the rock opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber, “Jesus Christ Superstar” became part of popular culture.
Many first discovered “Pass It On” when they attended a Christian Camp or Conference in their youth. It still functions as a popular guitar based folk song to sing around a roaring camp fire. This fits with Kurt's original intentions.
He writes; "On a Sunday night I was sitting in our den by the fireplace where there were remnants of a fire, and it occurred to me that it only takes a spark to get a fire going . . . and the rest came very quickly. My wife suggested that I should say something about shouting it from mountain tops, and that ended up in the third verse. It only took about 20 minutes to write the lyrics. Afterwards my wife and I went for a walk, letting the song ruminate in our minds.”
This song reflects the power of a simple idea set to a singable tune. Such songs take on a life that the composer never considered. Kurt says, "I am always amazed how the Lord can take a little song and use it to reach so many people. It has been sung at countless weddings and funerals, at ordination services, by the Sea of Galilee, in Rhodesia, on the aircraft carrier Enterprise... and lots of camps."
The church in Thessalonica was born in the midst of conflict. Things hadn't been easy for Paul when he first preached the gospel to them. When he left them, there were people who spread rumors that could have invalidated his ministry. There was a danger that the fire he had lit in their hearts was about to be quenched! Paul seeks to remind them of both the way he had acted while with them and points them to the core of the gospel message – the love of Jesus Christ. It was that love which he had proclaimed, and it was that same love that would sustain them in the future.
The spark to rekindle the fire in their hearts was his suggestion that if they focused on passing the love of God to others, through their words and actions, then everything else would fall into place. When we focus in on ourselves we easily become distracted. When we seek to enrich our communities through our gifts and talents, it offers our lives a new purpose and gives them a deeper meaning. I suspect Paul would agree with the third verse of Kurt's song:
“I wish for you my friend, This happiness that I've found,
You can depend on Him, It matters not where you're bound,
I'll shout it from the mountain top, I want the world to know,
The Lord of love has come to me, I want to pass it on.”
For some music, a sing a long video from Brad Guldemond, "Pass It On."
The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.