"...You and I must make a pact,
we must bring salvation back
Where there is love, I'll be there
I'll reach out my hand to you,
I'll have faith in all you do
Just call my name and I'll be there..."
Recently I saw an ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) public service announcement in which this song, "I'll Be There." was used to deliver a plea for compassion. At first it brought back memories of sitting with my back against one of the plaid cushions from the sofa in our living room, watching the Jackson 5 on The Ed Sullivan Show, on a Sunday night in the late 1960s or early 1970s.
Sunday's were special in our family. Church and Sunday School in the morning, gardening or a family outing...rock climbing in Red Rocks, antique bottle digging in some remote location, a drive into the nearby mountains...in the afternoon, and homemade pizza and dad-brewed and bottled root beer for dinner on newspaper spread on the floor of the living room, while we watched "The Wonderful World of Disney."
Clean-up and dessert during Bonanza, baths and bed-time for the "little kids," then watching Ed Sullivan while we marked our Bible Lesson books until our own bedtime.
I loved Sundays.
I can clearly remember my dad's reaction to seeing, and hearing, the Jackson 5 on Ed Sullivan. He was spellbound by Michael's voice. It was 1970 and I don't know that my dad had ever heard that "Motown sound" before. And he loved it. My dad worked long, hard days. He had a wife and eight children to support. He loved music, but had little, or no, time to indulge himself in its pursuit or pleasure. His exposure to new sounds came from hearing break-out acts when they performed on Ed Sullivan. or overhearing something my sister and I played on our family phonograph.
So when I heard "I'll Be There" the other day, I smiled at the memory of my dad's delight with the Motown sound. Before his passing, three years later, he would learn to play a few Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, and yes, Jackson 5 songs either on his beat-up guitar, or the old upright piano in the living room. The majority of his repertoire was still Elvis and Roy Orbison...but occasionally he would break into a verse or two of "What's Goin' On" or "The Tears of a Clown."
I smiled...then I listened.
The lyrics were arresting. Michael and his brothers were singing about "salvation".
Questions raced through my mind. "Who was the singer making a pact with to bring salvation back?" Was it a friend, a lover, Jesus....God?"
The song has been repeating itself over and over again to me this week. I can't help by ask "how?" How do we bring salvation back? And, is the answer as simple as the song suggests..."where there is love, I'll be there."
It took me immediately to this statement by Mary Baker Eddy from her last published volume, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany:
"Individuals, as nations, unite harmoniously
on the basis of justice, and this is accomplished
when self is lost in Love - or God's own plan of salvation."
Hmmm...God's own plan of salvation: "when self is lost in Love"
And in her primary work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures Eddy defines "salvation" as:
"Life, Truth, and Love understood and demonstrated
as supreme over all; sin, sickness, and death destroyed."
I think this connection between salvation - the understanding and demonstration of Life, Truth, and Love (names for God that indicate His nature) as supreme over all, and the destruction of sin, sickness, and death - and Love, which is "reflected in love"...is profound.
Could it be that "I'll Be There" lyricists Berry Gordy, Hal Davis, Willie Hutch, and Bob West, through the grace of God, caught some glimpse of this universal truth? Did they see this connection, craft this lyric, and then hand its message to 12-year old Michael ,and his brothers to deliver to a world hungering for wholeness, mercy, and grace?
Consider these statements by other thought leaders:
"You know quite well, deep within you, that there is only a single magic,
a single power, a single salvation...and that is called loving."
- Herman Hesse
"Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime,
Therefore, we are saved by hope.
Nothing true or beautiful or good makes complete sense
in any immediate context of history;
Therefore, we are saved by faith.
Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone.
Therefore, we are saved by love.
No virtuous act is quite aa virtuous from the standpoint of
our friend or foe as from our own;
Therefore, we are saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness."
- Reinhold Niebuhr
"The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else
than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect,
in human meekness, and in human responsibility.
- Vaclav Havel
I only know that in my life, it is "in the loving"...in the acts of caring for others...my family, my children, hospice patients I volunteer with, campers, the homeless...that I find salvation from my own feelings of separation from God...or sin.
At a time in my life when I felt most broken...not by the choices of others, but by, what I considered, my own mistakes...it was only in those moments when self was lost in loving that I finally felt God's mercy, and hope for the resurrection of my own Christliness.
Love...gentle, generous, grace-filled - amazing grace-filled love...not sermon, philosophies, or scholarship...bring salvation back into focus, and the saved, back to Him.
This is just something I am thinking about...in fact, it's what I think about all of the time these days...the connection between love, salvation, and healing.
I believe that we...each of us...in our we-ness with God...must bring salvation back, by our loving...because, as the song says, "where there is love, He will be there"....with us.
Kate Robertson, CS