“What the world needs now is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.”
So goes the well-known refrain of the mid-60s anthem made popular by Jackie DeShannon. If you’re anything like me, the melody enters your consciousness as soon as you read those lyrics.
You may be surprised to learn that it’s a song that was almost never written. According to the tune’s composers, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, the waltzy nature of the chorus came to them quickly, but they stumbled over the content of the verses for several years. With their inspiration coming from a world in conflict – the Vietnam War and the fight for Civil Rights in the United States, for example – they struggled mightily to find words that would not seem too soft for a time of such crisis.
When they finally landed on what would become the first line ("Lord, we don't need another mountain - there are mountains and hillsides enough to climb” – but you were already singing it in your head, right?) the rest of the lyrics came to them in mere hours.
Almost 60 years after the song was first released, its words unfortunately stand the test of time. I look around at a community, a nation, and a world in conflict and I’m tempted to make a slight change to the lyrics: What the world needs still is love, sweet love. No, not just for some but for everyone.”
Though pre-dating the Jackie DeShannon hit by several decades, the concept behind one of my favorite liturgical holidays of the church year has its roots in that same yearning for global peace and unity. The vision for World Communion Sunday arose out of a single Presbyterian congregation in the 1930s, but it wasn’t until World War II that it began to spread: first to the Presbyterian denomination, then to other American denominations, and eventually to the World Council of Churches. As one historian puts it, “the Spirit caught hold [of the idea] because we were trying to hold the world together. World Wide Communion symbolized the effort to hold things together, in a spiritual sense. It emphasized that we are one in the Spirit and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
I love World Communion Sunday for all it represents, and for the ways it brings God's dream for unity to life. It is at once a joyful celebration, and our charge for faithful living.
This year’s World Communion Sunday will be held on October 2. If you're looking for an inclusive, peace-seeking faith community to join in the celebration, consider joining us at Southminster, where we'll worship in-person and online at 9:30am. No matter where we worship, I invite us to gather around the Lord’s Table together, and alongside our siblings from around the world, in praying for peace, unity, and yes… love!
Note: this blog post is slightly adapted from the pastor's page of Southminster's October newsletter, which is one of the only opportunities I have right now for creative writing. :)
I'm a husband, father, news junkie, theatre lover, enneagram enthusiast, bi advocate, amateur foodie, wannabe barista, and an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA).
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