Chocolate Jesus

 

I want to introduce you to a song from my favourite singer Tom Waits. My wife refers to my singer choices as moaner-groaners – Tom Waits, Van Morrison and Bob Dylan.

 

I do not believe that Tom is Christian but a lot of his songs have Christian focus and perhaps he is. Only God and Tom know.

 

When this song first came out on his 1999 album, I was offended, I thought it was blasphemous but the concepts keep drawing me back.

 

Listen to it and we will think about what he is saying:

 

Don't go to church on Sunday
Don't get on my knees to pray
Don't memorize the books of the Bible
I got my own special way
But I know Jesus loves me
Maybe just a little bit more
I fall on my knees every Sunday
At Zerelda Lee's candy store
Well it's got to be a chocolate Jesus
Make me feel good inside
Got to be a chocolate Jesus
Keep me satisfied
Better than a cup of gold
See only a chocolate Jesus
Can satisfy my soul
When the weather gets rough
And it's whiskey in the shade
It's best to wrap your savior
Up in cellophane
He flows like the big muddy
But that's ok
Pour him over ice cream
For a nice parfait
Well it's got to be a chocolate Jesus
Good enough for me
Got to be a chocolate Jesus
Good enough for me
Well it's got to be a chocolate Jesus
Make me feel good inside
Got to be a chocolate Jesus
Keep me satisfied

The lyrics talk about going to a candy store every Sunday instead of church to get a fill of chocolate Jesus. No other candy will do—because “only a chocolate Jesus / Can satisfy my soul”; “it’s the only thing / That can pick me up.”

The chorus goes: Well it’s got to be a chocolate Jesus.
Make me feel good inside. Got to be a chocolate Jesus.
Keep me satisfied

Waits said he was inspired to write this song after learning about a confectionary item called Testamint with a cross imprinted on it and a Bible verse on the wrapping. His dad was apparently trying to get him to buy into the company producing it.

In this song he suggests that those who have a taste for only the sweetness of a religion are like candy-addicted kids, dependent on sugar highs and undernourished.

The song, rather than being offensive, actually makes an important statement about the me-centered Christianity that is touted in many churches – “come to Jesus and all your problems will go away”, “it’s all about me and what I want.” That theology is not biblical Christianity. And we will talk later about that.

There is a danger of turning Jesus into just one more commodity competing for consumer loyalty in the marketplace of feel-good remedies.

Well I don't want no Abba Zaba
Don't want no Almond Joy
There ain't nothing better
Suitable for this boy
Well it's the only thing
That can pick me up
Better than a cup of gold
See only a chocolate Jesus
Can satisfy my soul

Truthfully, I wonder whether we do treat Jesus as a chocolate feel good, to release the happy drugs in our brain.

That is the offence of this song, and I think I am offended because it may hit a raw nerve in how we deal with Jesus.

It asks us pointedly whether we follow Jesus just because he makes us feel good or whether we truly follow him through thick and thin.

They used to say in the world wars that there were no atheists in the trenches.  The soldiers took out their chocolate Jesus to help them through the horrors of war. But post war, church attendance was lower than pre-war. The chocolate Jesus was back in its wrapper.

The Sunday after the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers on 9/11, the churches in America were full. People took out their chocolate Jesus to help them through.  Church attendance has dropped to below pre 9/11 levels now. The chocolate Jesus is back in its wrapper.

My question is whether our relationship with Jesus is at that superficial level of a chocolate hit or whether we follow Jesus and his teachings, through the hard and tough as well as good times, or do we only seek him out when we need a feel-good top up?

Do we follow Jesus only when we have run out of ourselves and our resources or do we follow Jesus because we believe in him all the time?

Following Jesus is not all about feel good, happy clappy. there is an element of suffering and well as victorious. there is the element of ‘other’ rather than ‘me’

Think of your response to these questions:

What about the cross that Jesus calls us as Christians to bear?

What of social and moral responsibility that Jesus calls us to?

What of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” “Blessed are those who mourn,” and so on?

What about sin and its consequences?

These aren’t so tasty, and so some Christians delete them from their diet like parsnips or Brussel sprouts.

These questions don’t fit with the sugary sweet chocolate Jesus. But they are the reality of following Jesus.

Paul wrote
I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

In Luke 9:23 Jesus said “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. 25 What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?

There is a very famous book by a German God follower who stood up against the tyranny of Hitler and the Nazi regime and paid the price with his life. He was hanged.  The man was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the book is called Costly Discipleship.

He speaks of grace costing us.

He said Grace is costly because it compels us to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him. And that discipleship means allegiance to the suffering Christ, and it is therefore not at all surprising that Christians should be called upon to suffer.

 

He adds that the disciple is called out, and has to forsake his old life in order that he may exist in the strictest sense of the word. The old life is left behind, and completely surrendered.”

 

And just in case you think Bonhoeffer was a weirdo extremist, let me quote a NZ god follower, Rasik Ranchord:

 

A cost less Christianity is a cross less Christianity and a cross less Christianity is not Christianity at all.

As we come to communion, what is it that we want to say to Jesus about your commitment to him.

There may be some of you who have never considered the cost of following Jesus and effectively have been living with a chocolate Jesus. Maybe it is time to acknowledge that you want to go deeper with Jesus.

We are all going to say a prayer together.

If you have never made a commitment to Jesus at all, then afterwards tell someone from this church and they will help you in growing deeper. 

If you pray this prayer in acknowledgement that you want to go deeper in your discipleship with Jesus, again seek out one of the leaders of this church and they will help you to deepen your relationship.

[sinner’s prayer]