I think one of the most distinctive openings for a song is Elton John’s opening for Bennie and the Jets.
There are many other songs that, as soon as you hear them, you can name that song. But the opening notes of Bennie and the Jets is one that always makes me smile. Then there are other songs like I hope you dance, by Lee Ann Womack, that when I hear it, I smile and then I dance, chair dancing that is. What is one of your favorite songs, that no matter your mood, when you hear it, brings a smile to your face or makes you want to move around?
How is it that these songs spark a reaction from us without us thinking? All we hear is a chord, a note, or a lyric, and we have a fond repetitive, automatic response. In another sense, other things also make us respond automatically, and they are called stereotypes. Stereotypes are often hard-wired into our minds, and they cause our bodies to react. Often stereotypes are learned and are our self-contained early warning systems for approaching danger.
Stereotyping is normal behavior; unfortunately, many of us have been taught to respond to people with a negative automatic response, a negative, often unjustified, stereotype. How do we change that? In the gospel lesson offered in Luke, Jesus confronts his disciples and teaches them that how we react to people is not always the way we should. Beloved, we are in a world full of divisive finger-pointing and hurtful rhetoric. A world that spews venom with the reliability of a sunrise, but not nearly as beautiful. Jesus offered those gathered an alternative or a choice. Jesus offers us that same alternative or set of choices. Jesus provides us with a choice of how we treat others. Jesus offers us a better way of living, a better way of being, a better way of showing God’s love to all those we encounter. Jesus offers us the choice to love.
So beloved, borrowing from Lee Ann, whenever you get the choice to ignore your neighbor or to love your neighbor, I hope you dance, ♫♪♫ I mean love. Amen