Monday, September 24, 2012

There won’t always be an England

Have you ever had a song stuck in your head?

Of course you have.

Last Wednesday evening, on the way home from our weekly Discipleship class, Mrs. RWP and I stopped at our local Waffle House. Our local Waffle House is a really upscale establishment, with a jukebox and everything. While we were there, the boyfriend of the night-shift waitress decided to illustrate what a big-time spender he is and parted with 25 cents to play some music for his beloved.

As a result, this song (2:29) threatened to become stuck in my brain, which would have been a fate worse than death, in my opinion.

But “Yellow Submarine” did not become stuck in my brain because another song was already stuck there. It still is. I have been replaying one particular song mentally for about two weeks now.

Oddly enough, it isn’t “There’ll Always Be An England” as performed by Tiny Tim on the Isle of Wight in 1970 (1:17).

No, the song stuck in my head is a Southern Gospel song, written in 1948 by a man named Vep Ellis. I do not know why it is stuck in my head; it just is.

Readers, this is your lucky day. I have decided to share this song with you in a performance by the Gaither Vocal Band in 2002. As often happens with Southern Gospel quartets, there’s some silliness at the beginning, but I choose to overlook that in the spirit of Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do and I hope you will too. But these guys -- David Phelps (high tenor), Guy Penrod (lead tenor), Mark Lowry (baritone), and Bill Gaither (bass) -- can really sing. Here is Vep Ellis’s “There’ll Always Be the Love of God” (5:42).

There is one thing in that song that bothers me, though -- Snowbrush, take note -- and it’s this: the last two lines of the chorus do not appear to be Scriptural. Although there is a lot of truth in that song in my opinion, and the tune is downright catchy, when Vep Ellis wrote, “When all this earth shall pass away there’ll always be the love of God” he was misquoting Scripture. The New Testament tells us (three times, in fact, in Matthew 24:35, Mark 13:31, and Luke 21:33) that Jesus said these words: “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”

I know; picky, picky. But they’re not the same thing at all.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke used the Greek words λόγοι μου, logos mon, which is “my words” in English.

If Vep Ellis had written his song in Greek, he would have used the Greek words ἀγάπη τοῦ θεοῦ, agapē ton Theos, which is “love of God” in English.

Two different concepts altogether.

Or maybe not. The Gospel of John opens with, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot extinguish it.” So if the Word is God, and if, as we’re told elsewhere, God is love, maybe they’re not different concepts after all. And we certainly mustn’t forget all those instances in the Old Testament where we read, “his love endures forever.” Hmmmm....

Be that as it may, and I mean no disrespect whatsoever toward the Beatles or England or even Tiny Tim, if one of the songs in this post gets stuck in your head, I hope it is Vep’s.


  1. Thanks for leading me back to Tiny Tim who was one of the first Greenwich Village artistes that Bob Dylan associated with when he arrived in New York City from Minnesota. I was at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970 and remember Tiny Tim's performance very well but my one true God, forsaking all others, is Dylan.

  2. Y.P., I thought I saw you back there in the 44th row leaping like a ninny.

  3. I play Manu Chao, and you play THIS? I don't suppose we'll be sharing our record collection anytime soon. I don't know which part I hated worse, the part that put me to sleep or the part that woke me up again.