Sunday afternoon. Sammie and I were enjoying the view and the food at Boonies Restaurant on Boone Lake. It was almost closing time – 3 p.m., on Sundays – so the crowd had thinned out. She munched on her grilled BLT and French fries, while I devoured a large ribeye salad. I love their salads, ‘cause they have bell peppers.
Between lunch and peanut butter pie, we sipped delicious sweet tea and talked about the “Bites of Bristol” feature by Joe Tennis in the Sunday morning Bristol Herald Courier. Johnny Morris, who along with wife Amy, owns and operates Boonies, stopped by our table and we asked if he had seen the paper yet.
Then I asked Sammie if she had read Joe’s column that morning. “Tennis Anyone?” covered the rest of the front page of the Community section. The column recounted Joe’s memories of Elvis Presley’s death, 43 years prior…to the day. The question of whether there would be concerts in heaven and whether Elvis would be present and have top billing made my imagination and my memory start spinning.
A grade schooler in western Kentucky when Elvis came on the scene, I had grown up with his music and movies. When his tragic death occurred in August of 1977, I was pastor at Sparta First Baptist Church.
The following Sunday, my sermon was titled “Heartbreak Hotel.” That morning I shared my grief with many others. Elvis was the type of person that many who had never seen him in person felt they knew him…personally.
By then, I had gotten past the “King of Rock and Roll” icon and enjoyed hearing Presley pour his heart into songs like, Peace in the Valley and Rock of Ages. That Sunday morning, I confessed that my hope was that Elvis, while imperfect – like the rest of us, had been a believer, and that the Amazing Grace he sang about was a reality that had touched his soul. My prayer was that Elvis was in heaven, and I would see him there someday. If not, well, for him and all others who rejected Christ, it was Heartbreak Hotel in its most extreme state.
Some folks will declare with deep conviction that Elvis led many people astray and that he is burning in hell...heartbreak hotel. Others are just as strongly convinced that, by God’s grace and a faith he sang and spoke of, he is in heaven. Daring not to judge or speculate, I can simply hope that he is in heaven. I have no answer to whether there will be concerts in heaven, but the Bible makes it clear that there will be plenty of singing.
Who knows? Maybe Elvis and Tennessee Ernie will sing a duet of How Great Thou Art. Whatever the songs and whoever is singing, even you and I, it will indeed be beautiful and will bring honor and glory to the Father. Angels will join our choir, and their voices will only serve to complement the song of the redeemed.
Our church service was broadcast on a local radio station that Sunday long ago. At the close of the message, the D.J. at the station played Elvis singing “Heartbreak Hotel.”
John, in the book of Revelation, tells of hearing a “…great voice out of heaven saying, God shall wipe away all tears…no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain…the former things are gone…I make all things new.”
No more Heartbreak Hotel, not in heaven.
Steve Playl - email@example.com