Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday (Photo credit: Howard O. Young)

“Common Sense Caucus.” That is a phrase that has really caught my attention-“common sense caucus.” Why? Well, frankly, regardless of one’s political leanings, I am a bit taken aback by the idea. I mean, really, has our leadership in Washington been operating in the realm of a not “common sense caucus.” Don’t answer that!!


All political opinions aside, I wonder how many times those of us who confess Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior and as those who seek to live as Christ’s representatives in the world, find ourselves living out of a not “common sense” understanding of the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Truth is, if anything makes sense it’s the “common sense” God who revealed his true personhood and Spirit in Jesus Christ. Of course, that’s what got Jesus into a “pickle” so many times. The way he loved was a “common sense” love. Love God and love neighbor. Loving God wasn’t the problem. The problem was loving people the way God loved people–unconditionally.

I don’t know about you, but over the years I have come to fall in love with God more and more. The more I pray and contemplate the faithfulness of God, God who cannot be untrue to God’s nature, which is Love, I marvel at God’s for me. There was a time in my life when I was not that certain, but something happened, actually an accumulation of things happened.

One of the things that happened was Prevenient Grace. Of course, I didn’t know anything about Prevenient Grace, but that’s the beauty of it, isn’t it? Not knowing. Until one day you hear about Prevenient Grace, the grace that comes before, and you are somewhere and this little “light bulb” goes off in your head and you say, “Ohhhhh! Now I see.”

Let me tell you a story.

Sunday afternoons were often his favorite during the hot, muggy months of Summer. He didn’t go to church, and about the closest thing he got to church was watching some Gospel Music show on Sunday morning. His momma loved those shoes. She loved the Florida Boy and the Blackwood quartet to name a few. Of course a child can take so much when it’s Summer and hot and you’re dying to go swimming. So he would set in to pleading, “Take me swimming! Please take me swimming!” And she would.

Now, they didn’t go swimming just anywhere. That little ingenious lady had found a special place To the child it was a magical place, and it was an magical adventure just getting there. First of all you had to travel out of town a ways until you got to the Airport Road. You followed that road  past a small one-landing strip airport until you passed Turner’s Dairy Farm  with the smell of manure and fresh-cut hay wafting in the air.   Continuing on, you took the first curve to the left which became sort of like a roller coaster ride, complete with the “butterflies” in your stomach as you swooped up and around one curve after another to the you came to this one certain curve. It was there the old car would pull off in safe area, and another adventure would begin, this time on foot. The two of them would carefully walk down, he would sometimes slide down a steep area that led to a shallow creek bed. There in that creek bed, fresh, cold spring water was running in the creek. It was then, she would kneel, cup her hands (and he would too), and without giving it a second-thought, they drank, they drank like they were drinking something medicinal. His momma would tell how when she was a child, they would bring the milk pales and put them in the creek to keep the milk from spoiling, or sometimes they would lower the milk down into their hand-drawn water well.

He would listen and imagine, and then he would wait for one of those “ready, set go” moments when she would say, “Come on! Let’s go swimming” The two of them would walk barefoot in the cold, spring water creek down to the lake. Into that lake he would dive and swim and dive and swim for what seemed like hours. He would go the bottom and scoop muscles off the bottom and then bring them up and pry them open.

Late afternoon he would trek out of the water at her insistence, of course. They would then head back to the car the same way they came. When they got home, he headed straight to the kitchen to dive into a large supply of fried apple turn-overs his momma had cooked before they went swimming. He would wash them down with a Dr. Pepper. Then it was bath time and bed time, and with hunger and thirst quenched he would slide between, clean crisp sheets and sleep very well.

Years later, many years later, after he was grown, he would come to learn and appreciate something he seemed to have no knowledge of–Prevenient Grace. Before that would happen the child would become a young man, a youth, who would begin to be introduced by other youth and adults to the joy of being a Christian. Of course, he wasn’t so sure about all of that “Jesus” stuff. However, on another hot summer day, he would travel out of town a ways until he got to the Airport Road. He followed the road past Turner’s Dairy Farm with the smell of fresh manure and fresh-cut hay giving out own unique aromatic fragrance. This time he didn’t go left, around the curve to the left. This time he drove into Camp Caney, to Youth camp. Of course, there was swimming at church camp, so the first time he went swimming at camp, he followed another trail down to the lake. He was really looking forward to swimming. As he approached the lake and saw the pier stretching out into the lake, it suddenly dawned on him–he was about to swim in the same lake he had swam in as a child. Only this time, this time he approached Caney Lake from a different angle.

Years later, even still, he would have a “Oh!! Now I see” moment. You know that moment when you realize you have been on this journey that didn’t seem to connect in any way until you suddenly see where you are and Who has been on the Journey with you all along.

Isn’t that just like our God, that rascally “Hound of Heaven” who keeps chasing, who keeps showing up even when at times we seem to be “out to lunch!!”

There is a story in John 5 (please read) about a man who had been out of sorts for a long time: 38 years!  You see, he had been sitting by the Pool of Bethesda for 38 years.  There is a lot going on in the story, but two things seem to me to be most important about the action in the story.

One is this. John says, “When Jesus saw him….” Jesus saw him! Others had not seen the man in years. That happens when familiarity sets in. You see but you don’t “see.” Jesus saw him.

Have you ever felt like you have not been seen? Or, that people had not really “seen” you in years? Times when you have, perhaps, become like some old road sign, faded, bleached out by the sun? You were no less a person, but somehow not “seen” or acknowledged! Jesus saw him. Jesus sees you and me, be it one day or ten years or 38. You are not forgotten.

Why? Consider the second thing. is this–John 5:17 Jesus is recorded to have said, “My Father is working straight through, even on the Sabbath. So am I.”

Succinctly–Christ pushed on through! And that’s just what Prevenient Grace does–God in Christ keeps pushing on through.

If ever there was a time where  Christ pushed on through it was Holy Week

  • It’s a week that begins with a parade and with much Joy (Hosanna, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord),
  • Advances to another level for blood (Crucify him! Crucify) and,
  • Will end with God in Christ feeling deserted and alone (My God! My God!)– let’s remember this–God pushes on through!

However, just wait!! God’s going to do it again! God is going to push through again! Hear Jesus in John 5:17 again but with a bit of change: “My Father is working straight through, even on the Cross.

So, take these two things with you: You are seen, not forgotten by Christ! God is pushing on through, even from the Cross, for your salvation and mine!

No truer words have been spoken than these: “I do not at all understand the mystery of grace–only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.” (Ann Lamott)

As Barbara Brown Taylor says in her book, The Preaching Life: So love God. Love neighbor. Be a neighbor, and let us not complicate things by arguing about specifics. You know what it means to do love because some time or another you have been on the receiving end of it, but remember that knowing the right answer does not change a thing. If you want the world to look different the next time you go outside, do some love. Do a little or do a lot, but do some, and do not forget yourself.

May I challenge us all during this Holy Week to:
Love someone, pray for someone, listen to someone, clothe someone, provide a ride for someone, bring groceries to someone, call someone, visit someone, affirm someone, rescue someone, wipe a tear for someone, laugh with someone, hold someone’s hand, bring a cup of water to someone.

Would you like to sit a spell and have another cup of coffee before you go?