Don’t be late again

Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we will try to carry this message to others who think that Christians are better than everyone

They passed a basket with some envelopes
I just had time to write a note
And all it said was “I believe in You”

I can still see my Wheaton College dorm room where I first set the needle of my roommate’s Kenwood stereo turntable on the song “Hymn” by Noel Paul Stookey on Peter, Paul and Mary’s 1968 “Late Again” album, and heard these lyrics. The setting of the song was a liberal church where the pastor, part of the “God is dead” movement, “shook his head and said I’d never find You.” But Noel did. He dropped his note to God in the offering plate, and the “God is dead” movement in the crusty institutional church gave way to the Jesus Movement on the streets.

We didn’t see that coming in the fall of ‘68; we only knew one of our heroes was expressing a newfound faith in Christ on one of the top-selling albums of the day. It was an intensely personal expression of faith — leaving a note to God in church, and implying an answer that went way beyond what the “balded man” in the pulpit reciting poetry could offer. We had heard rumors. We had heard that Bob Dylan had told Noel to go read the Bible, and he did, and God must have spoken to him, because here was evidence of a relationship. It was the first time anyone in pop music had made a profession of faith, and let us in on the process, in his art form, no less. This was huge, and not everyone noticed, but we did.

Noel went on to hold his own in a trio whose other members consisted of a Jew and an atheist. Maybe that’s part of what has made him so gracious about his faith. He didn’t step on anybody’s toes like some of the ‘70s Jesus Freaks were likely to do; he just quietly believed and attested to his belief in subtle but powerful ways. Like his current song, “One and Many,” which concludes with: I’m in the last chapter; not sure what’s in store/But I’m betting it ends with a knock on the door.

It’s a story from which we could all steal a chapter. Noel Stookey has never been pushy about his faith, but nevertheless, it’s there. It’s as if you sit down to talk with him and you get up an hour later and realize he just took his faith out and left it on the table for you to examine, pick up, or push away — whatever you want; it’s up to you. It’s only up to him to reveal it. I honestly don’t know of a more gracious person, or a better way to spread the Gospel of Welcome.

We live in a time when Christians are perceived by many in the world as being anything but gracious. Pushy, haughty, moralistic, judgmental, and hypocritical would be more like it. That’s why Step 12 of 12 Steps for the Recovering Pharisee is: “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we will try to carry this message to others who think that Christians are better than everyone else.”

How do you do that? How do you give people something different? You walk alongside them; you ask a lot of questions; you listen; and when you talk about your faith, you take it out respectfully and set it on the table for them to decide what they will do with it.

I believe Jesus is being returned to a place of prominence in people’s minds, whether they believe in Him or not. My 16-year-old is reading the Bible the way we used to read it: Whatever it says, go do. We don’t need to preach at the next generation; we need to listen to what they already know.* And if someone is seeking truth, and thus seeking God, do as Bob Dylan did in 1968 … tell them to go read the Bible.

I believe we are on the verge of a new spiritual awakening. I believe that God has given us the Gospel of Welcome for this moment in history. I believe the Catch is going to be a prominent place to find out about God. I believe it’s time for you to get on board.

If you missed it last time, don’t be late again.

For a special message from Noel, look for the button in the right column.

* For more on this, tune into our BlogTalkRadio interview last night with Don Williams and find out what a 79-year-old man is saying about listening to the culture.

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One Response to Don’t be late again

  1. drewdsnider says:

    It’s human nature, isn’t it, to confuse being in a better “place” than the next person with being a better person than the next person. In my own case, I’m acutely aware that the blessings God has laid on me are nothing I’ve actually “worked” for or “deserve”, and one of the messages I keep trying to share with people is that similar blessings are available to anyone who’ll say, “Yes, Lord” — or, as you put it, “go do”. In a small group recently, someone brought up the question of being “worthy” of Jesus’ sacrifice – and the truth is, “worthy” has nothing to do with it. And that’s a tough one for humans to grasp.

    That old(ish) song of Noel Paul’s was sung at the funeral of the daughter of some close friends of my parents’. She had just started teaching at my elementary school and I was so thrilled that here was a teacher I could call by her first name – and she was killed in a car crash that summer. I always think of Janice when I think of that song …

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