Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, calling for you and for me...
The children who call me dad have been with their grandparents, two people who call me son. He, Papa, is a Southern Baptist preacher. So, as you might expect, Sunday came and my children attended church with their grandparents. My roots are Southern Baptist, but my branches of late have reached into Anglican sunlight and quite recently some Lutheran shade. So, as you might expect, my children have been exposed to several sides of the tree.
On this particular Sunday, Papa the preacher gave the normally expected invitation at the conclusion of his sermon. In the Baptist tradition, it is a time to be quiet and respond to the Spirit of God, many times seen in walking down an aisle and taking the preacher's hand. Options in this window of time include decisions such as 1)rededicating/recommitting your life to Jesus after some wayward living or 2)repenting of some sin or sins and asking for prayer to be strong when the temptation arises again (and it will). Yes, savvy reader, that's all about the same thing, but it's o.k. However, the one decision that makes the angels sing is someone asking Jesus into their heart, aka "being saved."
See on the portals He's waiting and watching, watching for you and for me...
My father stood, as is his custom, before the people and pleaded for someone to come to Jesus. But, as is the custom of many Sundays in the same church in the same town with the same people, no one did, no not one...no one, that is, except her. My middle girl looked at her grandmother and asked "Can I go?" As the woman who calls me son nodded "yes" my middle girl stepped out into the long, broad way that leadeth to salvation.
Come home. Come home. Ye who are weary come home...
As the story goes, my middle girl reached my father's pastoral hands and she broke down, tears and all. Papa the preacher led her to a side room where they sat until she calmed down. He returned to stand before the people, a benediction was said, and the people mingled a moment or two and went home. The preacher and his wife and their grandchildren went to lunch and Sunday soldiered on. My mother called me a bit later to tell me what had happened.
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling; calling, o sinner, come home.
Not long after her grandmother's call, after mexican food and salvation had a chance to settle, my middle girl called me. This is what she said:
"Daddy, I've already asked Jesus into my heart, you know that. But Daddy, Papa was so sad that no one was coming, he looked so sad...I just had to go, Daddy...I just had to go for Papa."
If I'd of drawn my last breath after that phone call, it would have been a good day to die.
Dear reader, I'm afraid most of our perspectives on salvation are full-blown cockeyed. I really do. On that Sunday morning, I believe a ye-who-are-weary preacher stood, as is his custom, and called/prayed that an angel, any angel at all, would come and stir the waters in an every-Sunday-fifty-two-weeks-a-year pool that often grows still with familiar and routine. He needed someone to save him. And she did. Her earnest and tender heart saw an old sinner waiting and watching on the portals and what her grandmother heard as "Can I go?" was really "I have to go!" And she did; she stepped out into the eyes and whispers of saints and sinners alike and shed almost every shred of glory she had as she humbled herself down the via dolorosa for Papa's sake, for love's sake...for Christ's sake. And when she finally reached his hands, she emptied herself for him, tears and all. Greater love hath no man.
On my swing from branch to branch up the tree of God, there is a common bark - only Jesus saves! I'm fine with that. I also believe we save each other from time to time. And I believe Jesus is fine with that because he knows it's true. You see, on a Sunday just days ago, I believe the angels stopped their singing and wept instead as the race of o sinners and middle girls got just a few steps closer...closer to coming home.