I can’t help myself. One word takes me to a seemingly unrelated phrase or lyric that inevitably collides with one or more things happening in real life in real time. As Ray Charles famously sang “Here we go again. “ (See what I did there?) I’m living in First John these days. Great book. Fun to read. Funner to preach. So I got to chapter four and kept noticing John picking a word and repeating it a lot, as he is given to do. (Remember the whole darkness and light thing?) This week’s word; abide.
So there went my wayward mind, first back to a forgotten funeral hymn resurrected by Susan Boyle. And then on to a quirky Coen Brother’s movie with a catchphrase more memorable than the movie itself. Jeff Bridges signed off saying “The dude abides” and set off years of cultish clatter about what was and wasn’t implied. About that time I took time to think of that, the Amazon guy handed me another deeper than it seems work created by a man named John in his old age. I’ve been waiting thirteen years for John Prine’s latest, and I hope not, last album, “The Tree of Forgiveness.” Like the sacred texts, images painted by his words just grow stronger and deeper as I abide with them, and over time, allow them to abide with me. The weathered face in the album’s frame shows an old sage who takes no effort to hide the reality that he has done more than his share of abiding. In fact, he embraces it. I hope I can.
Old Webster says the word has three usages. To live with or dwell beside first shows up in John’s writings when the Word becomes flesh and “abides” among us. He uses it like that a lot. It can also mean to tolerate or bear patiently, like “abide by the decision.” Oddly, this word is most positively used when expressed in the negative; “I will not abide …” and you can fill in your own blank of righteous intolerance. Lastly, it means to continue without fading or being lost. Certain feelings, thoughts, and convictions remain without being lost.
Sunday we will talk about what it means to abide with God, with each other, and those around us. And in the truth. We will think about what God does and doesn’t abide. And how certain words, images, and truths abide longer than others. See you there and until then I will do my best to abide. Don’t know about you but I take comfort in that. Maybe you do too.