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Tuesday, October 28th 2008

4:40 AM

Johnny Cash Theology

I came across this piece and thought it was as good a theology as I've heard in a long time. ksz

Bert Montgomery
10-23-08 Editor’s Note: This past weekend, officials in Starkville, Miss., symbolically pardoned the late Johnny Cash for his crime of public drunkenness some 43 years ago. Bert Montgomery, pastor of University Baptist Church in Starkville, issued the following as part of the pardoning ceremony.
I don’t know about you, but just about everything I know about sin, salvation and redemption I learned from Johnny Cash.

Now that’s not really true—I mean I did grow up in church and I did go to seminary and all, and I’m sure I may have learned some things along the way—but it just sounds right (and it’s not too far from the truth) to say that just about everything I know about sin, salvation and redemption I learned from Johnny Cash.

Allow me to read from our Scriptures this evening; well not directly from our Scriptures, but the echoes of our Scriptures through the voice of Johnny Cash via the Gospel according to Tom Waits:


There's a place I know where the train goes slow

Where the sinner can be washed in the blood of the lamb
There's a river by the trestle down by sinner's grove
Down where the willow and the dogwood grow

You can hear the whistle, you can hear the bell
From the halls of heaven to the gates of hell
And there's room for the forsaken if you're there on time
You'll be washed of all your sins and all of your crimes
If you're down there by the train
Down there by the train, Down there by the train
Down there by the train, Down there where the train goes slow

You know about Johnny Cash. You know the stories of his recklessness and brokenness—that’s part of why we’re here tonight. You know the stories of his redemption and healing—that’s what we’re celebrating tonight. You know of his close friendship with the Rev. Billy Graham, and of his infamous prison concerts. You know why he always dressed in black.

But you may or may not know about this: The story goes that when convicted murderer Gary Gilmore<
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Executioner's_Song> was sentenced to be executed back in 1976, that after hearing that Gilmore was a longtime fan of his, Johnny Cash sent Gilmore a copy of his autobiography, The Man in Black, and he later called Gilmore<http://www.amazon.com/Shot-Heart-Mikal-Gilmore/dp/0385478003> on death row to speak to him before his execution by a firing squad.

I'm certain Cash wasn't cold-hearted and indifferent to the families of Gilmore’s victims and their pain, but neither was Cash indifferent to the personal pain and uncontrolled anger that can put a man on death row. Cash, more than just about any preacher I know, was able to extend mercy to the merciless, love to the unlovable, and offer a hope of redemption to those most of us mark off as far beyond redemption.


I suspect Johnny knew deeper than most of us, that if God could love him, with all of his excesses and faults and extremes, “such a worm as I” he sings in the old hymn, then God could love anybody, even a cold-hearted murderer.

And that’s why I say that just about everything I know about sin, salvation and redemption I learned from Johnny Cash.



If you've lost all your hope, if you've lost all your faith
I know you can be cared for and I know you can be safe
And all the shamefuls and all of the whores
And even the soldier who pierced the side of the Lord

            is down there by the train

Well, I've never asked forgiveness and I've never said a prayer
Never given of myself, never truly cared
I've left the ones who loved me and I'm still raising Cain
I've taken the low road and if you've done the same
Meet me down there by the train
Down there by the train, Down there by the train
Down there by the train, Down there where the train goes slow

Thanks be to God for the songs of Johnny Cash, and for his life that both received and so freely gave away God’s most amazing grace!

Bert Montgomery is  pastor of University Baptist Church, which meets on the campus of the Mississippi State University in Starkville, Miss.

1 Comment(s).

Posted by John & Julie Frye:

Amen and FM.:)
Saturday, November 1st 2008 @ 7:15 AM

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