Perhaps more than any other person we have canonized, Johnny Cash exemplifies what we mean by saint. Not that he was a pure, moral, and good person; he was not. But integral to sainthood is the hagiography, the story of the saint that we tell. We know they are not entirely true, but we tell them because we are really telling a story about ourselves and who we might like to be. In the case of Johnny Cash, he has done much of that work for us.
Johnny Cash was a legend in his own time. He was a walking, talking mythological figure. Much of what he said about himself was not true. His stories changed over time, often becoming inflated with each retelling. Yet, the embellishments to the kernel of truth often told of a greater truth about the man. Part of our task this Sunday will be to unravel the man from the myth.
What is true is that Johnny Cash was born in the midst of the Depression to a cotton farmer named Ray. Ray was a mean man, passing on the ill treatment he suffered at the hands of the older brother that raised him. Ray was an alcoholic and meanest when he was drunk. When Johnny’s older brother Jack, a young man so virtuous that everyone knew he would be a preacher from the time he was twelve, was killed in a sawmill accident, Ray let Johnny know that God had taken the wrong son. Johnny believed him; he carried guilt and grief all his life.
The only cure for the guilt and grief was faith and love. Tragedy and the compassion and faithfulness he saw from others in the face of it strengthened his faith in God. His love for June healed him. Johnny Cash was able to take his suffering and his feelings of unworthiness and turn them into deep compassion for others and a yearning for social justice. He was a champion of everyday folk, those who were down on their luck or had taken a wrong turn in their lives. He thought everyone should have a shot at redemption.
Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Church in the Cliff, as we honor the life and legend of St. Johnny Cash. If you are inclined, bring an instrument and join in the singing and playing. We’ll do a run-through around 10:30.
Grace & Peace,
Vote Annette for Co-Pastor!
We will vote this Sunday to add Annette Owen to our staff as a part-time co-pastor. This will entail an addition of $500 per month to the budget. If you are unable to attend, please make your vote by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.