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I went to the doctor yesterday for the first time in years. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been sick; it means I’m the kind of stubborn fool who doesn’t like to take an ibuprofen for a headache, the kind of crank who would rather walk around squinting and snappy than to take the blasted aspirin. I just don’t like medicine. I prefer sweating it out, however inconvenient that is for the people around me. So after ten days of coughing and sniffling and whining I finally decided it must be a sinus infection. I have a show in a few days, and I can’t afford to be sick. So I bravely did what any man in my shoes would do: I asked my wife what to do. She told me which doctor to visit and I drove to the offices with a steely resolve. The nurse behind the sliding glass window handed me the clipboard with the dreaded New Patient Paperwork, and then the thing happened that made me want to write this.
The questions began. “Do you have any allergies?” “Do you drink caffeine?” “Do you use tobacco?” “If so, how often?” “Do you exercise regularly?” “Is there a history of heart disease in your family?” “Have you had any surgeries?
I realized as I answered each question that my impulse was to pad the answers. I had to force myself to be completely honest. For some reason I didn’t want to write down that my dad has type two diabetes or that my grandfather had three heart attacks before he died. No, ma’am, I come from tough stock. No problems at all in the Peterson tree. In the end, I told the truth. I answered “yes” to the exercise question, because it’s true. I do exercise. But then it asked “How often?” Well, that depends. I jog three or four times a week—if I’m home and the weather is nice and I’m not too busy and I’m in the mood. So, sort of often. But I rode my mountain bike twice last year, does that count? “Do you use tobacco?” No. Never. That stuff is gross. But every now and then I like to puff on a pipe, Bilbo Baggins-style, when I’m visiting my dad in the country. And I guess I smoke it when the weather is nice in the spring and my dude friends come over. And on Wednesdays. And Thursdays.
Then came the one that really bugged me. For some reason the questionnaire asked, “Have you ever been to counseling?”
I’m sitting in a Starbucks in Osage Beach, Missouri. Ben Shive is in here, too, working on a string arrangement for the upcoming CALEB record. The weather is chilly, I’m a little homesick, I’m wearing three-day jeans, all adding to a pleasant melancholy brought on by the fact that today something is ending. A story that started last January, which actually started many years before that, about a little kid from Illinois who grew up and lost his way a million times but was found a million more by God himself, is reaching its final chapter tonight.
I’m glad. And, as I said, I’m feeling a little blue about it too. I’m glad because singing these songs every night has been painful. I’m sad because the little community that gathered to tell this story has been deeply encouraging and Christ-like in humility. You know, it’s not just music that makes high school kids want to be in bands–it’s brotherhood. It’s belonging. It’s that peace-giving fellowship of locking arms with friends in defiance of something. There are few things so moving as watching a team of people with diverse gifting, temperament, and background working together to accomplish something greater than any of them could do alone. It’s a good picture of the church. Whenever someone says, “I want to join a band,” I try to remember the word “band” is older than rock and roll. I think of Robin Hood and his Band of Merry Men, or Shakespeare and his “band of brothers.” The kid isn’t just saying, “I want to play some songs,” he’s saying, “I want to belong to something.” I was that kid, so I know.
“Hosanna” is an old Hebrew word that means “Save us, now!”, which the Jews employed while they waved their palm branches and welcomed the Messiah into Jerusalem for the last time. Only in God’s Kingdom is a cry for help equal to a shout of praise. Once, the Jews asked Jesus for a sign to prove his authority. He declared that he would destroy the temple and rebuild it again in three days, a statement that I’m sure set them gasping and fanning their faces and running in circles. Some of them probably fainted dead away. The Gospel writer tells us that Jesus was talking about himself. But Jesus of Nazareth has plans to wreck us, too, and leave not one stone on another–-indeed, we should welcome it, because we know that Jesus has not just the power to lay waste, but to rebuild–-even his own body. And we all need rebuilding. This song is both a confession and a praise. To say to Christ, “Save me,” is to admit that you need saving, and also to acknowledge that only God is man enough to do it.
I. THE TRIUMPHAL ENTRY
Lord, forgive us.
We welcome you in because we think you’ll give us what we want. We act as if our true motives are hidden from you—you who made the world with a word. We spread our coats and wave our hands and cry “Save us!” and you ride with your back straight and your face drawn, accepting our hosannas because you know that even if the heart is false the words are true, and for now, that is enough.
You come in the name of the Lord. Son of David, you come to save us. You come to save a fickle people, who one minute cry for help and the next cry for blood, and it is both help and blood that you give us.
The sun shines hot on the city gate, and you feel the air move with the palm branches. You hear the hearts pumping in their chests. Their mouths cry “save us” while their hearts cry “give us what we want.” But because you are God you hear even deeper in the spirits of men and women and even children the silence of our profound loneliness. You hear the trickle of need we scarcely know ourselves.
You come to us though you know we’re praying to you for the wrong reasons, singing to you without the faintest notion of how powerful and just and holy you really are.
We don’t even realize the danger we’re in, crying for salvation from Caesar when the Devil himself is battering the door—crying like a baby for its bottle when a wolf is loose in the nursery.
And yet, you come.
You set your iron gaze on Jerusalem, and because the Father wants you to, you come.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Seriously, tonight's @Opry was such a blessing. I couldn't be a bigger Riders in the Sky fan, Vince Gill closed with--well, just trust me.
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Rave Review for The Storytellers TourMarch 4, 2013
Andrew has been on the road with Jason Gray these last few weeks sharing stories and songs to sold out crowds. The response to the shows has been amazing.
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