Monday, August 07, 2006

Walk the Line is a powerful story of redemption. It celebrates how patient love can overcome the most resistant heart. It also features both kinds of music: country and western!

Johnny Cash stands as a legend in the musical community: the first selected to both the Rock and Roll HOF and the Country Music HOF.

Johnny Cash doesn’t just sing to the damned. He sings with the damned, and sometimes you feel he might just prefer their company.” Bono

Walk the Line serves us with a powerful reminder about the choices we all face, the cries to God we all make. We’ve all crossed lines that we later regret. Today, as we follow the lines that Johnny Cash walked, you will maybe determine what line you are walking.

Into each life, some rain must fall.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Scene 1 Chapter 3 7.50- 10.27

Walk the Line begins with the accidental death of Johnny’s brother Jack, a dedicated Christian who intended to go into full-time ministry. On his deathbed, Jack asks Johnny, “Do you hear the angels?” Johnny’s father deepens the pain by declaring, “The devil did this. He took the wrong son.” This experience scarred Cash, affecting his relationships down the road, especially with his own father.

The Bible is full of stories of people who suffered tragedy and tribulation and how those experiences defined them. A good example is the story of Job, who literally had everything taken from him.

Job 17:1
My days are over. My hopes have disappeared. My heart's desires are broken.

We must grieve our losses and embrace the reality of our life.

John 16:20-22
“I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”

“I’ve often wondered if rappers know how little separates their tales of ghetto thug life from Johnny Cash’s tales of backwoods thug life.” Quentin Tarantino

Cash’s music resonated with his listeners because it was true – no matter how much the truth hurt.

When Cash auditions for record producer Sam Phillips, he sings a gospel song but fails to impress Phillips. The producer challenges Johnny to “sing something real, something you felt. That’s the kind of song that truly saves people.”

Scene 2 Chapter 7 25.17- 28.48

“I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die” aren't the words of a drifter in Nevada; they speak to the murderous instincts lurking in all of our hearts.

More often than not, Cash found himself hiding behind the masks of drugs and alcohol and pretending to be something he wasn’t – a faithful husband, a devoted father and even a good friend.

In an interview later in life Cash admitted, “I used to sing all those gospel songs, but I never really felt them. And maybe I was a little bit ashamed of myself at the time because of the hypocrisy of it all: There I was, singing the praises of the Lord and singing about the beauty and the peace you can find in Him – and I was stoned.”

The life of a musician on the road is tough. Listen to the words of Jerry Lee Lewis as he rides with Johnny, June Carter, Elvis and others to another concert.

Scene 3 Chapter 13 45.27- 46.04 ‘We’re all going to hell.’

It almost seems as though every band has its own story of bottoming-out with drugs, money, women and other excesses that seriously jeopardize both family and career. Johnny Cash was no different. As a new rockabilly idol, Cash enjoyed the adoration of his female fans. But back in Memphis, his wife, Vivian, and young daughter, Roseanne, grew increasingly distant from his thoughts.

Scene 4 Chapter 18 65.33- 67.10 I Walk The Line

Can you hear the tension in his voice? Cash likely wrote, “I Walk the Line” because of crossing it rather than actually walking it.

As the movie progresses, Johnny admits his growing affection for and obsession with June Carter. While their onstage duets create serious sparks, a song like “Jackson” confesses the failures of both of their marriages: Young love doesn’t survive under the strain of touring.

Johnny and June sing Jackson as a duel confession. “We got married in a fever,” the fever of young, immature love. Now that the fire has gone out, Johnny admits his plans to go to Jackson and “mess around.” June says, fine, “Go ahead and wreck your health, make a big fool of yourself.”

If adultery almost unravels Cash’s marriage, his addiction to pills takes him even further into an abyss.

Drugs are so deceptive. It’s like a demon that say, ‘Hey, I’m so pretty, look at me; I’ll make you feel better! Take me.’ When you’re on that stuff one is too many and a thousand is not enough.”

To allow ourselves to be loved is risky. The potential for disappointment and heartbreak is always high, and June Carter knew that getting involved with Johnny Cash would test her like never before. Having already endured two divorces, she had plenty of reasons not to trust, not to risk, not to love.

“It took such a long time of praying and of walking away when I knew from first looking at him that his hurt was as great as mine, and from the depths of my despair, I stepped up to feel the fire and there is no way to be in that kind of hell, no way to extinguish a flame that burns, burns, burns. And so came the song, ‘Ring of Fire’.” June Carter Cash

In this song, June outlines the dangerous side of love – the fine line between love and lust, salvation and damnation.

Scene 5 Chapter 34 123.58- 128.33 Ring Of Fire and Jackson

Their marriage lasted 35 years, until June’s death in 2003. Johnny followed her home 4 months later.

Johnny Cash sings the tales of men trying to escape. Escape the law, escape the poverty they were born into, escape prison, escape madness, escape the people who torture them. But the one thing Cash never lets them escape is regret.” Quentin Tarantino

In his own life, Cash ended up with plenty of regrets: A failed marriage, a drug arrest, pushing away his one true love, June Carter, for so long. Essentially, Johnny became a prisoner in a cell on his own making.

Giving in to temptation is what leads to regret.

1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out, so you may be able to endure it.

What tempts you?

James 1:14-16
Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. Don't be misled, my dear brothers and sisters.

“There was so much hurt for both of us and hurt for those we loved that only God could have pulled us out of that ‘Ring of Fire.’ ” June Carter Cash

Johnny begins to experience that reality through the love and support of June.

Scene 6 Chapter 31 110.00- 112.36 'I helped a friend. God’s given you a second chance.'

In 2000, Johnny Cash told Rolling Stone Magazine “There is a spiritual side of me that goes real deep, but I confess right up front that I’m the biggest sinner of them all.”

“Big John sings like the thief who was crucified beside Christ, whose humble entreaties had Jesus promising that night he would see paradise.” Bono

One evening Bono sat down for dinner at the Cash's home. "Johnny said the most eloquent prayer of grace that I'd ever heard. As he lifted his head and opened his eyes he turned to me and said, 'I sure do miss the drugs, though.'"

Like most of us, Johnny Cash had to go through painful experiences in his life to understand the forgiveness and grace of God. We all must endure such trials and tribulations to realize our own frailty and inability to save ourselves.

Not long before his death, Cash wrote a searing meditation on the finality of life called When The Man Comes Around. We’re going to listen to it while we celebrate communion. Communion may never be the same for you- I know it won’t be for me.

Listen to what Cash writes in the music notes…

I spent more time on this song than any I ever wrote. It’s based, loosely, on the book of Revelation, with a couple of lines or a chorus, from other biblical sources. I must have written three dozen pages of lyrics, then painfully weeded it down to the song you have here. Johnny Cash

“The Man Comes Around”

And I heard, as it were, the noise of thunder:
One of the four beasts saying: "Come and see."
And I saw.
And behold, a white horse.

There's a man goin' 'round takin' names.
An' he decides who to free and who to blame.
Everybody won't be treated all the same.
There'll be a golden ladder reaching down.
When the man comes around.

The hairs on your arm will stand up.
At the terror in each sip and in each sup.
For you partake of that last offered cup,
Or disappear into the potter's ground.
When the man comes around.

Hear the trumpets, hear the pipers.
One hundred million angels singin'.
Multitudes are marching to the big kettle drum.
Voices callin', voices cryin'.
Some are born an' some are dyin'.
It's Alpha's and Omega's Kingdom come.
And the whirlwind is in the thorn tree.
The virgins are all trimming their wicks.
The whirlwind is in the thorn tree.
It's hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
Till Armageddon, no Shalam, no Shalom.
Then the father hen will call his chickens home.
The wise men will bow down before the throne.
And at his feet they'll cast their golden crown.
When the man comes around.

Whoever is unjust, let him be unjust still.
Whoever is righteous, let him be righteous still.
Whoever is filthy, let him be filthy still.
Listen to the words long written down,
When the man comes around.

Hear the trumpets, hear the pipers.
One hundred million angels singin'.
Multitudes are marchin' to the big kettle drum.
Voices callin', voices cryin'.
Some are born an' some are dyin'.
It's Alpha's and Omega's Kingdom come.
And the whirlwind is in the thorn tree.
The virgins are all trimming their wicks.
The whirlwind is in the thorn tree.
It's hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
In measured hundredweight and penny pound.
When the man comes around.

And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts,
And I looked and behold: a pale horse.
And his name, that sat on him, was Death.
And Hell followed with him.

"I expect my life to end pretty soon. I'm 71 years old. I have great faith, though. I have unshakable faith. I used to have regrets but I forgave myself. When God forgave me, I figured I'd better do it, too." Johnny Cash

John could live with no regrets because he grieved his past choices and accepted God’s forgiveness. Do that yourself before the man comes around.

The man will come around, you better believe it.


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