In 1960 the off-Broadway classic “The Fantastiks” debuted in front of widely approving audiences. The best known song from that popular musical was “Try to Remember,” a sentimental ballad written by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, which is still a crowd favorite at sing-along piano bars and among any of us who consider ourselves to be Broadway divas. Perhaps you remember that song: “Try to remember the kind of September when grass was green and the grain was yellow….” You remember. I love that song. It’s a beautiful reminiscent melody.
But do you remember how that song ends? The ending, to me, always seemed awkward. Try to remember and if you remember, then follow, follow, follow, follow, follow, follow, follow, follow. It’s a song with a lot of follows. If I had written that song, I would have just stopped with one follow. Try to remember and if you remember, then follow. Period. After all, less is more. But the composers evidently liked the word follow so they included a whole lot of them. Follow, follow, follow, follow.
Sometimes when I hear the Gospel, I experience the same reaction because the Bible is not shallow on follows. Jesus was always calling on people to follow. A good chunk of the stories end with those familiar words and Jesus said, “Follow me.” He said it to Simon Peter and Andrew while they were casting nets into the sea. “Follow.” He said it to James and John while they were mending their nets, “Follow.” Matthew was sitting in a tax booth; paralytics were sitting on their mats. Saul was sitting blinded on a dusty road. Follow, follow, follow.But at other times, it was implied. “Come and see,” Jesus would say. “Go and do likewise,” Jesus would say. “Go into all the world,” Jesus would say.
No matter how you phrase it, the haunt is still the same. Follow, follow, follow The words ring in our ears, follow, follow, follow, even long after our initial decision to follow him.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the martyred German Lutheran pastor who was hanged by the Nazis in 1945 for resisting their ideology of terror and hatred, wrote extensively during his lifetime about the dangers of what he called “cheap grace.” Instead of cheap grace, he said God’s love is a costly grace. Grace comes to us with a steep price attached to it–the death of Jesus, and, therefore, it costs something of us in return. It cost Dietrich Bonhoeffer his life and it should cost us our life as well.
Our faith tells us that when we hear and respond to Jesus’ call to follow, to come to the cross, we do not walk alone. We walk with Jesus, we walk with him to the cross; we walk with him to the resurrection and that is Good News.