Christ is with you always, be ready when he appears

Sunday, November 14, 2010

One of Harry Truman's biographers tells a story about him that seems directly in line with the legend. That is, the legend of an uncomplicated family man who would rise to become leader of the free world.

Bess Truman, his wife, loathed Washington. She eschewed social engagements and disliked meeting with the press. In other words, she was a world apart from her predecessor, Eleanor Roosevelt. Bess was often back home in Independence, Mo., leaving the 33rd U.S. president to rattle around the White House alone much of the time. Harry would write her endearing letters and on nice evenings would go out for a walk. Imagine that, an American president going out for a nighttime stroll around Washington.

On one memorable walk, President Truman headed down to the Memorial Bridge over the Potomac River. When he got there, he became curious about the mechanism that raised and lowered the middle span, allowing various ships of size to pass through. He went up and down the cat walks and through the inner workings of the bridge. (The Secret Service must have been fit to be tied.) President Truman, in his meandering, came upon the bridge tender, who was eating his supper out of a tin bucket.

The man looked up, saw the most powerful man in the country standing over him, swallowed his food and wiped his mouth. "Why, Mr. President, I was just thinking about you!"

Truman delighted in that greeting and regaled many friends in recounting the incident.

I like to imagine that Jesus might happen upon me at various times in my day -- suddenly appearing without warning, as a certain man from Missouri did one pleasant summer evening on a D.C. bridge. It's not so far-fetched an idea. Matthew's Gospel quotes the Lord, in his departing post-resurrection message, as saying, "Remember I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20)

The notion that Christ is watching could be seen as an Orwellian Big Brother, I suppose -- checking up on us at our worst moments. I'd prefer to think he would be there at those times of greatest need, prepared to offer help and counsel rather than chastisement. We could choose such an occasion to paraphrase the bridge tender's message to Harry Truman and declare, "Why, Lord, I was just thinking about you!"

It's less than two weeks to Thanksgiving and six weeks to Christmas. The legend is coming once again. And maybe his arrival will be when you least expect him. Or when you most need him. There's something about that in the Bible, too, I'm quite certain.

Jeff Long is pastor of Centenary United Methodist Church in Cape Girardeau. Married with two daughters, he is of Scots and Swedish descent, loves movies and is a lifelong fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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