He was probably about 83, give or take a year, when we first met. I was about 18. The far right end of the third, left side pew was permanently and unofficially reserved for him in the small Baptist Church which we both attended. He wasn’t ever mad if you sat there, but most people just didn’t. Each Sunday he wore a Bolo Tie (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bolo_tie) along with what I’ve always assumed were his Sunday best. He had a huge smile that lived above a steady jaw, eyes that shined and a somewhat leathered face from years of being in the sun. Once I got to see pictures of he and his wife when they were in their 20’s. I’m not going to lie and this is no exageration- she was super hot and he was obviously just as handsome.
Clovis and I sat next to each other in Church every Sunday from about 1998 to 2003. To describe our friendship as unlikely would be an understatement. One of my favorite memories, and one I share often, is when one Sunday I came into church wearing my typical rags- shorts, an old t-shirt and flip flops. I’m sure my hair was also a mess. When I sat down next to him, he looked over at me, and after silently eyeing me from head to toe, looks forward and shakes his head in a mild disgust. But don’t you dare jump to any conclusions about him being a crotchety, judgemental old man. He loved me and I knew it. Months, maybe even a year later, Clovis sat down next to me in church and told me that he’d started a bank account for me to buy some decent clothes (!) when I either get married or graduate from college. I graduated from college in May of ’04 and got married in August later that year. He died a few days before my wedding, having given me the money a couple of months earlier. I still have the suit that Clovis bought me.
We in youth ministry talk a lot about the generational culture gaps that exist in society and how those gaps have infiltrated the church. Most of us are aware that this culture gap causes and or supports many of the problems the western church faces today. I could go on and on about this topic, as I’m sure most of you could. After all, most of us have been reading the same books. Technology, language, music, norms, expecatations are all part of this picture and have some real impact on how we live our lives as Christians in the western world today. But honestly, I don’t want to talk about that.
I want to talk about Clovis. Or maybe I want to talk about the small handful of adults who invested in me when I first showed up to that little Baptist church in 1996. If you’ve passed your twenties without bailing on Christ or his Church, I imagine you could talk about those people as well. Guess what? If you told Clovis that a generational culture gap stood between us and that we really weren’t supposed to be friends; he would have reverted back to his pre-Christ, Texas-sized attitude that I had the privelage of witnessing only a couple of times. Clovis didn’t need sociologists or fancy books on youth culture to know that Christ has called him to something greater. Christ had called him to love.
You see the Gospel I read isn’t focused on the divisions among us. Rather it is focused on the solution. The Love of God has the ability to transcend any barrier, cultural or other. He can tear down the strongholds of earthly kingdoms and spiritual powers of darkness. We all know this, but we sometimes don’t believe it. We say that God can do all these things, and yet we continue to live as if He is powerless to unite the generations! I don’t think we can afford to ignore the issues that are brought to our attention by the afore mentioned sociologists, authors or any other “expert” in these fields. However, rather than trying to address these problems with experimental worship services, flashy techology and other surface level strategies, I think we need to get back to the basics. Do what Clovis did- destroy a culturally percieved, culturally upheld, culturally created barrier with the transforming love of Jesus Christ. Because I believe that when Clovis finally met his Maker, one of things God commended him for was looking after me.