On Missing the Bus

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Walter Albritton

By Walter Albritton

In his helpful book, Good to Great, Jim Collins gives us a memorable metaphor in comparing a business to a bus and the leader as the bus driver. As the leader, you must decide where your bus is going, how you are going to get there and who is going with you. A great leader must not only cast a vision; he must also get the right people on the bus and in the right seats, and the wrong people off the bus. Collins’ “life principle” in his bus metaphor is that for a business to go from good to great, its leader must first decide who is going with him before he decides where he is going. That’s helpful advice for leaders in any arena.

The bus metaphor reminded me of a sermon preached by Harry Emerson Fosdick when he was pastor of Riverside Church in New York City. It was not the content of the sermon but its title that captured my attention. The title, “On Catching the Wrong Bus,” stimulated a sermon of my own about the importance of being on the bus that Jesus is driving, the bus of eternal salvation.

The idea of catching the wrong bus reminds me of an embarrassing moment in my seminary days at Vanderbilt University. After morning classes on campus, I usually drove downtown and parked on the parking deck of the Methodist Publishing House where I worked part-time as an editor. One night, rather late, I punched out, walked outside and caught a bus to our house one block off of eighth avenue south.  Once home, and after asking my wife where the car was, it dawned on me that the car was where I parked it – on the parking deck in downtown Nashville. It was years later before I could laugh about having to catch a bus to go back and retrieve our car.

An even more memorable bus experience occurred when I was six years old and in the first grade of the public school in Wetumpka, Alabama. My home was the end of the route of the big yellow school bus on which I rode 12 miles to school each day. One lovely fall day, as the bell sounded the end of the day’s classes, I went outside to board the bus but found it had not yet arrived. I began playing with Billy and Tom but minutes later discovered the bus had come and gone. I had missed the bus.

Billy and Tom left me; they walked home each day since their homes were nearby. Frightened and alone, I started crying and walked back inside the school, scared to death. Suddenly a woman put her arms around me and began reassuring me that the world had not come to an end. The woman was Dora Melton, my first-grade teacher. To this day my heart overflows with gratitude when I recall her kindness as she rescued me from the panic of missing the bus. Somehow, she got word to my parents that they could come to her home to pick me up. 

We walked to her home, where she calmed my nerves with a delicious piece of fudge candy. I have craved chocolate ever since. While waiting for my parents, I played football in the front yard with Mrs. Melton’s two sons, Oakley and Bimbo, who were a little older than me. Mrs. Melton never scolded me for missing the bus. She left that to my dad! All my life I have felt there must be a special place in heaven for teachers like Dora Melton.

That day, so long ago, the kindness of a wonderful teacher saved the life of a frightened little boy who would realize, years later, that God uses ordinary people to rescue troubled people. Not just little children but people of all ages who, being busy with other things, missed the bus that Jesus was driving.

People miss the Jesus bus for many reasons. Some, it is true, arrogantly reject Jesus, relegating him to a list of prophets and good teachers rather than accepting him as the Savior of the world. Many others simply choose the ways of the world and ignore God’s invitation to find true life, joy and peace by getting on the bus Jesus is driving. In the gospels, Jesus offers a chilling description of such people when he describes the day of his return.

In Luke 17:26-27, Jesus says, “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.”

We who, despite our flaws, diligently follow Christ have an awesome privilege. We can lovingly warn people not to get on the wrong bus. We can graciously invite them to get on the bus Jesus is driving. We can even open the door for them and assist them to get on board, reminding them that all are welcome on the Jesus bus. Jesus loved little children but he especially loved people who, for whatever reason, had missed his bus. It would not violate the truth to add three words to this familiar statement of Jesus: “Let the children of all ages come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14). Until He returns, we have the honor of inviting children of every age to ride his bus with us into His eternal kingdom.

To summarize, if you want a truly great life, and not settle for merely a good life, don’t miss the bus Jesus is driving.

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