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clay vessels: Drinking a Beer with Jesus

I have been fortunate to come to know personally the writer and performer of this song. His name is Roy Payne.

To say that Roy has has lived life "in extremus" would be kind. Any polish or veneer that once adorned his countenance has long since been burned off by the trials of life; some of his own making, others by the trials of fate.

Yet having visited the joys of fame during the '70's on the country music scene, he has also lived that sad state of life memorialized in those ballad and songs of woe.

I am also privileged to be able to talk with him about how it is that he continues to experience (if not always heed...) the gentle touch of God in places we would not always think to look: like "Drinking Beer with Jesus". Without a doubt, we hear inspiration and authenticity in the lyric of a song offered with a raspy voice bespeaks years and years of smoky bars and hard living.

Whether the muse for this work be divine or not, Jesus was certainly there in that crucis where inspiration was born.

Listen for yourself and let me know how you would respond to his final line.


  1. Dear Tim --

    My goodness...

    First of all, I love Roy Payne's voice!
    Okay, so you ask what I think of the last line of the song Drinking Beer with Jesus. Well, I grant that it's catchy, but what exactly is he asking us to prove him wrong about?: that he was actually drinking beer with Jesus?; that there are too many gods?; that he had the answer, confirmed when he wiped away Jesus' tears? (which brings up that whole issue of whether a glorified Jesus, which He now is and, therefore, would be if He visited any one of us in bodily form, would cry -- or if this is not simply a projection of a person wanting Jesus to be like him, rather than the other way round....) Also, I am at a disadvantage in that I am not familiar with Jerry Springer (although I have a vague idea of the tenor of his show) nor with the Lefty to whom Roy refers, or to the song to which he refers in "God knows, I love that song..." You readily see that I am lost before I can even respond to the last line! Also, in speaking about what was "gotten wrong," the text of the song first uses "they" then "you" -- which may be deliberate in an effort to express that as individuals we have to take responsibility, etc. I am more comfortable with the concept that the singer of the song, the primary voice, Roy himself, at some point shared a drink with another man in whom Roy recognized the presence of Jesus, through whom Roy heard the message of Jesus, etc. in the course of their conversation, but then I run into trouble with this interpretation when this person shows Roy a picture of the future.... Or perhaps it is that the singer was actually drinking alone, but was then visited by the insights mentioned which he then attributes to the presence of Jesus within his soul.... That, in fact, it is his own whiskers that he is wiping, and so forth. I don't really like the image of Jesus crying in his beer. It's not that he might drink beer, have drunk beer, or a version thereof, that bothers me, but the fact that the image of crying in one's beer often implies feeling sorry for oneself. While he lived on earth, I understand that Jesus experienced human emotions, including terror at the thought of his upcoming death, but Jesus, as he is now and forever, would not feel sorry for himself, I don't believe, unless it were to be in acknowledgment that his salvific effort had been in vain. Please, God, this would never be the case.

    We, as Christians, do understand that "things went wrong" almost from the beginning, don't we, and I think few of us would deny that we have set up "other gods" in our culture, to whom we give too much homage, but isn't it that we believe that what Jesus did for us through His life, death and resurrection, "set things right" by providing us with the Way to work, in conjunction with His presence in our lives, under His influence on our lives -- often, as you say, mediated through others -- towards resolving at least those parts of what went wrong that have been "assigned" to us to try to resolve within the confines of our particular lives, given the gifts and talents provided us, the means at our disposal etc.? Even if this means, which it usually does, fighting "our demons" each and every day.... But don't we believe that, ultimately, the fight has been won, whether or not we ourselves are already experiencing this? But (to pick up on the excerpts from the blog which you included) it is certainly the case that we are finite, fragile, and fallible, and still make tons of mistakes, sometimes inadvertently, no matter how hard we try not to do so.

    Not sure what else to say here!

  2. Your interpretation of the process Roy went through, seeing the presence of Jesus of another is exactly correct. I believe that encounter is what inspired the creation of the song, thus "extending" His presence to others.

    What amazes me is how it is that Roy is the vessel for this epiphany of God - and how people do not believe that he would be instrument that Jesus/Holy Spirit would use to make His presence manifest. Surprisingly, people of a deep intellectual faith seem to have more difficulty than the "average Joe in comprehending this mystery. They tend to do as you have done as you did and take apart the theological points that raise questions about image of Christ, or the content of the conversation etc.

    Yet, the power of this witness in song is such that it sets vibrating the souls of most people of average faith who listen to it. Somehow they can better see the image of Christ in the words and voice of a broken singer, an alcoholic from the very margin of society (appropriate since he started his journey in life being born in a small Newfoundland outport - about as on the edge of the country as one can be and still be called Canadian) than they can in most clergy or people of deep faith. It is quite remarkable.

    I'm also fascinated how it is that God used Roy's creative muses to give birth to the song which has seems to be such a "photograph" in which folks can see the His image. What is it that blinds so many? Why is it that some many can see? Is this the gift of grace that helped Mother Theresa see Christ in the dying and marginalized souls of Calcutta? So many questions.... it's fun searching for the answers.

    Roy (and Jesus) are curious souls.

  3. Hi Padre

    Interesting song!! Roy Payne’s song which must be a reflection of his character and life’s journey reminds me of quite a few characters I have encountered and respected who although do not represent the stereotypical image of the possessors of great wisdom and spirituality actually have a very clear perception of the right path even though they stumble frequently along the way. I humbly think that in some ways I fall into this less than fancy category and feel very comfortable with it. I checked in on your blog Site and read your thoughts which do not surprise me since I feel they represent well the my own thoughts on the skewing affect of the media and how time seems to dull the reality of what the issues you raise are really all about. Thanks for taking the initiatives because you truly possess the wisdom and skill to crystallize the issues and the courage to take a stand. I think that you should consider the title on your last post “Where The Rubber Hit The Road” be engraved upon your headstone many, many years from now as an appropriate epitaph Ha ! Ha! Absolute respect, no disrespect meant.


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