My brother was the first to call. We chatted about Barry Bonds: What justice is there in his going four for 27 in the 1991 play-offs as a Pittsburgh Pirate (our favorite team as young fans), and then, as a San Francisco Giant, hitting 73 home runs, four of them in his last six times at bat? Suddenly my brother let me have it. “Are you sure it was the Second Inaugural?” he asked.
This preacher was grateful for the lectionary during September. I often argue with the choices of texts for particular Sundays. But when the events of September 11 replaced all other agendas, including my carefully planned preaching topics, I turned to the lectionary with gratitude.
We must not expect our nation’s wound to heal quickly: It is too deep and the pain is too profound. We Americans expect instant healing. “Let’s put it behind us—get over it—get on with life,” we say, as if it were inappropriate to allow tragedy to be tragic for more than a day or two.
At the end of summer my mother would launch her annual canning process. She retrieved large Ball jars from the cellar, sterilized them in boiling water and sealed tomatoes, beans and rhubarb from Dad’s garden into them. The food would appear on our dinner table throughout the winter.
For most pastors, the question of how the church should relate to the state and to the society and culture around it arises in a very mundane way—in the form of a phone call asking you to deliver an invocation at a meeting of the city council or the PTA, or at a school sports banquet. Whenever this happens, I agonize a bit about it. Should I baptize a secular event with a little piety?