In Wendell Berry’s novel Jayber Crow, the main character works to come to terms with who he is. At midlife, after going through a crisis, he says, “Now, finally, I really had lost all desire for change, every last twinge of the notion that I ought to get somewhere or make something of myself. I was what I was.
All I know about Jesus is what I heard him say. That’s all I know about almost anybody. It’s not true that “deeds speak louder than words.” Only words speak. The old “I’d rather see a sermon than hear one” is only partly true. Most ministerial speech these days tends to be in the affirmative mood. We pastors are, in the acerbic words of Stanley Hauerwas, a “quivering mass of availability.”
I do not have a green thumb. I don’t speak to my plants. Instead I make them grab their throats, gasping for water, before I recognize their parched condition. Then I drench and almost drown them. This is no way to treat any living thing, plant or otherwise. Plants treated this unkindly are spindly and weak, anemic, with no strong root system.
For well over a thousand years November 1, or All Saints Day, has been marked in red on the Christian calendar. The meaning behind the celebration speaks to our time, especially when distinguishing between saints and celebrities, and remembering Karl Barth's word about reading the Bible with the daily newspaper in hand. The latter tells of celebrities, the former offers saints.