A student in one of my preaching courses was struggling terribly. The sermons he preached in class were plodding, disorganized and weakly supported exegetically and theologically. He was aware that he was not meeting expectations, and was frustrated and embarrassed. But then, in his final opportunity to redeem himself in the course, he surprised us all by preaching a stunning sermon, profound and lyrical. It was good—too good.
When I was nine years old I dreamed of being Bobby Feller. I forget about that dream for long stretches, but then something comes back to remind me of it. Recently that something was Tyler Kepner’s profile of Feller in the March 7 New York Times. I learned that at age 88 Feller still suits up every day, and that he is often called a hero because of his World War II service. He responds to this term by saying, "Heroes don’t come home; survivors come home." What good did that baseball dream do? For one thing, it's a bracing alternative to the dream talk that afflicts us now.
Many Christians can name the hour and the place of their salvation. For me it was answering not one but two altar calls at Billy Graham crusades in the 1960s. For Reinhold Niebuhr, who was asked if he could name the time and place of his salvation, it was “2,000 years ago on a dusty hill named Golgotha outside Jerusalem’s wall.”
I was looking through a high school yearbook recently, a dangerous thing to do when 40 years have passed. I got lost staring at the silly hairstyles, the photos of teachers who are long since gone, the friend in the senior play whose name is now etched on the Vietnam memorial. It was a time of turmoil and strife in the nation. Racial tensions, assassinations and war were tearing the country apart. But you would never know that from my yearbook’s carefree and hopeful class photos.
Party politics and piety: Stuart Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Political Report is skeptical that Democrats can win over evangelical voters by using the right language. The Democrats had minimal impact on white evangelical voters in 2006, Rothenberg says. White evangelicals are more likely to change the Republican Party than to change parties (Roll Call, March 22).