Through forty years, I have meditated on Isak Dinesen’s three forms of true happiness. Much more than sports analogies await here, as you already see. Whenever we face a challenge—some kind of opponent—our imagination instantly delivers an assessment of our own resources. Can I meet it? Often, we fear not.
In the days before the inauguration, I viewed a four-hour documentary on PBS. Called “The Divided States of America,” it examined how Americans grew far apart during the presidency of Barack Obama. Grief gripped me as I watched. Frame after frame revealed the unrestrained hatred of countless Americans for our former president. . . What was its source?
Don’t you feel the thrill of Ezekiel’s righteous anger, and feel it is as your own! “You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock; you do not bring back the strays.” The translation sounds out as plain politics. “You eat the curds” means you pay poverty wages to the poor and make a million off their backs. “You clothe yourselves with their wool” refers to the fine estates, the sumptuous feasts, the elegant clothes and the secure billions . . .
Today, we begin a series of sermons which aims to connect our faith in Christ with the fights of our times. Right up to the November presidential election, we will consider many of the vexed conflicts of our civilization around which no moral or political will exists for decision and solution of vast injustices. I do not aim to define “what Christians must believe” about the crises we face, but I do want to claim that your commitment to Christ must issue in a decisive way of seeing our situation . . .
The Genesis stories send a peculiar task: to feel after a spiritual meaning for an unspiritual life. In all of Genesis’ 3,000 words, the name of God appears not twenty times, and even then, mostly as a believer’s boast—but God in Godself does not appear. Therefore, let us ask about an unspiritual life. What is it?
My mother, of blessed memory, remarked for years on a vexing boldness in her once tiny third son, myself: at two or three years of age, before he knew anything of swimming, this little boy so loved the waters where we summered that he would walk right off the end of the wooden dock and plunge in over his head, apparently unaware or unconcerned that he would shortly need to be saved. And then would do it again, and even again. The act is recorded on home movies! Now, it might occur to some of you that he is telling this story because he has gone and done it again: plunged into the ecclesiastical waters down by The Riverside Church, apparently unaware that he might need to be saved—again!