Conventional wisdom claims that religion is declining in America today. We're often told that atheists and agnostics are taking over the spiritual marketplace, that millennials are shunning the church in ominous numbers, and that Christianity as we know it has more of a past than a future in our culture.
Apparently you survived Friday the Thirteenth. The infamous day was two days ago. It came three times last year—be glad it comes only once in 2016. (My father was born on a Friday the thirteenth, a fact which friends over the years have held against me.)
In response to this superstition, a Philadelphia group calling itself "Friday the 13th Club" began meeting in 1936 on Friday the thirteenth at 1:13 PM (13:13 PM on military time) They had lunch, walked under ladders, broke mirrors, and spilled salt. The group disbanded in 2000; perhaps we should create a new one.
William Shakespeare is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more than those of any other playwright.
In marking the anniversary of his death, President Obama toured the reconstruction of the Globe Theater where most of Shakespeare's plays were first performed. Prince Charles visited his hometown. And articles the world over have extolled his greatness and significance.
Lily Tomlin has won two Tony Awards, a Grammy, and six Emmys. Her net worth is estimated at $215 million.
Has it been enough to give her life significance? The comic once quipped, "All my life, I've wanted to be somebody, but now I see I should have been more specific." She also made this astute observation: "If I had known what it would be like to have it all, I might have been willing to settle for less."
Lewis Smedes wrote in 1984 the best book I know on the subject of forgiveness: Forgive & Forget: Healing The Hurts We Don't Deserve. 400,000 people have bought his book and been helped by its profound insights. For years it has been crucial to my life and ministry.
Here's the parable with which Dr. Smedes begins his classic:
Income Tax Day is tomorrow, April 18. Why not last Friday, April 15? Because Emancipation Day was last Friday. The day commemorates the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Lincoln. It is a legal holiday for city workers in Washington, D.C. It is celebrated on April 16. But that fell on Saturday this year, so Emancipation Day was Friday. As a result, Income Tax Day is Monday.
Governor Edwards, senators and representatives, Steering Committee chairs and members, fellow program participants, and distinguished guests and friends:
It is a great honor and personal privilege to address you this morning. When the Governor's Prayer Breakfast was first held on May 10, 1965, our world looked very different from today. The first U.S. combat troops had landed in Vietnam just two months earlier. Malcolm X had been assassinated that February. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and more than 2,600 others were arrested in Selma, Alabama as part of the civil rights movement. The Watts riots would come later that year, as would anti-war marches across the country.
"God said it, I believe it, and that settles it." "I may not understand the Bible, but I believe it." "You don't have to interpret the Bible. Just read it and do what it says." Seminary students have made these kinds of statements each semester I have taught this course on biblical interpretation, and I've heard them from members of my church as well.
In 1870 the Methodists in Indiana were holding their Annual Conference. At one point in the proceedings, the president of the college where they were meeting said, "I think we are living in a very exciting age." The presiding bishop asked him, "What do you see for the future?" The college president responded, "I believe we are coming into a time of great inventions. I believe, for example, that men will fly through the air like birds." The bishop said, "That's heresy! The Bible says that flight is reserved for the angels. We'll have no more such talk here."