Picture gallery at the bottom of the blog!
“Make and mend” is the term Britain’s Royal Navy uses to describe a day when, instead of cruising, the crew would have an “afternoon off” to catch up on boat chores. It is derived from the time of sailing ships when sailors would, occasionally but regularly, be allowed time to “make and mend” their uniforms, carve scrimshaw, or just have some down time. I first learned the phrase when I was taking my first circumnavigation through Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series of 20 nautical historical novels. It’s likely time to sign on again and set sail with Captain Jack Aubrey and his friend the Ship Surgeon, natural philosopher, and intelligence agent, Stephen Maturin, for another cruise through the remarkable series – some of the finest historical fiction I’ve ever read – set during the period of Nelson’s navy.
“Make and mend” describes what these last few days at home have been for me. I’ve been “at port” and “ashore” taking care of the necessities of washing clothes, trimming a tree, and walking the dogs with Leah. The days home have been lovely and I’ve enjoyed reading and writing out on the back porch. We have an elevated, screened-in, porch that overlooks the back yard. It’s like being in the tree-tops and reminds us of being in Montreat. With classical music playing and a gentle breeze blowing and the dogs doing their doggy things in the backyard it is about as relaxing as it can be. When we moved from Horseshoe Bend into this house, we never could have imagined how much our life would change for the better. We enjoyed the Williamson County house immensely and are extremely grateful for the education the kids received at Grassland Elementary, Brentwood Middle and Brentwood High School. But the commute wasn’t fun at all. Here, off Whitebridge Road, we’re minutes from church and, since the pandemic, Amy’s working from home, it allows us to enjoy this sylvan setting that is impossibly close to Charlotte Pike, the interstate, and West End. Up on a hill, we regularly have a flock of wild turkeys roam through the yard. I don’t spend nearly as much time out here as I’d like, but we’ve enjoyed reading, writing, and eating out here this week while we’ve had such great weather.
My reading today has focused on the German theologian, Jurgan Moltmann’s essay, “Christianity: A Religion of Joy” in the book, Joy and Human Flourishing: Essays on Theology, Culture, and the Good Life in preparation for a retreat next week with clergy friends in Lake Tahoe. Moltmann is known best for his “theology of the cross” so reading his take on Christianity as a religion of joy has been refreshing. He ends his essay with this reflection:
Why then is Christianity such a unique religion of joy, even though at its center stands the suffering of God and the cross of Christ? Because we remember the death of Christ in the light of his resurrection, and we remember his resurrection in the splendor of the divine, eternal life that is embracing our human and mortal life already here and now. This is the logic of “how much more” (Paul Ricoeur): where sin is powerful, God’s grace is much more powerful (Rom. 5:20), for Christ has died, but how much more is Christ risen and has overcome death (Rom. 8:38-39)! So, pain too will be caught up and gathered into joy, despair into hope, and temporal death into the joy of divine life. Pains are passing, and I hear praise everlasting. (p. 15).
I’m looking forward to discussing this book with my friends next week. For I agree that for every Good Friday there is Easter. But I also remember doing an independent study course with Tom Long my senior year at PTS entitled “Doxological Preaching.” Tom would often, but gently, ask, “Can you preach that knowing that someone in the congregation has just had a devastating diagnosis or reeling from the loss of someone they love?” I certainly come down on the side of Easter’s joy and, as I write in Eastertide, meditate on the gift this season gives to think deeply on the implications of the gift of new life. Yet we also live and move and have our being in a world at war between two different branches of Orthodox Christians and live in a country where so much we thought was legally settled is under attack. Yet I believe, as Nehemiah records, that “the joy of the Lord is our strength” and gives us the ability to contend with the powers and principalities of this world knowing that, in the end, God’s Kingdom will come.
Leah and I enjoyed a delightful walk with the dogs around Radnor Lake Monday afternoon and yesterday we had dinner with friends. Today I had lunch with Elizabeth Snyder and her mom to celebrate her upcoming graduation; having Elizabeth as an intern this semester has been a delight. I was so grateful to learn that Sondra Cruickshanks and Rosemary Verrall were able to make it to Belmont to hear her give her first sermon on Saturday.
Tomorrow I’m back on the road again. My plan was to drive to Marietta, GA and stay with my cousin, Diane Zdradzinski, and her husband, Bill. I only have six first cousins and Diane is closest to me in age. She’s my mom’s brother’s youngest daughter, two years my senior. Growing up she and her older sister, Cat, lived in Reading, PA – about an hour from Bethlehem – and we would gather there for most holidays. Being the youngest of all the cousins, and the boy, I was a burden to put up with. Thankfully she’s forgiven me for all my adolescent immaturity, and we’ve enjoyed a particularly close relationship. Last year Diane and Bill moved down from Harrisburg to be near their son, now a doctor living in Atlanta. I like to tease Diane that she gave up a perfectly good name “Davis” for “Zdradzinski” but that’s a common enough Pennsylvania thing! Unfortunately, she’s going in very early to have hip replacement surgery, so I won’t be able to stay with her. Instead, I’ll be going on to Alpharetta, GA where my first church is, and staying with Jim and Barb Simmons, who helped start the church with me. I haven’t been back to the church for a dozen or more years, so I’m excited to see a number of folks who helped start the church with me back in the mid-80’s. It reminds me of the song, “Friends are friends forever if the Lord is Lord of them.”