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Preached by Dr. Heath Rada, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA).
Sermon text not available.
My friends Marc and Jenn were the friends who did everything first. They got married a year out of college, way before any of the rest of us. Many of us, including Jenn, went off to grad school. Marc got a real job. They were also the first to have a child. When the day came, the rest of us around the seminary were overjoyed. One of our buddies went and sat with her while Marc rushed home from work. A crew of us - way more than were necessary - transported them to the hospital, sat in the waiting room all afternoon. Just after the epidural kicked in we went in to say, ‘hi,' which I now realize was not a good decision, either. We also had to make sure to get Marc's picks for the fantasy football draft that he was missing that might. That was the extent of our pastoral care. A few hours later Marc, exhausted, sweat dripping down his brow, walked out to tell us that their son Joshua had been born. We leapt to our feet, excited, with absolutely no idea what that meant. Then, slowly, Marc's grandfather, retired Presbyterian pastor and president of Columbia Seminary for a time, reached out his hands to grab those beside him. As he steadied himself his deep voice, a bit garbled, began to sing the Doxology. He got the first few words out, then we all joined in, there, in the waiting room of the Dekalb Medical Center: Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise him all creatures here below. Praise him above ye heavenly hosts. Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Amen. There was nothing else to be done, nothing to be said. The only thing for us to do was to sing.
Two local stories have resonated far beyond our region this week. It began with the death last Saturday night of Dean Smith. Basketball fans of all stripes, or those who don't give a lick about sports, can all see something extraordinary in this man. He was a brilliant tactician - his four-corners offense changed the game, forcing the advent of the shot clock. He was a leader on civil rights, a stance that flowed out of his deep faith. But the thing I have heard over and over is how he shaped a team. He was so loyal, tending carefully to everyone from the managers to Michael Jordan. Smith started the tradition of recognizing seniors at their last home game, something everyone does now. Every senior started on that day, and if there happened to be six seniors, they would all take the court, and the game would begin with the other team shooting technical foul free throws.1 At practice at water breaks the seniors got in line first, then juniors, and so on. Pointing to the teammate who passed you the ball - that was Dean. There was something about the intentionality with which he ran his team that shaped these players, as athletes, as people.
There is something exhausting in the water. Multiple times every day I have a version of this same conversation: One of you say - or I say myself: I am so tired. The kids are going every direction, all at once. I try to be intentional about what our family does, but we are running around all the time. Work keeps on piling on, the burden is crushing. I can't move at the rate I used to, can't accomplish as much as I want. I feel like I'm caring for so many people, both parent and kids. There are too many balls in the air. It's too much...
It all started so fast, so intensely. Jesus is baptized, calls four disciples, and then is in the synagogue teaching on the sabbath and healing a man with an unclean spirit. No flowery language, no angels singing, no back story - Mark gets right to his point from the start.