First Monday in October
Monday morning marks an annual tradition in this country that few people know about. Because it’s on the first Monday in October that the U.S. Supreme Court reconvenes for the first session of the new court year. This will be the second year that the Court will remain the same; and scholars who study the balance of the Court are advising that the next Justice to leave should be Ruth Bader Ginsburg, although she has repeatedly said that she has no interest in departing from the Court anytime soon.
Even though one would hope that the Court would be above the politics of the Executive and Legislative branches of the government, most people understand that the President and Congress have a large part in determining the conservative or liberal leanings of the court. Of course, each President hopes that he will be able to appoint new justices and therefore leave a legacy of their particular presidency on the bench for years to come.
Aside from the fact that my grandfather was a judge, not on the Supreme Court, I have always had something of an interest in the workings of our judicial system. In fact, back in 1981, a movie was made about the first woman being appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. It starred Walter Matthau and Jill Clayburgh and was scheduled for release in 1982. Ironically, it was called, “First Monday in October.” However, with the appointment of Sandra Day O’Connor, the first real woman Justice, the release date of the movie had to be moved up. It ended up being released within about a month of the appointment of O’Connor to the Court – that happened on July 7, 1981. I haven’t seen it in quite some time, but I used to love this “behind the scenes” look at the Supreme Court. And the first Monday in October, I always recollect the fond memories I still have of “Justice” Walter Matthau.
And while our forefathers established a triune method of leadership for the country, with each branch being held accountable by the other two, the U.S. is by no means the originator of this concept of governance with courts and judges.
In fact, Moses was the first person who employed the use of judges to assist him in administering justice to the people of God. It so happened that Moses found increasing amounts of his time were devoted to settling disputes of the people. One day, Moses’s father-in-law, Jethro observed all that Moses was doing, and encouraged him to appoint capable men from across the land to help settle the lesser disagreements. Moses, believing that God was in agreement with Jethro’s suggestion, then proceeded and the land was filled with judges who could settle disputes. The most complicated cases still came before Moses himself and from this concept we find the origins of a Supreme Court. Minor disputes were settled by local judges and it was not necessary for Moses to hear those cases himself.
Like Moses, Justices of our Supreme Court are chosen for life. The idea is that they are less prone to political or commercial persuasion as they serve until they voluntarily retire; or die. So, in honor of judges everywhere, tonight’s verse is from Deut. 25:1, “When men have a dispute, they are to take it to court and the judges will decide the case, acquitting the innocent and condemning the guilty.” Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well, that’s the way it was supposed to be. The problem today is that God appears to not get as personally involved in our disputes as He used to. And where we have human judges, we will have human errors.
My encouragement this evening is that God has put judges in place to help our leaders govern more effectively and to allow us quicker resolution of our disputes. My prayer is that you will pray for the Justices of the Supreme Court this year; that they may govern wisely and in the spirit of a Christ-like countenance. And, God willing, we can live together in greater harmony, where the necessity of such a Court will no longer be necessary. Grace and peace,