The First Monday in October…

Ten years ago this week, I wrote about the beginning of the new session of the U.S. Supreme Court that convenes on the first Monday of each October. Having re-read my post from years ago, I realize how much things have changed since then. For starters, it was thought, back in 2011, that Ruth Bader Ginsburg would soon retire from the bench. Hindsight shows us that her retirement never happened.

Justice Ginsburg died still serving the Court that she loved and regardless of what political persuasion you are, it is difficult to not admire her stamina in the face of grave illnesses and her deep friendship with Justice Scalia, a worthy adversary on the Court, who shared her passion for opera and other things they had in common. Outside the formal proceedings of the nine justices, they were fast friends who shared meals and lively discussions on a variety of topics, including their deep divide on issues that came before the bench. They did, however, have a deep mutual respect for each other.Just over a year ago, on September 18, 2020, Ginsburg passed away. Her friend, Antonin Scalia, preceded her in death four years earlier, on February 13, 2016,

During the Trump presidency, three new justices were named to the Court. Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett are the three newest members on the bench, all confirmed in heated debate after having been nominated by President Trump. Democrats fought the confirmations and I don’t ever recall such partisan politics even ten years ago when I last wrote about the first Monday in October as the Court resumed its business after the summer break.

The sad truth is that the nation is hurting and there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight. People are much more concerned about getting re-elected to Congress and building their war chests rather than doing what is right for the country. The Court itself even seems to be more polar and I, for one, am sad to see this happen.

I remember my grandfather’s tenure on the federal bench in Chicago when I was in my early teens. He took his responsibility very seriously and I remember that he never, ever even took a sip of alcohol as he didn’t want people to think that he was ever “impaired” and unable to render an objective decision in court. He respected the laws of the land and when he was too old to maintain the pace of the court, he retired from service on the bench. I remember with fondness the many days that I joined him on the bench to hear his cases when I had days off from school. Such treasured time spent with Grandpa.

Personally, I never pursued the study of law. I thought about it for quite a time when I was in high school, but the reading and studying seemed beyond me at the time. Of course, I didn’t realize that I would later spend almost 10 years reading and studying theology and the original languages in seminary when I was in my late forties.

In the Bible, the idea of judges actually came from Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses. As more disputes arose, Jethro suggested getting others to help Moses with the simpler cases so that the most complicated disputes could go before Moses for a verdict. In fact, our verse for tonight comes from Moses in his book of Deuteronomy, a recapitulation of the what the people of God had been through and what the expectations were for those who would eventually enter the Promised Land. Moses tells us, in Deuteronomy 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.”

My encouragement tonight continues to be for national healing. We are leaving our children and grandchildren with quite a mess and we must still set the example for them to follow – a much better example that they are currently seeing. My prayer is that God will speak into our lives and that we will listen to reason; and repent of the ways that we have become so partisan. I furthermore pray for all the justices, regardless of party, that they may be given divine wisdom in rendering their decisions that are so important for this country and the rest of the world. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…


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