Pastor’s Ponderings

This week our nation inaugurated it’s 46th President.  One of the things that struck me was the scene of President Biden taking the oath of office.  There, in front of Chief Justice John Roberts, Biden rose his right hand and placed his left on the Bible.  And what a Bible it was!  Never have I seen such a sight used in proceedings like this.  Metal buckles, tattered leather cover, and of such large size in comparison with a typical household copy.  I couldn’t help but wonder where it came from.

            Some quick research found that the five inch thick text was a Biden family heirloom.  This 1893 edition had been used in nearly every family swearing-in ceremony, from Biden’s times as senator, to his two times taking the oath of the vice-presidency, as well as his son’s swearing-in as attorney general of Delaware.  According to Biden, each occasion was marked inside, keeping careful record of the historic scenes that it had been a part of.

            Most Presidents of the United States have taken the oath of office with their hand placed on the Bible.  It is a tradition of oath-taking that goes back hundreds, if not thousands, of years.  Yet, it is not a requirement of taking the office.  As a matter of fact, according to multiple sources that I read this week, the same paragraph of the Constitution that requires officials to take an oath, also declares that “no religious test” can be applied to the person or process.  Instead, it appears, what is supposed to be merely a secular commitment, many Presidents, including now President Biden, have transformed their oath into something much more.  Perhaps this is because of Hebrews 6:16, which reads, “Human beings, of course, swear by someone greater than themselves, and an oath given as confirmation puts an end to all dispute” (NRSV). 

            While our country continues to be in such hotly-contested dispute amongst its own self, I pray that this oath, considering the way in which it was taken, is confirmation of a way forward for us all.  It is funny that during a December 2020 interview, Stephen Colbert asked the then President-elect, “Why is your Bible bigger than mine?  Do you have more Jesus in there?”  While we know that this is not true, we can pray that Jesus is more readily seen in our land than he has in quite some time.  Let us make that oath with one another, shall we?  Place your left hand on whichever special copy of the Bible you hold most dear, raise your right hand as high as possible to God, and commit once again to live by the Two Greatest Commandments that Jesus gave us – Loving God with all your heart, soul, and mind. And loving your neighbor as yourself.

                                                                                    Pastor Steve

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