This is the day to live for God

Title slide for sermon: "This is the day to live for God!"

Jeff Garrison
Mayberry and Bluemont Churches
2 Corinthians 6:1-11
August 27, 2024

Sermon recorded at Bluemont on Friday, August 25, 2023

At the beginning of worship: 

Without looking in your Bibles which I hope you have with you, can any of you recite Psalm 118:24? Anyone want to try? I bet if I started the verse, many of you could finish it. 

The verse begins, “This is the day the Lord has made.” I often use it at the beginning of worship. And how does the verse end? “Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

I occasionally like to use this Psalm at the opening of worship on a less than picture perfect day. Of course, if the day is nice (clear skies, with a Goldilocks’ temperature-not too hot, not too cold, just right), Psalm 118:24 makes sense. But what about when the skies open and everything is wet? Or when a cold wind blows? Or it’s steamy hot? Can we, with the same vigor, recite, “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” 

I hope you can, for everyday is another day for us to praise and worship our God. We should find something to praise every day and every moment that we have a breath. 

Before reading of the Scripture:

Last week, as we looked at the end of the 5th chapter of 2 Corinthians, we heard Paul calling his hearers to be a part of God’s team working for reconciliation within the world. Today, we’ll see examples of how he strived for reconciliation among his distractors in Corinth. This is all part of Paul’s effort to defend his ministry to the believers in Corinth. His defense is an important context for us to understand what he means in this passage, as I’ll show later. It is always important to take a passage of scripture in context to remain truthful to the Scriptures. 

Read 2 Corinthians 6:1-13

I remember a sign on Carolina Beach Road, south of Monkey Junction, back in the late 1960s. It was old by then, I bet it was put up in the 40s, sticking up in that white sugar-like sand dotted with wire grass, longleaf pines and blackjack oaks.. The sign featured a simple design. A white background with bold black letters spelling out, “Get Right with God.” As a kid, it seemed to serve as a wake-up call. It might soon be too late, I’d worry, as I said a prayer. 

While the advice is good, I’m not sure of its intention nor effectiveness. Yes, we need to “get right with God,” but it’s not a one-time prayer or something to be done out of fear. Instead, those of us who follow Jesus are called to journey. Before the word church came into regular use, those who followed Jesus were known as people of “the Way.”[1] Paul himself speaks of us working out our salvation. But if we sense the goodness of God, we work it out without fear. We’re on “the way,” every day, enjoying the benefits God bestows on us. 

Paul is still defending his ministry

While Paul has been defending his ministry throughout much of what we have explored in 2nd Corinthians, he now changes how he addresses the Corinthians. He’s been talking to them (including himself) using the pronoun “we.” Our first verse begins like this, too. “As we work together with him (or God). But beginning in the second half of the first verses of the sixth chapter, Paul shifts. He addresses the Corinthians personally and directly. “You” he says, should not “accept the grace of God in vain.”[2]

An Acceptable Time

Then, quoting from Isaiah,[3] he reminds them of God saying that he has heard us at an acceptable time, and on the day of salvation has helped us. Next, Paul immediately reminds his listeners that now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation. 

One could easily mistake the meaning of this text if taken out of context. It could be effectively used as an altar call with the preacher saying, “now is the time, you better get up here and repent.”[4] It’s kind of like that old sign on Carolina Beach Road, before it rotted and fell or succumbed to construction. But that’s not Paul’s meaning here. First, Paul writes to believers in Corinth. Second, he is defending his ministry against some of their complaints. So, this passage isn’t about getting right with God today, although that is never a bad idea. Instead, he wants the Corinthians to return to their original love and beliefs in Jesus Christ and to follow him. 

Paul sees salvation as a process. It’s not just us intellectually confessing that Jesus as Lord. That’s just the beginning. Instead, by admitting Jesus is our Lord, the one in whom we find life and meaning, means we live for him and not for ourselves. Paul makes this point clear throughout this letter. 

So, what is the acceptable time? What is the day of salvation of which Paul speaks? He’s quoting from Isaiah, who speaks of the day when God releases Israel from exile. But Paul, whose understanding of what God is now doing, expands this concept. It’s not just about the temporal salvation of the Israelites. All of God’s creation are included. Even gentiles, like us. This day, the day Paul refers to, is the time between the Christ’s ministry and his return. We’re living in this day and need to make the best of the time we have on hand as we join with God in the work of reconciliation.

No obstacles

In verse three, Paul speaks of how he and his fellow disciples have not placed any obstacles in front of the Corinthians (or others, to whom he has preached). Think of Paul’s ministry. He stood up for the rights of the gentiles.[5] He didn’t see the need for them to become Jews first: to be circumcised, or to observe dietary laws.[6] God’s grace is freely given, they could just accept it and out of gratitude follow Jesus. Wanting to reconcile the gentile world to God, Paul will do what he can not to create barricades. 

Nine sufferings

Next, Paul moves on to further defend his ministry with a series of what he and his fellow missionaries have done on behalf of those with whom they’ve ministered. He lists nine sufferings they’ve endured: 

  • afflictions, 
  • hardships, 
  • calamities, 
  • beatings, 
  • imprisonments, 
  • riots, 
  • labor, 
  • sleepless nights, 
  • and hunger. 
Despite suffering, showing inward traits

Following Jesus wasn’t the easy option for Paul. Then he lists seven “inward” traits they’ve shown:[7]

  • purity, 
  • knowledge, 
  • patience, 
  • kindness, 
  • holiness of spirit, 
  • genuine love, 
  • truthful speech, 
  • and the power of God. 

If we’re following Jesus, we must strive to live in a way that our lives show such traits even when enduring difficulties. People need to experience our patience, kindness, and love. We need to be known for telling the truth, even when it may be easier to color the truth a bit. Since we’re to live for Christ and not ourselves, like Paul, we can’t take the easy way out. 

Peacefully armed

Paul then includes a military analogy. He’s armed with the weapons of righteousness, one in both hands. Following this right after mentioning the power of God, I think Paul refers to such weapons metaphorically, as he does when he speaks of the armor of God in Ephesians.[8]

Certainly, Paul doesn’t equate such weapons as offensive, after having just listed traits which would go against such an idea. Yes, he has weapons, but they are from God, and they are not used to bring vengeance on those who have mistreated him. Instead, he’s given power to continue despite such misfortune as he’s already endured. 


Paul then shifts into providing several antitheses that demonstrate his status as a missionary. 

  • He’s treated as an imposter but he’s true. 
  • He’s seen as unknown, but is known (especially to God, as he pointed out in the last chapter[9]). 
  • He’s seen as dying, yet he’s very much alive. 
  • He’s viewed as punished, but has not been killed, sorrowful yet rejoicing, 
  • poor yet making others rich, 
  • having nothing yet owning it all.   
Speaking as to children

This section concludes with Paul reminding the Corinthians of his frankness in speech and how his heart has been open to them. While there is no restriction from his position, he finds some in Corinth, with those who challenged his ministry. He encourages them to open their hearts. Paul speaks simply as to how we might speak to children. This might sound strange at the end of such a plea, but as Jesus says, for us to enter the kingdom of God, we must do so as a child.[10]

While many in Corinth have questioned Paul’s intentions, the Apostle doesn’t write them off. Instead, he strives to reconcile himself to them, with a vision of them together working for God’s kingdom. As for how we apply this text to our lives, let me suggest a couple of ways. 


First, if we feel we’re done with church, we should know God doesn’t write us off. God loves us. And hopefully, within the church, there are folks those like Paul who strive to reconcile with us and bring us back into the fold. 

Perhaps some of us are being called to be Paul and to work for reconciliation with those who are estranged within our community. As Paul shows, such work can be difficult, but it’s godly labor.

Paul as an example

Finally, we should use Paul as a model, as an example of faithfulness. Paul endured a lot, yet he maintains his Christ-like traits. And we should do the same. Just because we’re attacked or abused by others, doesn’t mean we need to go low and resort to their tactics. We’re not to seek revenge. Instead, as followers of Jesus, those who are on the Way, we’re to take the high path. We show the virtues of our Savior, who willingly gave his life so that we might have life everlasting.  Amen. 

[1] Acts 9:2. Followers weren’t known as Christians until later in Antioch, see Acts 11:26. Jesus declares himself to be “The Way” in John 14:6.

[2] Paul Barnett, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997), 315-316.

[3] Isaiah 49:8.

[4] Barnett, 319.

[5] See Galatians 2:11-14. Paul rebukes Peter for how he treated gentiles.

[6] Paul spends much of his letter to Galatians insisting they didn’t first need to become a Jew. He also has proclaimed in his first letter to the Corinthians that they ’don’t need to be circumcised or observe the dietary laws. 

[7] Ernest Best, Second Corinthians: Interpretation, A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1987), 61.

[8] Ephesians 6:10-20. 

[9] 2 Corinthians 5:11. 

[10] Mark 10:13-15 and Luke 18:16-17. 

My first job…

title slide for blog post showing two pictures. One of a Wilsons Grocery bag and another of an aisle in a grocery store.
Wilsons Supermarket bag
Bag posted on the Facebook Page, Hometown memories of Wilmington, NC

I became a Country Boy a few months after I turned sixteen. I’d gone with Mom to the Wilson’s Supermarket on Oleander Drive, the “home of the Country Boys.” Mom pointed out the manager. He stood in the front of the store, watching everything. Garnering courage, I walked over and asked him for a job. 

“You have to be sixteen,” he said, obviously not thinking I was quite there. Admittedly, I was small for my age. 

“But I am,” I responded, “I can show you my driver’s license?” 

He looked at it and nodded his head in approval. 

“You’ll need a social security card,” he said. “Can you work four or five hours on Thursday and Friday afternoons and eight hours on Saturday?”

“Yes Sir,” I said.

I had my first job. Of course, I had worked before but it was just mowing yards for neighbors or babysitting. But this was my first regular job, with a paycheck and deduction for taxes…

That next Thursday afternoon, with a tie around my neck, I reported to work. Two of us were to start our grocery careers that day. Tom, the other kid, was from New Hanover High School, popularly known by those of us who attended Hoggard High as “New Hang-over.” His bright red hair and his twitch in his neck when he talked caused lots of people to consider him weird, but he worked hard. Wilson’s Supermarket would his only job. 

They trained us that first day to bag groceries. Bert, the manager who hired us, assigned each of us to a more experienced bagger. For an hour or two, we learned the fundamentals of bagging groceries. Don’t put can goods on top of bread or on cartons of eggs. If you have a lot of cans, double-up your bag for strength. This was the era of only paper bags, no plastic ones. You separate the cleansing supplies from the meat and produce. 

We also learned if the cart was loaded down, we could jump up onto it and ride it out the door and through the lot, saving energy. Soon, we were on our own, taking out groceries and always saying, “Thank You, Ma’am,” as we slammed the trunk lid. Another lesson we’d later learned was to recognize the big tippers and hustle especially hard for them. This became a game for some, although Tom and I tried to give our best to everyone.

It now seems like a distant dream. In a way, I suppose, it was the beginning of the end. So far, I have never been without a job except for three months I took off to finish hiking the Appalachian Trail. I would have another four-month break for work, but it was a sabbatical, so I still had a job. But back in 1973, I had school along with 15 to 18 hours a week of work. As I found high school boring and wasn’t very motivated, having a job provided dignity. 

Sign for Wilsons Grocery store
I don’t know how many times I posted the week’s special on a similar sign. Photo from the Facebook page, Hometown Memories of Wilmington, NC

Each day, when I showed up for work, I’d put on a tie. It was expected of all of us “country boys.” While the ads might have had us looking like hillbillies, we were expected to be dressed properly. Beforehand, I’d only worn a ties on Sundays for church, an ideal I still maintain. But unlike most of the newcomers at the store, I didn’t wear a clip-on tie, which they sold on a rack at the end of one of the aisle. I think they were there mostly in case we forgot to bring a tie.

As a 16-year-old, I knew how to tie a Double Windsor. Back in the 70s, with ties wide enough to serve as bibs, tying a big knot like a Double Windsor was quite a feat. Before the week was out, I was teaching Tom and others how to tie one. When you’re a runt, it helps to have a skill. Tom and I began to hang out and became good friends. Six months after I left the store for good, during my second year of college, Tom died from a brain tumor. 

Bert, our boss, served as a second father to both of us. Whenever I had problems, especially with girls, questions I’d never think about asking my own dad, I’d ask him. Looking back, I don’t know why? He was easy to talk to, but his martial record certainly left room for improvement. While I didn’t know it when I started, Bert was the father of a elementary school friend of mine, Nicky Pipkin. While Bert had his own troubles with relationships, he always gave me good advice.

I stayed at Wilsons through my first year of college doing a variety of jobs: bagging groceries, stocking the shelves at night, running a cashier, counting money, mopping and waxing the floors late on Saturday night and into the wee-morning hours of Sundays and, thanks to being a non-smoker, managing the cigarette aisle. The pay was never very good, but I enjoyed my time there. It’s rewarding and noble to serve people. 

A version of this story appeared in a older blog of mine.

Photo of a Jerry Garcia designed tie
These days, when I need to wear a tie, I try to wear nice ones like this tie, designed by Jerry Garcia (of the Grateful Dead)

Because of Jesus, we look at the world differently

Title slide showing mountain sunrise with fog in valley

Jeff Garrison
Mayberry and Bluemont Presbyterian Church 
August 20, 2023
2 Corinthians 5:11-21

At the beginning of worship:   

A dozen years ago, John Ortberg published a book titled the me I want to be: becoming God’s best version of you”[1] The title turned me off. It sounded as if went against my theology of focusing more on God and not ourselves. But I read the book. While a catchy title, the book goes deeper than I had expected and has some good insights. 

God created a diverse world. We’re all different. Looks, shapes, the hue of our skin and hair, our abilities. We’re all unique. The goal of the church shouldn’t be to create a cookie-cutter version of a Christian. If that was even possible, we would create a boring organization. And we wouldn’t be effective! God calls us for a purpose. If we all looked, talked, and acted the same, if we all liked the same things, we would alienate ourselves from the rest of the world. 

But that’s not what God’s wants. God created us as irreplaceable individuals. Consider Jesus’ original disciples. They were all unique: you had fishermen and tax collectors, a physician and a revolutionary, devoted followers and skeptics. We’re all unique and beautiful. We’ve been created by the Master Artist who designed us with a purpose and a vision for the future. 

Before reading the scripture

Last week, we saw how Paul ended the section with a reminder that all of us, including himself, will face judgment for what we’ve done in our bodies. As we continue with 2nd Corinthians, in today’s reading, Paul moves to an appeal for the reason he shares the gospel and focuses on God and not himself. 

Read 2 Corinthians 5:11-21

Because of our focus as believers of Christ, Paul teaches four truths here. 

  • We can have life in Christ.
  • We should look at other people through Jesus’ eyes.
  • We work as companions with Christ in God’s mission of reconciling himself to the world.
  • And, in Christ, we can become more righteous. 

I recently listened to the book, Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swinging 70sThe 70s brought great change to baseball. Players began to look like the rest of America with long hair. AstroTurf took over ballparks. The designated hitter became a reality. But it was also a good decade for baseball if you were a Pirate’s fan. They were almost always in contention and won the World Series in ‘71 and ‘79.  

The ‘79 series featured Willie Stargell, a great ball player. A few years later, when I would sit in the cheap seats in the upper deck of Three River Stadium, there would be stars marking where he smacked home runs. Stargell was the spark for that team, but he always insisted on giving credit to the rest of the players. Yet, his teammates always gave the credit back to him. 

“He taught us how to take what comes and then come back,” Dave Parker, another player on the team said. “He taught us how to strike out and walk away calmly, lay the bat down gently, then get up the next time and hit a home run. From him we learned not to get too high on the good days or too low on the bad days, because there are plenty of both in this game…” 

I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that Paul would have been a fan of the ’79 Pirates. At least he’d like their attitude. Don’t boost about yourself, Paul insists. Others can boost about you. And the only ones that really matters is God, who knows all, as well as our own conscience. We should ask ourselves, “Are we doing our best?” 

For Paul, the focus is always on Christ, the one who died for us, so that we might have life in him. And for Paul, this life is not just in the world to come, but in the present. Because Christ gave his life, we are to live not for ourselves, but for him. 

Because we live for Christ, we are to look at the world differently. We don’t look at one another from a strictly human point of view. We must see others as Christ sees us, overlooking their flaws and seeing their God-given potential. This means we don’t look at others with envy or disdain, but with compassion and love.

“Comparison kills spirituality, John Ortberg wrote in the book I mentioned earlier.[2] If we compare ourselves to one another, whether we look up to or down on them, we’re doomed. For God didn’t create me to be you or you to be me. God creates us unique and the only comparison that we’re to make is to compare ourselves to our Savior, a mirror in which we will all see our shortcomings. 

But thankfully, we will also all experience the accepting and loving smile of a forgiving Savior. Yes, he wants us to improve our lives, but doesn’t want us to be burdened with guilt or to make us into something we’re not.  

So, Paul suggests we not evaluate people from a human point of view or, as translated in The Message “by what they have or how they look.” But you know, that’s not an easy lesson to learn.

One of the wonders of Facebook is that it has allows us to renew old friendships of people we’ve not seen or talked to in decades. For me, some of these people became good friends even though we weren’t close when we were younger. We knew each other but didn’t hang out a lot. Yet, now we’re all older, we find things we have in common. 

Joseph was one such guy I got to know better, who sadly died four years ago. When visiting my parents, we’d often together for coffee or over a beer and talk. I confessed to him once that when we were in Junior High, I was envious of him and his friends in the band. He couldn’t believe it and went on to say, to my shock, how he was envious of me and me and those I ran around with. Truth be known, we’d both been better off if we hadn’t worried about others and just been ourselves. But that’s a hard lesson when you’re a teenager. But as we mature as disciples, it is a lesson we must learn. For we must see people as Jesus sees them.

Paul’s second point also needs to be considered. Not only are we not to judge others by human standards, but we’re also to realize that we’re not who we should be.  That’s the purpose of comparing ourselves with Christ; for in Christ, we see our shortcomings and our need for both mercy and change. Looking at Christ, we see the need for conversion, to change into something new. 

There must be a new creation, something we can’t do ourselves. Only God has such power to wash us clean and to change us. It’s important we see the tie Paul makes here between Christ and a new creation for we can’t recreate ourselves. I can change clothes or find a hair piece, but that’s not what Paul means. We must be recreated in Christ!  

We can’t recreate ourselves; we need God’s help if we’re going to find new life in Christ. In Christ, we’re made new because we are reconciled with God. Our sins are not held against us because Christ takes them on himself. 

In coming to Christ, we are made right with God, but it doesn’t end there.  Remember, there is a purpose in all this… We’re made right with God, not just to get into heaven. Surely, that’s important, but it’s not the primary purpose. We’re made right with God first, then we’re to go out and reconcile others to ourselves. We become an extension in God’s work of reconciliation; it starts with Jesus and then flows through us into the world. God wants us to join in his work. That’s our call as Christians.

In verse twenty, we learn we’re Christ’s ambassadors. An ambassador is a good description, for an ambassador doesn’t represent his or her own interest; but the interest of his or her country. When the President appoints an ambassador to another country, they are not told to go and do what they think is best. They’re to represent our interest and our values to a foreign country. Likewise, as followers of Jesus, we represent not ourselves, but his kingdom! We are to show a foreign world the values of the heavenly kingdom to which we belong. 

This means that our work as Christ’s disciples isn’t limited to what we do here, on Sunday morning. Our work is to be about showing godly values—in our families, our places of work, at the marketplace, or with our neighbors. Wherever we find ourselves, we are to be a living example of what it means to be a new creation in Christ.

And finally, in our last verse, Paul suggests all of this—our new lives in Christ, our seeing others in Christ’s eyes, our work of reconciliation—is a part a greater plan of us becoming more righteous. As we focus on Christ, we become more like him. That’s what the gospel is about. 

“To Jesus Christ, who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood and made us to be a kingdom, priest of his God and Father, to him be the glory and dominion forever and ever.[“3] Amen.  

[1] John Ortberg, the me I want to be: becoming God’s best version of you (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010).

[2]Ortberg, 25.

[3] Revelation 1:5-6.

Dutch Oven Cooking and Lime Pickles

Title slide showing cooking in Dutch ovens and pickles in jars

I have been asked recently for recipes for my pickles and my Dutch oven feast of which I did two this summer, one in June and the other in August. Here’s a how-to. All you need are a half dozen Dutch-ovens, an ice cream maker, a bunch of cucumbers, a few other things, and a fair bit of time on your hands (and let’s hope your hands are clean!)….

Dutch Oven Dinner

Chicken cooked in a dutch oven

10 pounds chicken legs and thighs
Bread crumbs
Fine bread crumbs
12 inch Dutch Oven pot

Wash and cut off excess fat on the chicken. If the thighs are still attached to the legs, cut them into two pieces (so they can pack better in the oven).

On griddle or in a cast iron skillet (I use a large camp stove with a griddle over the burner), heat oil. Dip chicken in milk, then roll in breadcrumbs and brown on the griddle in batches.

As you finish browning the chicken, pack the pieces tightly into a Dutch Oven. 

Place a dozen or more coals under the oven, and another dozen on the top (use more if it is windy!) 

Cook for 45-50 minutes (I use a meat thermometer to make sure the chicken is well over 175 degrees) 

If it is windy or to get a quicker start, heat the Dutch Oven on the gas grill before placing it on the coals. Once the cast iron is hot, it’ll be easier to keep hot. 

Barbecue Ribs

6 -8 pounds of spare ribs
Sauce (I make my own using mostly vinegar, hot sauce, pepper, salt, lemon squeezing. If you like it sweeter, add some ketchup).

Pack ribs in oven and pour sauce on top. Place of top of chicken and add another dozen or so coals on top. Cook 45 minutes to an hour. Test meat with the thermometer to make sure it’s north of 165 degrees. 

Dutch Oven cooking
Showing off the ribs
Western-styled Dutch Oven Potatoes
Serving dinner

8 pounds of potatoes
4 pounds of onions
Pound of bacon
spices of choice (basil, oregano, salt, pepper, chopped chives, etc)

Wash potatoes well (I leave the skins on) and then slice into ¼ thick slices

Slice onions into thin slices

Lay out ½ of the bacon on the bottom of a Dutch oven (I generally use a 12 inch deep one)

Place a layer of potatoes, onions, then sprinkle spices. Continue layers until the over is so full, you must push down on the ingredients to close. Then add the rest of the potatoes in strips. 

Cook about 45 minutes with coals above and below, until you can easily push a folk through ingredients.  

Sweet Potatoes

5 pounds of sweet potatoes
2 sticks of butter
Cup of brown sugar
¼ flour
Cup or more of chopped pecans
2 eggs
Deep 10-inch or a  regular 12-inch Dutch Oven

Cook potatoes in oven until they are well done. Take the pulp out of the skins and place in a bowl. Add whisked eggs, ½ cup brown sugar, cinnamon, a tablespoon of vanilla, and ¾ stick of butter. Mix well. Take ¼ stick of butter and coat the oven. Then add the potato mix.

Mix flour, pecans, ½ cup of brown sugar and butter (that’s been chopped into small pieces). Add to the top of the potatoes. Bake with a dozen coals under and above for 30-45 minutes. The potato mixture should bubble up into the nut topping. 


 (I’ve done a lot of cobblers over the years. This is the easiest, but my favorite is a cherry chocolate, but it’s too much if you’re also making ice cream). 

4-15 ounce cans of cherry pie filling
Box of yellow cake mix
2 sticks of butter 
12 inch shallow oven

Coat bottom of over with butter. Pour on the cans of pie filling. Sprinkle the yellow cake mix on top. Take a stick of butter and cut it into small pads and place them around the top. Bake for approximately 30 minutes (the pie filling will rise and give moisture to cake mix. 

Crowd ready to eat
The early crowd at Mayberry’s dinner in June (we ended up with around 38 people in attendance, but these folks were early so they could be first in line)
Homemade Ice Cream (Philly style—6 quart freezer) 

3 quarts half and half
1 pint whole cream
Salt (1/2 teaspoon)
2 tablespoons Vanilla 
2 cups sugar 
20 pounds of ice
1/3 box of ice cream salt 

Mix all the ingredients together, making sure the sugar is dissolved. Pour into chilled freezer container. Turn on motor and make sure it’s running before you start to add ice around the freezer container. Add ice about 1/3 up, then a cup or so of salt. Do this again and again until the container is covered with ice.  Keep adding ice until container stops. If you have freezer room, I take the container out and put it in freezer. If not, pack ice around it and let it sit for an hour or so to harden.  Enjoy as it is so good. 

Eating under a picnic shelter
Enjoying the food at Bluemont in early August

Lime Pickles 

two cucumbers
Dasher II & Slicing Cakes

10 quart or 20 pint canning jars and rings and new lids
2 food grade plastic containers (4.5 gallon containers that look like what drywall mud comes in, but I would buy the food grade variety and not try to clean out a construction bucket) 
Cucumbers (I like them to be 1-2 inches thick. My garden includes Japanese Climbing, Slicing, and Dasher II Cucumbers)
2 cups pickling lime (not the green fruit, but the powdery kind that goes everywhere if not careful)
Pickling spices (either make your own or use Ms. Wagers, I’ve done both)
Cloves (I add more than are in the spices)
Non-ionized salt
1 1/2 Gallons of Vinegar
20 cups sugar Sugar

Cucumbers in a lime bath

Day 1: Wash and slice a half bushel of cucumbers. If you use a food processor, be careful to cut them as thick as possible-up to ¼ inch thick-or they may turn into mush!  Add two gallons of water to each plastic container along with a cup of line to each. Mix well and add pickles. Let sit for at least 12 hours (I normally let them sit for 24 hours).

Day 2:  Drain the cucumbers (I do this outside as I don’t want lime clogging my drain lines). Rise 3 times, pouring water outside. Then add ice water and let them sit for 3 hours. 

Mix up 2 gallons of vinegar with 16 cups of sugar and two tablespoons of salt. Drain cucumbers and add sugar vinegar to cucumbers. Let sit overnight. 

Day 3: Bring large canning pot of water to boil.  Put jars into pot, wash the rings and the lids in warm soapy water, making sure they are well rinsed. 

Drain sugar vinegar into a large pan. Add in cheesecloth pickling spices and a tablespoon of cloves and bring to a boil. Turn down and boil lightly for 30 minutes. 

Pack cucumbers tightly into hot jars. Add enough vinegar mixture that so that you have 3/8-to-1/2-inch gap from the top of the lid. Wipe the rim of the jars with a clean paper towel. Place lids into rings and screw a ring tightly onto each jar. Place jar in boiling canning water and process (15 minutes for pints, 20 minutes for quarts) 

Remove from bath and let sit undisturbed for 24 hours. When ready to eat, refrigerate to chill and enjoy. 


The author of this blog is not responsible for ingredients forgotten or left out. Nor his he responsible for your dirty hands contaminating the food. Nor is he responsible for any food you burn. And finally, he’s just not very responsible. 😉

Cooks showing off Dutch Oven cooking
Scott the fire keeper and me showing off what’s for dinner

Finding Confidence

title slide, background showing a hickory tree with clouds at sunset

Jeff Garrison
Mayberry and Bluemont Churches
2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10
August 13, 2023

Sermon recorded at Bluemont on Friday, August 11, 2023

At the beginning of worship

Where do we find confidence? Where do we get the strength to continue with life? Some may think they can dig deep inside themselves and find strength, but what happens when that fails? The confidence we need is best described in the opening of the Heidelberg Catechism. Our only comfort in life and death is that “I am not my own, but belong, body and soul, in life and in death, to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.”[1]

Jesus gives us confidence to live each day to the fulness of our abilities. As we’ll see today, Paul offers similar thoughts to the Corinthians. We do what we can in this life to bring God glory, knowing that in the life to come God will clothe us in eternity. 

Before reading the Scriptures: 

Last week in our scripture and sermon, we were reminded of the troubles Paul faced.[2] In 2 Corinthians 5:8-9, he recites a litany of troubles: afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down. Paul is counter cultural. These are not the kind of things one would generally advertise if you hoped to gain converts to the Christian faith. But through them all, Paul prevails. Paul’s hope, his confidence, is in God as revealed in Jesus Christ. Even when facing death, Paul doesn’t worry. He knows that in his Savior has something greater in store for him, which gives him the confidence he needs to continue in his ministry despite suffering for his beliefs.  

Our passage today is one that is frequently read during funerals. I hear echoes within these verses of Paul’s words to the Romans: “If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.”[3]

Read 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10

What is this passage about?  Faith? Hope? Confidence? Judgment? Death? The life to come? Discipleship? The glory of God?  You could make the case that each of these themes are present in these dozen verses of scripture, which is perhaps why one commentator refers to this passage as “notoriously difficulty.”[4] But let’s explore these verses and see what we might learn.

Paul begins this section with a refrain he used at the beginning of the fourth chapter, “We do not lose heart.”[5] When he first wrote this refrain, he discussed the trials he endured as a missionary. Now, he does what he often does in this epistle, he goes off on a tangent that touches on death and resurrection, hope, and judgment. Paul, in his previous epistle to the Corinthians, dedicated a long chapter to the resurrection, the most detailed account of this doctrine found in Scripture.[6] Now Paul gives another detailed account. 

Of course, Paul doesn’t describe or anywhere, in detail the life to come. Instead, he speaks of the hope and the confidence we have in a future with God. 

Inner and outer nature

Paul begins this section discussing our outer and inner nature. While our outer nature wastes away, our inner nature is being renewed. Here, Paul perhaps is trying to make his point understood by Greeks, especially non-Christians, who were more familiar with such philosophical concepts advanced by Plato and his disciples.[7]

While Paul isn’t saying the outer body is bad and we need to escape from it to some idealistic plane, he places our confidence in God working through our inner nature. While we live our lives in faith in this body, our ultimate hope is in the eternal future God has planned for us. 

We will see clearly in the life to come

As he wrote in 1st Corinthians, where Paul spoke of us looking through a mirror dimly,[8] he now reminds his readers that we can’t see our hope. We live by faith in that which cannot be seen. This life, in which we live in faith, is temporary. The life to come, when we see God face to face, is permanent. 

Three metaphors: Tent, House, Clothes

Paul then continues this thread as he uses three different metaphors: a tent, a house, and clothes. The tent would have reminded the Jewish readers of the tabernacle, that tent which reminded them of God’s presence during the Exodus, when their ancestors traveled through the wilderness.[9] But later, once settled in the promised land, they built a temple, a house for God, that was more permanent.[10]

Likewise, we are now on a journey, so we live in metaphorical tents. But in the life to come, God will provide us a permanent home. In the present, we groan, knowing there is something better. Here again, we hear echoes of Paul’s letter to the Romans, where he reminds us that all creation is groaning with us in labor pains as we await redemption.[11]

Next, Paul speaks of us being fully clothed. Again, the Jewish Christians who listened to Paul’s letter would have immediately realized he was speaking of a reversal of the fall and the curse. For when the man and woman in Eden broken God’s commandment, they realized they were naked. They tried to hide their nakedness, but God despite cursing them also took pity on them and provided clothes.[12]

Instead of envisioning going back to Eden, Paul looks forward to a future in which God clothes us in a manner that does more than hide our nakedness. Instead, we are totally remade with a new outfit. Furthermore, this life isn’t bad. After all, we’ve been given a “down payment” on the new life through God’s Spirit indwelling within us. 

God’s Spirit provides confidence

God’s Spirit provides confidence even while we are still in these frail mortal bodies. Paul returns to the topic he began, where we must walk by faith and not sight. In this body in which God has given us in this life, we are to have confidence in God’s future, knowing God is with us now and will be with us in the future. Again, as Paul has reminded his readers in this letter, he repeats that our aim in this life is to please God. But this time he adds a twist. In the end, we will all appear before the judgment throne. 


We don’t like to think about judgment, do we? Some may think that because we are saved in Jesus Christ, we avoid judgment. But Paul contradicts such an idea here.[13] All of us, Paul says, will appear before the judgment throne and will be judged based on what we’ve done with our life in this body, whether good or evil. Paul includes himself in this universal judgment. Paul isn’t worried about his eternal state. He has confidence in his Savior. But Paul expresses concerned that there may be things he’s done on earth that wasn’t as pleasing to God as he’d like.[14] His concern and ours, as Christians, should be if we live up to our calling? 


So, what is this passage about?  Faith? Hope? Confidence? Judgment? Death? The life to come? Discipleship? The glory of God?  It’s all here, and it’s all important. We must not lose hope. We must continue to be confident in our Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, Paul reminds us that we’ll stand before his throne of judgment. But don’t lose heart, for as he tells the Romans, not only does Jesus condemn us, but he also intercedes for us and that there is nothing that can separate us from his love.[15] Live in such grace. Amen. 

[1] “The Heidelberg Catechism Question 1,” Presbyterian Church USA, Book of Confessions


[3] Romans 14:8. 

[4] C. K. Barrett, A Commentary on the Second Epistle to the Corinthians (1973, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1987), 150.

[5] 2 Corinthians 4:1. See

[6] 1 Corinthians 15. In 2019, I preached a series of sermons on this text. See and go back from there to read these sermons. 

[7] Barrett, 146.

[8] 1 Corinthians 13:12. 

[9] See Exodus 25-27. 

[10] For an understanding of the temple, see 2 Chronicles 2-7. 

[11] Romans 8:18-25, especially verse 22. 

[12] Genesis 3, especially verses 10, 21)

[13] See also 1 Corinthians 3:13-15, Romans 14:10-12. 

[14] Ernest Best, Second Corinthians: Interpretation, a Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville, KY: JKP, 1984), 48-49. 

[15] Romans 8:34-35. 

looking east at sunset with hickory tree I foreground and painted clouds at sunset following a storm
Photo taken late July, looking east toward my hickory tree at sunset (after a storm)

Our Value is from God

Title slide showing full moon rising over a cemetery

Jeff Garrison
Mayberry and Bluemont Presbyterian Churches
2 Corinthians 4:5-16
August 6, 2023

Sermon recorded at Mayberry on Friday, August 4, 2023

At the beginning of worship

Are we valuable? Somewhere I remember hearing that each of us contain about two and a half bucks of valuable minerals. It might be a bit more if you have silver or gold fillings or a titanium joint. Two and a half bucks isn’t bad. After all, the Bible tells says we’re dust.[1]

The body’s real value

Doesn’t sound like our bodies are very valuable, does it? If you think about the body in an economic way, you might decide it’s best to escape the body so that the soul might ascend to heaven.[2] Yet, the Creed reminds us of the resurrection of the body. So, the body is importance, not only in this life but in the life to come. 

The Bible also says that God created us as a body, from the dust of the ground and blew life into our nostrils.[3] The Divine getting down on his knees and taking the time to shape us into a body made in his image provides us value.[4] Think of yourself as artwork, created by the Master Artist. Furthermore, it is in these bodies God came among us in Jesus Christ. In the body, we also experience God. Thanks to the work of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, we are transformed into a valuable member of God’s family. When you are down and out, don’t think you’re not valuable. For all who trust and believe in Jesus are a member of the King’s family. 

Before reading the Scripture

Today, we’re continuing our work through Second Corinthians. It’s an overwhelming task, but we’ll finish before Advent. Of the letters we have in the New Testament, Paul wrote more to the Corinthians than to any other church. He also spent a year and a half in Corinth, ministering to the people there. 

Paul’s problem

Paul has been held in high esteem over the centuries. He’s responsible for much of the New Testament. But if you read his letters, you get the sense that not everyone appreciated him during his lifetime. We joke about Paul putting people asleep during his sermons, but then I’m sure most of you would be asleep if I tried to preach through the night and into the early morning hours.[5] There were others who questioned Paul’s authority. While he was called by Jesus on the Damascus Road,[6]Paul did not meet Jesus personally during our Savior’s ministry on earth. But he did meet him later. Of course, there were also tension between Jewish believers and Paul,[7] who was called to the Gentiles, as well as tensions between Paul and other missionaries.[8]   

We’ve seen evidence of the unknown conflicts which Paul faced over the past few sermons. These conflicts must have been painful to Paul and to some within the church.[9] But Paul’s main concern, as we saw in last week’s passage, is the glory of God. For Paul, we don’t take slights and attacks personally, for in doing so could diminish God’s glory. Everything is to be done with God in mind. This is why Paul makes such a strong case for depending on God’s strength. As humans, we’re limited. We are frail. We fail. 

None of us are perfect, including Paul

Like Paul realized in his own situation, there are times you say the wrong things. I’m sure I have said and done the wrong things to some of you… If so, I’m sorry. I say that not as an excuse, but as a realization it’s a part of who we are as creatures. We’re not perfect, which is why we are not to be boastful about what we’ve done, only about what God has done and is doing through us. Humility must be in the forefront of a Christian’s life. 

Now Paul continues, talking about his and our role in helping others experience the gospel.

Read 2 Corinthians 4:7-15

Clay jars are for storage

In the seventh verse, Paul speaks of treasure in clay jars. In Paul’s day, clay jars or pots along with baskets were the main thing people had to store stuff in. Today, we have cardboard boxes—I’m not sure how many cardboard boxes are in my basement nearly three years after moving. Like the clay vessels of Paul’s day, cardboard boxes are not valuable. They’re cheap and expendable (but let’s recycle them). Cardboard boxes protect that which is inside, which may be valuable: keepsakes, books, and the china.

A metaphor for the flesh

Paul uses clay jars (and we could use cardboard boxes) as a metaphor for the flesh. Boxes and pots, like our bodies, can be easily broken and destroyed. And by themselves, they’re not valuable—two and a half bucks or a little more… This doesn’t mean our bodies are not important or that Paul wants to escape his body and be united with Christ.[10]

God created our bodies in his own image. Second, it is in the body that we can experience God’s grace and glory. Just as it was in the flesh that Jesus came to us. As frail as we may be, and as flawed as we may be, God sees something of value within us and works through us. The treasure that Paul speaks of is the light of the knowledge of the glory of God that we’ve encountered through Jesus Christ.[11] This isn’t something that comes with the body, but through the indwelling of God’s Spirit. 

Value and ability from the Creator

Anything worthwhile we do, isn’t because of our own power and strength, knowledge, and wisdom. It’s because our Creator bestows us with such abilities. Paul’s point is that anyone looking at him would not think he was capable of being the world’s greatest missionary, and they’re right. He was not capable, but with God working through him Paul was able to do incredible things.[12]

Challenges overcome

After speaking of clay jars, Paul moves into a powerful set of contradictions in verses 8 and 9: 

  • afflicted, but not crushed, 
  • perplexed but not driven to despair, 
  • persecuted but not forsaken, 
  • struck down, but not destroyed.

Paul leaves no doubt that any success he’s enjoyed did not come from him, but from God! Paul may have said this because other teachers have come along and claimed to be superior or to have better gifts than Paul. But Paul isn’t having any of that. He can do what he can do, because of God working through him.[13]

The Christian life isn’t easy

Furthermore, from this list of comparison, Paul wants us to know that the Christian life isn’t a cakewalk. Pressures do not get Paul down because God’s power enables him to endure.[14] It’s a hard life, but because of God working through us, it’s a worthwhile life. 

Long section in the letter where Paul defends himself

This long section of the letter, which began back in chapter 2 with Paul saying he forgave whoever it was that had abused him, now comes back to the idea of God and God’s mission of which Paul, like us, is just a vessel. My purpose here, as it has been at every congregation I’ve served as a pastor, is not to proclaim my greatness. As a pastor, I’m humble myself before you and God and point to God as revealed in Jesus Christ as our only hope in life and death.[15] And you’re to do the same in your life. We are to strive to glorify Christ. 

But Paul speaks for everyone

In verse 16, Paul moves from his defense of himself, to include everyone when he says, “So we do not lose heart.” Paul’s not just writing about himself here, he’s writing about us all. And he reminds us that our hope isn’t in this life, which is temporary, but in the life to come, a life with God who is redeeming heaven and earth. Paul would never say that our work here is not important. It is because we are working with God to redeem a fallen world. And it’s not our abilities that makes our work important, but our Creator, the one who has redeemed us and who works through us to spread this message. 


Keep your eyes focused on Jesus. Be a light and a beacon for him. May your actions be worthy of him, and your words be uplifting and loving. Yes, we live in a mixed-up world with lots of trouble, but that’s no excuse for bad behavior, for while we live in this world, we live for the world to come. Love everyone, extend grace to all, be quick to forgive, and humble yourselves before the God who has created you, who redeems you, and who sustains you. Amen.

[1] Genesis 3:19.

[2] This is the gnostic heresy, and also an idea from Platonic thought, where the ideal is beyond the body (and this life). 

[3] Genesis 2:7.

[4] Created in God’s image comes from the first creation account. Genesis 1:27.

[5] Acts 20:7-12.

[6] Acts 9:1-18.

[7] See Acts 15. 

[8] For an example, see 1 Corinthians 1:10-17.

[9] See 2 Corinthians 2:5-8.

[10] Ernest Best, Second Corinthians: Interpretation, A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1987), 42.

[11] Paul Barnett, NICNT: The Second Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997), 229. 

[12] Charles Barrett, HNTC: The Second Epistle to the Corinthians (1973: Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1983), 138. 

[13] Barnet, 231. 

[14] Best41. 

[15] See the Presbyterian Church, Book of Confessions, Heidelberg Catechism, question 1. 

moonrise behind Nester's Cemetery in Laurel Fork, VA
August 1, 2023. Moonrise behind Nester’s Cemetery in Laurel Fork

Three Books about the 70s

The 1970s was a pivotal decade for me. I became a teenager just two and a half weeks into the decade. By the time it ended, I had graduated from high school and college, began a short-lived marriage, and travelled halfway around the world. These three books describe a lot of what happened in the ‘70s. The first one, about baseball, I recently listened to while driving home from Pittsburgh. I wouldn’t become a fan of Pittsburgh until well into the 1980s, when I moved there to attend school. The other two books I read and wrote the reviews in 2008 and 2014 and are republishing them here.

Dan Epstein, Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swinging ‘70s 

Book cover for "Big Hair and Plastic Grass"

(2010, 2019 Blackstone Audible, read by the author), 12 hours and 54 minutes. 

There were lots of crazy things going on in the 70s and this included baseball. Throughout the 60s, baseball remained conservative. As hair grew longer, ball players stayed clean cut with no facial hair. Drugs were shunned. Politics avoided. Oddly, which I didn’t know, the Detroit Tigers played a game while riots were burning much of the city just blocks from the ballpark. In the 70s, baseball caught up with society. I began listening to this book in my drive back from Pittsburgh the other week. It was a good book to listen to, as I had just watched the Pirates drop two games. In the 70s, the Pirates were often in contention, and they bookended the decade with World Series wins (1971 and 1979). 

This book is probably not for everyone. The chapters deal with each season during the 70s, with chapters intersperse that deal with multi-year issues such as players hair, artificial grass, tight-fitting polyester uniforms, mascots, and promos that included cheap beer, wet t-shirts contests, and anti-disco events. It was a decade that saw a new dynasty rise and fall in Oakland. They will forever be remembered as the “mustache gang.” as they broke new barriers with facial hair. And then there were the Cincinnati Reds, who also set records with Pete Rose and Johnny Bench.

Baseball and Culture in the 70s

The 70s was a decade that saw many of the greats from the 50s and 60s retire as well as many long-term records broken such as Henry Aaron breaking Babe Ruth’s homerun totals. While it was a decade that seemed to overcome many racial issues of the sport with the Pirates at one point having all nine players being of color. But there were still racial issues, especially as older ballplayers were looked over for coaching positions. It was the decade that saw George Steinberger enter the game as he purchased the New York Yankees. It also saw new teams emerge, including the first teams outside the United States as franchises began in Toronto and Montreal. And it was the decade in which players began to have more control over their livelihood and able to negotiate for better salaries and working conditions. 

For one with roots in the 70s, there are a lot of good stories that I had vague memories of, and others that I didn’t know, but enjoyed listening to them being told. While I remember Roberto Clemente, it was nice to be reminded of his incredible 1971 World Series (he would die in a plane crash three months later while on a rescue mission for those suffering from an earthquake in Nicaragua). By the late 70s, I was no longer keeping up with baseball (I’d start again during the 80s), but it was nice to learn about Willie Stargell’s bringing together the Pirates for their last World Series in 1979, with “We Are Family” playing in the background. 


Of course, because this is book about baseball, you have statistics. Every chapter, and most paragraphs, contain numbers. My ears began to gloss over them (or would have glossed over them if I had read the book instead of listening to it). Hits, home runs, stolen bases, earned run averages, wins and loss, the numbers just kept coming and became a bit of a distraction. After a certain point, the numbers began to run together. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the book and the walk down memory lane. While I always admired Clemente, I came to also appreciate Willie Stargell for more than the stars placed in the upper deck of the old Three Rivers Stadium, where he’d launched homeruns. 

My recommendation

Throughout the years of the 70s, there were many funny stories that today almost seem unbelievable. Such as 10 cent beer (what would go wrong with that?).  Or a wet t-shirt contest in Atlanta. And then there was Doc Ellis pitching for the Pirates. In 1971, he threw what will probably be the only no-hitter ever pitched while high on LDS. And finally, at the end of the decade, a promo offered a discount for turning in a disco record at the turnstile. Late in the game, the vinyls were blown up which destroyed part of the field and led to an inside the park riot. Baseball, which had become respectful in the middle of the century, was a different game in the ‘70s. 

A quote about Stargell

QUOTE ON THE 1979 WORLD SERIES: Stargell insisted on giving full credit to his teammates, but his teammates gave it all back to him. “He taught us how to take what comes and then come back,” Dave Parker said. “He taught us how to strike out and walk away calmly, lay the bad down gently, then get up the next time and hit a home run. From him we learned not to get too high on the good days or too low on the bad days, because there are plenty of both in this game…” 

Edward D. Berkowitz, Something Happened: A Political and Cultural Overview of the Seventies 

(New York: Columbia University Press, 2006), 283 pages.

For Berkowitz, the 70s as an era ran from 1973 to Reagan’s inauguration in 1981. He cites ’73 as a beginning because so many things that helped define the era occurred that year: the end of American involvement in Vietnam, an Oil Embargo, and the crisis of a president that included the resignation of the Vice President (Nixon would resign a year later).

Berkowitz does a great job of describing the 70s. He reminded me of all the twist and turns we had in those turbulent years. We had a president who, by visiting China, changed the history of the world. I don’t think I realized how close we were to National Health Insurance in the early 70s. Sadly, this idea that died with Watergate and the economic downturn in ’74. And then we had a whole series of scandals. While it may have started Nixon and Agnew, they weren’t nearly as colorful as Wilbur Mills and his strippers. 

From optimism to pessimism

The sixties were an optimistic decade; the seventies were pessimistic. In the 70s, according to Bruce Schulman, America was “made over.” Our “economic outlook, political ideology, cultural assumption and fundamental arrangements changed.” It was an era of declining productivity and extreme inflation. It was the era when much of the United States industrial strength started to slip and countries like Japan made great strides in their own productivity.  

politics in the 70s

Politically, Berkowitz divides the seventies into political eras: the fall of Nixon, the Ford years, and the Carter years. Reading the book, I felt sorry for Carter. he inherited many problems. Berkowitz also points out Carter’s attempts at transparency made it harder for him to get things through Congress. Furthermore, Congress had new powers inherited from a weakened executive branch following Watergate. Carter was also the first post-World War II president not to have a period of economic growth. Then, just when it seemed his luck couldn’t get any worst, it did. His administration ended with Three Mile Island and the Iranian hostage crisis. Berkowitz notes that the problems Carter inherited and faced may have been beyond any politician ability to handle, but that Carter’s moralizing issues didn’t help and probably only made things worst. 

According to Berkowitz (and others like Thomas Wolfe, whom he likes to quote), the 70s was the decade that everyone else began to demand rights. Women’s rights were at the forefront. 1970 saw the release of a new brand of cigarettes that focused on women. Virginia Slims came packaged with the logo, “You’ve come a long way, baby.” Much of the decade was also spent arguing over the ERA amendment. I hadn’t realized that the ERA passed Congress with the support not only of the left, but with right-winged senators like Strom Thurmond and Barry Goldwater. Berkowitz goes into detail on reasons why it failed. One reason was the economic downturn, which made people afraid of change. The other two major reasons were the political savvy of those against it, and the ERA debate framed around the abortion issue that moved to the forefront at the end of the decade.

Demanding of “rights”

In addition to women’s right, the 70s saw the rise of the gay movement, disability rights and rights of immigrants. In many ways, all the new groups demanding their rights paralleled a shift from the Civil Rights era, which spoke of doing what was good for all America, to a focus on more individual concerns. The 70s is seen as the “ME” decade, which helps explain the rise of Reagan in the 80s. 

Growing up in the South in the 70s, I was shocked that Berkowitz discussed the integration of Boston’s public schools and spent little time talking about the integration of the schools in the elsewhere. Interestingly, the ruling which started busing wasn’t in Boston but in North Carolina (Swan vs Charlotte Mecklenburg, 1971). Three years later, this ruling was applied in Boston. As a Southerner who’s lived much of his adult life up north, I am still shocked at how segregated schools remain in th north. It seems strange that in upscale neighborhoods around northern cities, one can still find school districts that are mostly white.

Cultural changes

Berkowitz does a better job on describing the political changes in the s70s than the culture changes. Culturally, he explores only movies and TV in depth. Although he acknowledges significant authors like John Updike, he does not explore the role they played in defining an era. In movies, he focuses mostly on “blockbusters,” a new way of marketing movies in an era that was seeing declines at the theater. As for TV, the 70s were the golden years as they didn’t have competition from cable and other forms of media. He discusses not only sitcoms, but also news programs and sports.

Outside of a few brief mentions, Berkowitz does not discuss the role of music. Maybe it was because I spent most of the decade as a teenager, that I think that music defined the era. It was the era when “album stations” bucked the top-40 trend and migrated to FM. There, the airways were filled with the likes Bruce Springsteen, Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac, Steely Dan and southern rock. The last years of the decade was also, sad to say, the era of disco. 

My recommendation

I enjoyed reading this book and recommend it; I just wished Berkowitz had gone further. He does a wonderful job discussing American politics. One final criticism, he overlooks lots of major world changes that were occurring, especially in Africa. Maybe the book should have been called a political history of the 70s in America

Bruce J. Schulman, The Seventies: The Great Shift in American Culture, Society, and Politics

"The Seventies" book cover

 (Free Press, 2001), 352 pages. 

I have a confession to make. I may need to do some serious penance. Reading this book, I realize in the 70s, I might have been a chauvinistic, misogynistic, homophobic racist. At the time, I just thought I hated disco and liked rock-n-roll. Mr. Shulman points to the errors in my thinking, suggesting those of us who shunned disco were guilty of a host of society’s evil (73-75).  Or maybe I should revert to my redneck anti-elite ways and ask, “What do you expect from a professor in tweed from the Northeast?”  Sadly, this makes me sound like Richard Nixon who hated the Northeast elite (24). Bruce Shulman, a disco loving Yankee, teaches at Boston University. 

Despite what I said in my opening comment, I mostly enjoyed this book. I disagree with Shulman’s comments on disco and on how he looked disdainfully on the South. But if you can overlook his biases, he provides a good cultural and political history to the decade. 

The 70s is often seen as a lost decade, squeezed between the optimistic 60s and the opportunistic 80s. Interestingly, as Shulman recalls, the 60s began with the Kennedy Camelot and ended with the widowed queen of Camelot (Jackie) marrying a rich Greek tycoon, twice her age (4). Shulman strives to interpret several wide cultural shifts occurring between 1969 and 1984. In this work, he explores music, books, television, movies, economics, and politics. 

changes in the 70s

Several things happened during this decade. America lost a broad cultural consensus as the era of special interest groups gained prominence. Many of these groups were based on ethnic heritage. There a continual interest in African American culture held over from the 60s (the mini-series “Roots” premiered in the decade). Interest also included Hispanics, Italians, and Irish. The 70s also saw the rise of women’s interests with the ERA. As America began to gray, the elderly became a political force. Tip O’Neil, the Speaker of the House, was first referred to Social Security as the third rail in American politics. You touch it and die. Following up on the Stonewall Riots in the late ’60s, gay rights also gained ground.

In addition, there were shifts in regions. Shulman refers to the decade as the “Southernization of America” (256). Three were also religious shifts. Although religion became more important, it also became more personal and less able to lift a common vision for society. There were also changes in the American economy. The era gave rise to the “rustbelt” as factories in the northern part of the country closed. The inflation of the late 70s caused Americans to use more credit (why put off buying when it will cost more tomorrow).

Economic changes and the rise of the conservative movement

Also, due to regulation changes, Americans began to look at savings differently. Investing become more important than savings. Inflation ate up savings. And finally, the era saw the end of the old liberalism in American politics. No longer was the government seen as a force for the good with an obligation to help those unable to help themselves. Now, voices bemoaned any government involvement. Shulman discusses the tie between government involvement and civil rights in the 60s and how it took the decade for a new conservative collation to rise out of the old. Racial prejudices slid into the background as new conservatives found other issues to excite their causes. 

my recommandation

Although I took offense at Shulman’s comments on those who disliked disco (as evident by my sarcasm), there is a lot to ponder on the role changes in religion, region, and race made to America during the decade. However, the nature of this book requires a certain amount of subjectivism, and one could draw different conclusions. That said, this is a good book for a trip down memory lane. 

author paddling a canoe on the Black River in Eastern North Carolina in 1975
That’s me in 1975, paddling the Black River (photo by Donald McKenzie)