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Inauguration day

by davesandel on January 20th, 2021

Wednesday, January 20, 2021            (today’s lectionary)

Inauguration day

The scepter of your power the Lord will stretch forth from Zion. Rule in the midst of your enemies. Yours is princely power in the day of your birth; before the daystar, like the dew, I have begotten you … Jesus preached the Gospel of the Kingdom and cured every disease among the people, and Jesus said, “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath, to save life rather than to destroy it?” His adversaries remained silent.

 Since George Washington, every elected president has repeated these words: I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Forty-five presidents have repeated these words 72 times.

Mostly, these presidents swore on the Bible. And they chose verses that meant something to them … Franklin Roosevelt used the same verses from 1 Corinthians 13 at each of his four inaugurations:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

In the midst of an unpopular war, Richard Nixon chose Isaiah 2:4 in 1969 and 1973:

And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people, and they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

Ronald Reagan used his mother’s oft-used Bible, and rested his hand on powerful words from II Chronicles 7, words also held dear by Dwight D. Eisenhower:

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray, seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin, and I will heal their land.

At Bill Clinton’s second inauguration he opened the Bible to Isaiah 58:12:

Thou shalt be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of paths to dwell in.

At George W. Bush’s second inauguration, he also chose Isaiah’s words from chapter 40:

They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles. They shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

Not every president called on God for peace. Rutherford B. Hayes (nicknamed Rutherfraud Hayes after a vicious, contested election) sought vindication and revenge with words from Psalm 118:

They compassed me about bees; they are quenched as the fire of thorns: for in the name of the Lord I will destroy them.

And Andrew Johnson, in the hours after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, held his hand over lurid and vengeful words from Ezekiel 36:

As for them whose heart walketh after the heart of their detestable things and their abominations, I will recompense their way upon their own heads, saith the Lord God.

Those sentiments were a far cry from Lincoln’s own inaugural words, “With malice toward none … let us bind up the nation’s wounds … and cherish a just, lasting peace among ourselves.”

What words will be under Joe Biden’s hand today?

As we wait to see, here’s a word for Mr. Biden from one of my favorite blogger-poets, John Blase:

What would I say to you, Joe (can I call you Joe?) …

Gosh Joe, while I’m thrilled to see that you are a pal

to poets and dogs and those who tend the White House

grounds, I want to make this one plea: be our President.

Yes, be our friend, but be that something more America

the beautiful is aching for—a symbol conspicuously good.

I realize this is quite the tall order, but you aspired to the

highest office, you made the choice to run and won. So run.

Run our country at a wise man’s pace. We’ve raced reckless,

gassed on boast and swagger and contempt from both sides.

Slow us down to the self-government of being not only keeper

of our brother but our sister and our neighbor and mother Earth.

Rest your hand on the old Book and swear—be our President.

Like all days since the start of time, this is a day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Jesus said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out and his hand was restored.

(Hebrews 7, Psalm 110, Matthew 4, Mark 3)


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