A MESSAGE FROM REV. J.C. AUSTIN: The dog days of summer

We are in what is sometimes called “the dog days” of summer. I always assumed that was just a colloquial expression, probably from the American South, about the hottest part of summer because it drove dogs mad or something.

On a whim I decided to look it up, though, and discovered that
I was mostly wrong. Yes, there is an association with mad dogs, but that’s only a tiny part of it. It goes all the way back to the ancient Greeks, and it is specifically the season associated with the rise of Sirius, known as the Dog Star because it “follows” Orion, the constellation of the Hunter, through the sky.

It’s also the brightest star in the night sky by a considerable margin, so it’s attracted a lot of attention from poets and astrologers and philosophers. Since its rise does generally accompany the hottest part of the summer in the Northern Hemisphere, and since many ancient peoples believed that the stars influenced behavior, weather, fortunes, and circumstances, the season around Sirius’ rising became known not simply for its heat but for its disruptive nature, its tumultuousness: dogs going mad, yes, but also drought, thunderstorms, conflict, and so on.

While that kind of astrology is part of neither Christianity nor modern science, we still find ourselves in the dog days, of sorts. While the heat has blessedly been only intermittent, the tumult and disruption has not. Indeed, the flames of disruption, division, and conflict are rising throughout our social and political life as a nation, fanned by the pandemic, the presidential campaign, and now the confusion and debate over what school can and should look like for our children this fall.

So this Sunday, we at First Pres will consider what words of hope the gospel has for us in these difficult times by looking at one of the better known stories of Peter, Jesus’ disciple who so often stands in for all of us in trying to make sense of who Jesus is and what he is doing.

So, whether you are here in the Valley or away on vacation, I hope to be with you in digital worship this Sunday as I talk about “Building on Shaky Ground.”

Grace and Peace,