Most of us live with a certain amount of anxiety. Sometimes it’s because the world is a terrifying place, and some of the humans who live here with us seem capable of great evil. Thinking of New Zealand this week, or a synagogue in Pittsburg and a school in Parkville, Florida just a year ago, it’s hard to imagine not being worried.
Today, we remember the death of Thomas Merton and celebrate his life and especially his prolific vocation as a writer.
"The danger of education, I have found, is that it so easily confuses means with ends. Worse than that, it quite easily forgets both and devotes itself merely to the mass production of uneducated graduates--people literally unfit for anything except to take part in an elaborate and completely artificial charade which they and their contemporaries have conspired to call 'life'."
(from Love and Living, 1980)
"Being interested in Thomas Merton is not being interested in an original, a 'shaping' mind, but being interested in God and human possibilities. Merton will not let me look at him for long: he will, finally, persuade me to looking the direction he i looking... I don't want to know much more about Merton; he is dead, and I shall commend him regularly, lovingly, and thankfully to God. I am concerned to find how I can turn further in the direction he is looking, in prayer, poetry, theology, and encounter with the experience of other faiths; in trust and love of God our savior. The great Christian is the man or woman who can make me more interested in God than in him or her. A paradoxical tribute, but the highest that can be paid."
(Rowan Williams, A Silent Action, 2011)
The story of Esther teaches us to use status in wise, clever, and good ways: to protect those that need protecting; to be courageous in the face of uncertain times; to be shrewd in moments of instability and change; to be thoughtful, careful, and persuasive as the norm, rather than irrational, headstrong, and shrill like the egomaniacal Haman.
In the process of writing a sermon for a funeral this week I thought a lot about what it means to be remade in Christ’s image. The deceased’s family picked Matthew 18 as the first reading, an unusual but terrific decision. Jesus says there, “unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
This got me thinking about what we’re becoming. By we, I mean disciples of Jesus: people who have accepted that they stand as sinners in need of God’s forgiveness; people who recognize that they are powerless to bring about the kind of change in themselves that will truly matter; people who have heard and believe that God loves them regardless of their powerlessness.
What happens to us when hear and believe this?
Check out some of the events happening this week at the Episcopal Church at William & Mary.
I don’t know about you, but when I read about Paul’s vision of heaven, the first thing I wonder about is not what Paul saw, but what that thorn in his side was.
If Paul were with us today, I’d ask him why he shared that rather personal bit of information about himself. My imagination digresses into all the different possibilities for what might have ailed the apostle.
It seems like it was serious. Paul’s metaphor carries with it something more than just a minor annoyance. In fact, it sounds like it bothered the hell out of him. He was desperate to be rid of it.
When I think about the work of a college chaplain, I envision someone a bit less enigmatic and a lot less physical than Mr. Miyagi, but the principle remains. What people need, what I need, is not a spiritual boss to tell them what to do, how to vote, what to eat, drink, or wear. Instead, what we all need is help and companionship.