Thomas Merton Sunday this Sunday!
I appreciate the simultaneous joy and upheaval proclaimed in the readings for the Advent season. Jesus and John the Baptist warn about cosmic and imminent catastrophe while the prophet Isaiah joyfully declares God’s coming Reign and Mary sings her song of God’s promises fulfilled. In the Gospel appointed for the feast day of my favorite Trappist monk Thomas Merton (John 12:27-36), we hear this same concurrence of bliss and disaster. Jesus says, “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” In John’s Gospel, this is the closest Jesus comes to expressing the agony that the other evangelists portray, in which Jesus undergoes such dread that Luke describes him as sweating drops of blood. Here, Jesus admits that his soul is troubled, and yet he also knows that this apparent disaster will simultaneously be the glorification of God and the fulfillment of his entire ministry. The high point of Christ’s ministry in the fourth Gospel is not his resurrection, but his crucifixion, where joy and upheaval collide.
Several years ago, I attended a meeting on the Study of Anglicanism in Chicago led by former presiding Bishop Frank Griswold and former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey. While George Carey lamented the shattered state of the Anglican Communion, Frank Griswold held together both the joy and upheaval of the communion when he quoted Thomas Merton. Now Merton was a master at articulating his struggle to balance contemplation and action, the cloistered life and a life fully engaged with the ethical issues of his day: race relations, economic injustice, war, violence, and the threat to all of creation in the nuclear arms race. Merton, like the readings in Advent and like Jesus in John, expressed the concomitance of joy and upheaval, of love and suffering. In one of the most influential spiritual classics of the 20th century (and likely the most influential spiritual classic in my own life) New Seeds of Contemplation, Merton writes what Griswold twice quoted: “As long as we are on earth, the love that unites us will bring us suffering by our very contact with one another, because this love is the resetting of a Body of broken bones. Even saints cannot live on this earth without some anguish, without some pain at the differences that come between them.”
Not only does this quote help frame my understanding of the Anglican Communion with hope, it also helps me see the upheavals in my own life and in our own community as God restructuring our souls in order to deepen our capacity for joy and love. As long as we are on earth, we will experience joy and upheaval because God through love is reforming and refining us and resetting our Body of broken bones.
And in a way, there is joy and upheaval during my final Sundays at Redeemer, as I give thanks for our time together and sadly starting saying goodbye as we move onto new adventures that will continue to reset the Body of broken bones that is the Church and bring glory to the God who comes to us this season in the joyful upheaval of a new baby boy.
Preacher this Sunday Dec 10: The Rev. Kogen Dito-Keith
This year, the Second Sunday of Advent falls on the Feast Day of Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk who delved deeply into Buddhist practice. Church of the Redeemer will celebrate this special day by having the newly ordained Zen Buddhist priest Kogen Dito-Keith preach and share a Buddhist’s perspective on the season of Advent.
Readings for the Second Sunday of Advent
Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
2 Peter 3:8-15a
Lay Eucharistic Minister and Reader of First Reading: Terri Leinsteiner (Isaiah 40:1-11)
ALL LECTORS: PLEASE WATCH THIS VIDEO AND PLEASE REVIEW AND PRACTICE READINGS BEFOREHAND
Communion Bread: Carol Ann Falk
Second Reading: Cindy Smith (2 Peter 3:8-15a)
Prayers of the People: Cindy Smith
Coffee Hour: Eileen Brennan
Altar Guild: Eileen Brennan
Service Host: Cindy Smith
Psalm Cantor: John Geist
Music Director: Justin Schrum
Preacher: The Rev. Kogen Dito-Keith
Presider: Fr. Daniel London