Good morning, Christ Church!
On Sunday, I came across the following passage from Thomas Merton. I have struggled with it ever since:
“Instead of loving what you think is peace, love other men and love God above all. And instead of hating the people you think are warmongers, hate the appetites and the disorder in your own soul, which are the causes of war. If you love peace, then hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed – but hate these things in yourself, not in another.”
These past ten days, we have watched many decades of anger and frustration pour out into the streets of the cities and towns of our nation after the murder of George Floyd. Most of the protestors have been peaceful, respecting the dignity of others. But the anger is very deep and very real, and like most anger, is directed, directed now at those who we believe are responsible for these horrific injustices and seem only intent on preserving their power and privileges.
I share that anger and believe it is more than justified. I will confess that I have been directing my anger this week at those who I think deserve it. And that is why these words of Merton have not been what I want to hear. I do not think that Merton is suggesting that we sit back and do nothing. But I do think he is saying that we must always begin with ourselves, with a rigorous self-examination of our own souls, sins and all, before we take action. Merton is paraphrasing Jesus’ teaching in Luke 6:41: “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” These are also words I would rather not hear, especially when I am angry. But I know that I must take them to heart.
Faithfully in Christ,
Friday, June 5, 2020 RCL Daily Office Readings, Year 2
There are three parts to this morning’s reading from Matthew.
First, there is the powerful reminder that even Jesus needed “down time.” He literally sends both his disciples and the crowds away in order to go up into the mountain to pray. This is a moment of “centering prayer.” His life and ministry are all about enacting God’s love; in his interactions with the outcast, in his teaching, and in his healing. But even the Son of God needs to find the time to enter into deliberate conversation with his father in order to be guided and renewed. The bottom line is that there really cannot be discipleship without prayer, a regular time of intentional and dedicated dialogue with the Creator of the Universe. And we need to be careful about this. As an Episcopalian, I love our Book of Common Prayer. But too often, I have found myself reciting these prayers without really entering into them. When this happens, it is time to go up the mountain, or into the closet, or out into the yard, to simply share what is going on in our souls and to listen for God’s counsel and direction.
Secondly, there are the disciples out in a boat on a wind-swept sea. They are struggling in a difficult moment, even though they are experienced fishermen. All of a sudden, they see Jesus “walking toward them on the sea.” It is not entirely clear as to what is going on here, but the lesson is: In the hours when we most need God’s love, Jesus is there. In a time when fear is rampant, Jesus says to us, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” No matter where the winds of life may be blowing us today, Jesus is with us.
Finally, there is our good friend, Peter. We have got to give him credit. He tries so hard. But he is impulsive, and his impulsivity often gets him in trouble. He does not take the time to look within, failing to count the cost of what he is saying or is about to do. Then, when things get difficult, he loses faith and falters. But, once again, Jesus never gives up on him. Certainly, he does question Peter! But he is always reaching out to him, catching him as he falls. What wondrous love this is! And it is a love not reserved for a chosen few. It is a love that is offered to the whole world.
It is this love, and only this love, that can quiet the winds of anger, fear, and frustration we are experiencing now. What can we, and what will we, do to share that love with our communities? I think that is something we are all called to do, to find some “down time” today and pray about.