“I will give you not what you desire. I will lead you into solitude.
I will lead you by the way that you cannot possibly understand…
Everything that touches you shall burn you …. that you may become the
brother of God and learn to know the Christ of the burnt men.”
40 Years Ago Today
On December 10, 1968, life changed rather quickly for many in the
religious world. Two interesting theologian/writers died. The two had
never met, nor would they. It was on December 10, 1968, that Karl Barth
and Thomas Merton died.
I was a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in
Louisville, Kentucky. I had studied Karl Barth and had some knowledge
of Thomas Merton.
In the spring of 1967, I visited the Abbey of Gethsemani where Thomas
Merton was living. My professor (Dr. Glenn Hinson) and Merton’s friend
was the leader of a group of students to the Abbey. Since that trip, I
have always remembered the Abbey. After all these years, and the study
of Merton and Barth, I find December 10, 1968, to be a day to pause and
remember. The writings of Thomas Merton have meant so much to me in my
spiritual journey. Merton ahs helped me as a Baptist to think and
discover some important things.
1. He gives me a deep appreciation for the monastic life. It is real
and needed for every generation.
2. He challenges me to study the importance of silence and solitude in
my spiritual journey. [Not easy for a Baptist minister!]
3. He helps to give me a desire to be open to all people and especially
all religious people. He believed very deeply that everyone can be a
teacher. And, we can learn from all people.
4. He taught me that life is not always easy. His writings reveal his
inner and outer struggles.
5. He continues to challenge me to seek to understand the love of God
and to make spiritual growth a daily experience.
It was on this day forty years ago that the telegram was received at
Gethsemani addressed to Abbot Burns that Thomas Merton has died.
I mentioned Karl Barth’s death on the same day because Merton had
written about Barth in the book CONJECTURES OF A GUILTY BYSTANDER. I
find the following words on page 12 most interesting in remembering this
“Fear not, Karl Barth! Trust in the divine mercy! Though you have
grown up to become a theologian. Christ remains a child in you. Your
books (and mine) matter less than we might think! There is in us a
Mozart who will be our salvation.”
I am grateful that God blessed this world with Thomas merton, Karl
Barth, Glenn Hinson and the Abbey of Gethsemani. Today, let us remember
and be grateful.
“Lord, hear my prayer, and let my soul not fail under Your protection”
“If we said only what we really meant we would say very little. Yet we
have to preach God too. Exactly. Preaching the word of God implies
silence. If preaching is not born of silence, it is a waste of time.”