Thoughts on the Celebration of Donna & Bob’s Anniversary, September 8, 2019
by Rev. Jim Ryan, firstname.lastname@example.org
When I first read the Gospel (Luke 14:25-33) that is designated for today’s liturgy – the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C – I didn’t see it as appropriate for our celebration today. Maybe another Sunday but not today. Such talk as putting aside and leaving family and all that is familiar for the sake of taking up the Cross didn’t seem to fit this Eucharist of thanksgiving for Donna & Bob’s Anniversary. In this gathering of their family with us why hear these words of leaving family for the cross? The passage just didn’t seem to fit. I thought, well we should have a Gospel that displays a more positive message.
But (there’s always a but) I couldn’t get it out of my head so I thought about it and decided to use it. And here’s why.
First, this taking up the Cross. Last Sunday I told you about Elizabeth Johnson’s book “Creation and the Cross.” Her view of the Cross is situated in biblical understanding of God and what God wants. It’s the biblical view, one that takes us to a different place than almost 1,000 years of doctrine on the Cross, theories of Atonement, and satisfying a God who holds our humanity against us. After all, it’s about our sinfulness that Jesus was killed, right?
Johnson’s God is the One who accompanies us, who is with us in life and on life’s way. So, instead of taking up the Cross that is about death, atonement for sin and judgment, WHAT IF the Cross is about God who shows us life? What if taking up the Cross is about life as a journey, whose way is difficult, yes, but a way that leads to a fuller life, that includes God-with-us on our way (the Old Testament Prophets call this God, Emmanuel) and finally reveals to us the Resurrected Light of New Life? What if the Cross is about life, and not death?
This Gospel passage also contains this recommendation. What if the Passion of Jesus is about dedication to the promises we make in life? What if Christ’s Passion is about promises we keep – especially those promises we keep together?
Here’s one more recommendation from this passage. It is to leave everyone and everything behind. Well, what if, biblically speaking, this is only the beginning of the journey? What if in the call to love certain persons come to love one other person? What if love is the experience that focuses us precisely on the way of life?
I really like this adaptation from Thomas Merton’s journal, published as the “Sign of Jonas,” that we had for our Opening Litany today. He was in love – in love with his brother monks, in love with his Abbey, in love with his solitude. Now, Thomas was not known for this kind of almost giddiness too often. But this was written at a special time in his life. It included his Solemn Profession of Vows, his Ordination, even the death of the Abbott, Dom Frederic who welcomed him to life at Gethsemani. He had also recently published his first book, “Seven Storey Mountain.”
It seems to me that Merton speaks of what Donna & Bob show us and what compels us – yes, each one of us – to be ever-vigilant about love. It is about having – and treasure the having – of a foundation in life that values love for ourselves, for others, and in marriage the love for one other. In a twist on today’s Gospel the love of one for the other is the foundation that we do not fear, particularly when the plan is a mutual one to complete.
In his own experience, with full feeling, Merton, the monk, writes as though infused with light and yes, even downright giddy, of what has all the appearance of a first love. What if love – once it is discovered as the match of one’s heart is a beginning that then returns the newly married couple to everyone and everything, returns them with an ever growing, ever deepening sense that the Way of the Cross is the Way of Life?
What if the love of life brings us here this morning to celebrate Donna & Bob’s 65th Anniversary? I looked it up and the gemstone people would like you to know, in case you don’t already know, that Sapphire is the gem for 65. And the greeting card people, no doubt, have much to say about the meaning of sapphire.
That aside, what caught my eye in the course of my extensive research is that sapphire is the designated gemstone not only for 65 but also anniversaries # 5 and 45. At first I’m thinking, you mean you can’t even come up with one stone for 65 all by itself? I mean how many times does this happen? Doesn’t 65 deserve its own stone? But, and there’s always a but, it then occurred to me that when it comes to life and love what if we get the chance to learn more, grow more, love more? The cycles of life show us that a return to beginnings and mid-points and all points remind and renew us. So, Donna & Bob, as you repledge your vows and give thanks for each other, for your family and your friends, for this community we are thankful for the blessing you give us today.
May the love of Christ grow ever stronger in your hearts and your life together in which the Cross is about life, the Passion is about dedication, and the Foundation is about love. In this we are all certainly blessed!
A Prayer (JR)
Here’s what comes our way,
One way or another—
A God who creates us out of love,
An Earth that we are challenged to love,
A Community who sees us and knows us,
yet who loves us nonetheless,
A Person whose love is the match of my heart.
Bless this gathering in your love, O God. We celebrate with Donna and Bob, with their family, this Eucharist of love and thanksgiving. May we see and understand your gifts that come our way. They fill our lives now and in time to come. Amen. (JR)
Opening Litany Thomas Merton, “The Sign of Jonas”
Leader: I love God. Love carries me all around.
All: I don’t want to do anything but love.
Leader: Love is kicking me all around like a gong, I tell you.
All: Love is the only thing that makes it possible for me to click.
Leader: You have got to be all the time cooperating with love.
All: Love sets a fast pace. If you don’t keep up, you’ll get dropped.
Presider: If you will only let love drag you off your feet—
after that you will have to sail the whole way.
All: Love sails me around the house……