The deep attention and reverence that Thomas Merton and Abdul Aziz brought to each other's books, traditions and lives undergirded their friendship, and the frank way they explored their similarities and differences enlivened it.
I grew up attending Bible and Baptist
churches; now I generally identify with the emerging church. So I've had quite
a learning curve at the Episcopal seminary where I'm studying. Between
balancing prayer books and hymnals and crash courses in chanting, I've frequently
felt like a stranger in a strange land.
Reflecting on the Benedictus gives us an opportunity to
reflect on the place of memorization and repetition in our formation as people
who read the Bible as if our lives depended on it. Ellen Davis calls reading
the Bible as if our lives depended on it confessional reading. She does not
mean reading the Bible in light of a denominational confession. She means
reading the Bible as an "indispensible word."
She is foggy, struggling to find the old gifts of conversation. But she knows me, I think. I
tell her all of the reassuring things that pastors say in such a
setting. "The Creator who has watched over you all of the days of your
life is now holding you in those sacred hands." She smiles and
struggles to respond with words I barely understand.
LifeWay Research found that 53 percent of 1,000 Protestant pastors polled agreed that sometimes their congregations seem to love America more than God: 59 percent of pastors in the South, as compared to 51 percent in the Midwest and 42 percent in the West (LifeWay Research, June 30).