Lenten Reflections and Meditations

Who Do You Say That You Are?: Lenten Meditation, 2/20/2013

February 20, 2013
Lenten Reflections

Isaiah 55:6-11

By: Lucas John Mix

NGC 1291, NASA/JPL-Caltech/Yale University/H. Crowl (Yale University)

“Seek the Lord while he may be found,
  call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake their way,
  and the unrighteous their thoughts;
let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them,
  and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
  nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
  so are my ways higher than your ways
  and my thoughts than your thoughts.

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
  and do not return there until they have watered the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
  giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
  it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
  and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:6-11)

Does knowledge have a purpose, or do we just know things? During the 40 days of Lent, we meditate on our place in the midst of God’s plan and ask how our knowledge empowers and shapes us.

As someone who works with scientists, I am frequently confronted by questions of knowledge and power. How does the world work? How do our actions affect the world and vice versa? As an Anglican Christian, I see these as important aspects of our life of faith. Curiosity and insight are both gifts of the Spirit, God acting in us and through us to bring us into a closer relationship with creation. So I think of knowledge as a good thing.

At the same time, I believe that we always know things in context. Just as our knowledge allows us to shape the world, so our knowledge shapes us by naming us as observers or actors, masters or slaves, matter or mind. The tales we tell ourselves do more than entertain or even enlighten. They shape us. When we speak of ourselves as bodies, we think of ourselves as physical parts of a physical world. Whether we speak of ourselves as rational actors or incarnate souls or objective observers, we take on a role in relation to the world (as game players, visitors, outsiders).

How do you name yourself and what does that say about your world? More importantly, how does it empower you in your life? Does it suggest options and actions for making the world a better place? Making yourself a better person? Game players are encouraged to win, visitors to tread lightly (or fix), outsiders to remain impartial. What are you encouraged to do?

For my part, I feel called to humble admiration of the infinite subtlety and majesty of the world. I try to bring open eyes, open mind, and open heart to a world ever changing, ever made new. I see Jesus Christ as the Word of God that goes forth to water the earth, bring seed to the sower, and bread to the eater. And I encourage others to see the world this way. But perhaps more importantly, I encourage them to name themselves anew every morning.

Listen for the names you give yourself, the names given you by others, and the name whispered to you by God. Listen for knowledge – real, solid knowledge of the world around you. For only by this can you become more than a contestant, tourist, or reporter. Only by this can you become an integrated part of the world.

Prayer for Knowledge of God’s Creation

Almighty and everlasting God, you made the universe with all its marvelous order, its atoms, worlds, and galaxies, and the infinite complexity of living creatures: Grant that, as we probe the mysteries of your creation, we may come to know you more truly, and more surely fulfill our role in your eternal purpose; in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen (Book of Common Prayer, p. 827).