Friday, February 23, 2018

Gospel text for Sunday 25 February 2018

Mark 8:31-38        Jesus began to teach his disciples that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Reflection       From the time I was twelve or thirteen years old I was certain there was a single capital “T” Truth and my mission in life was to find it. While babysitting I discovered Hermann Hesse’s book describing the spiritual journey of a young man named Siddhartha. It is the story of Gautama Buddha and I grabbed onto it as Truth, until, it was hard to find a Bodi tree in New Jersey, and of course there were the intrusions of school and parents. This is not working for me. So I set down Siddhartha and decide I will find and master Truth in the breathing and bodily postures of Yoga until I realize twisting my body into pretzel forms is not it, so I stop doing yoga and become certain that capital T Truth is hidden in consciousness. This launches my exploration of altered states, which are quite exotic, but at the end of the day they fade away along with the big T Truths I thought I grasped. So I turn to the writing of Lao Tzo, a mythic sixth century Chinese philosopher, poet and writer and nail my hat to that peg for a decade, certain that Truth arises from living in harmony with the Tao, until that too emerges empty. My litany of failed certainty continues today.

Do you see the pattern? First I am certain that I know the way to Truth. I stumble along, life happens and I realize, not so much. And the litany of certainty continues, each chapter whittling itself away, making room for more questions until ever so slowly I have come to realize that in all things I am mostly uncertain. 

The Wisdom of Uncertainty aligns with recent theories of the cosmos that suggest only four percent of the universe is made up of matter and energy that can be measured (this includes all the billions of stars in each of the billions of galaxies.) The remaining ninety-six percent  of all that is is made up of dark matter and dark energy that cannot be seen. ** In other words, the cosmos is rather like God or consciousness, somehow we infer it is there even though we cannot see it. 

Much as religion relies on faith, so too does science when it admits, we cannot base our understanding of the material world on our five senses. Every time we discover something it raises more questions than answers. And there we have it ,  the Wisdom of Uncertainty. When we are certain that we are right, it is like living in a box from which we cannot escape. But when we are liberated from the confines of our certainty box, we are free to move on, to live and grow and ask new questions.

In Mark’s text Peter is certain he is right. His friend, the Messiah, with whom God is please, cannot not possibly“undergo great suffering,  be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” Peter is certain and Peter is wrong. 

This is especially important to consider as we navigate the Lenten season of self examination, the season that prepares us to receive the ultimate foolishness, “we must lose our lives to gain our lives.” The Wisdom of Uncertainty presents us with questions we all must ask ourselves. About what am I certain that I am right? With whom do I argue to prove I am right? How does my certainty that I am right close my ears and eyes and heart to another person’s perspective? to a more expansive point of view?   What if I am not right? What if I am setting my mind not on divine things but on human things? What if I am wrong? 

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