Bread – Learning

February 13, 2015


Readings for Friday, February 13, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 61:1-9; 2 Tim. 3:1-17; Mark 10:32-45; Psalms 88,91,92

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It is Friday the 13th and according to superstitious people, not a good day.

And yet in today’s readings there is a whole lot of “learning” to do which, quite frankly, I cannot even begin to cover even with broad strokes. I urge you, therefore, particularly today to read the readings. In Isaiah, we read of the Messiah beginning with these words – “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor…to proclaim liberty to the captives…” Isa. 61:1 In 2 Timothy we read about the comparison of God’s kingdom to the world’s, and in Mark we read Jesus’ statements about his death and resurrection and his urging to His disciples to be servants and slaves of all. Each one in itself a powerful reading and each one in itself thought-provoking, about where we are and what we are doing and whose we are.

But in all this beauty, vision, and truth something popped to the surface – “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty…Avoid such people. For among them are those … always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth….so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith.” 2 Tim. 3:1,5b,7-8.

“Always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth…”

How that describes many people! How many people do we know who read magazines, newspapers, and books voraciously, who embrace all of the arts and the sciences, who have finely honed their rational thought, who can talk until the cows come home about politics, economics, the physical and biological sciences, mathematics, history, and other “learning” and yet have never been able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth?

How many people do we know that fill their entire day filling their brain with streaming data from the Internet, from their text messages, from their “selfie” photographs, from Facebook, Twitter, and a stream of consciousness wrapped up in miniature sound bites, having the appearance of information, analysis, and wisdom … and containing no wisdom, no information, no analysis, and little if any thought. This is today’s “learning.” Compared to yesterday’s form of “learning,” today’s may seem empty and vacuous, but Paul in writing to Timothy is telling him that the same is true of traditional “learning.” Thoughtfulness and the highest form of rationality does not equate to the truth, and we may well fill our heads with worldly wisdom and yet totally miss the point; we may describe all the trees is exquisite detail and miss the forest; we may believe that the room we live in is all there is, and miss the door to the outside, where there is much, much more than we will ever comprehend in ourselves.

Maybe if our learning is defective it is because our sources are defective. If we learn in short bursts of words delivered to our computer screen, do we believe, really believe, that the source is reliable? If we learn from ourselves, is the source reliable? If we learn through what others have observed, is the source reliable? If our “science” involves nothing but us – our observations, our calculations, our logic, our thoughts, our reasoning, our analysis, our conclusions – is the source reliable?

Our reading today from 2 Timothy, while telling us to avoid people who are “always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth,” also tells us a good source to go to, to help us arrive at a knowledge of the truth. It is God’s Word, Scripture. “But as for you, continue … with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” 2 Tim. 3:14-17

There are those who would say that Paul’s words to Timothy are a Friday the 13th trick. They would say that those who believe Paul, who believe that Scripture is God’s revealed Word, is a chasing after learning leading down a blind alley, never arriving at a knowledge of the truth.

Maybe this is where faith comes in, but maybe to evaluate this challenge we can also consider outcomes. While man’s learning has brought us better and better tools, what has it done to solve our “sin” nature? It is our learning from God’s Word which leads us to Christ and to that solution.

The real Friday the 13th trick is contained in man’s “learning,” that somehow the scientific description of the heavens someone leads us any closer to heaven, that somehow the rational creation of a new tool (the Internet comes to mind) somehow leads us to more righteous use of that tool, that somehow a better understanding of the “Id” and the “Ego” leads us to release from the imprisonment to our own lusts, our own sinfulness.

It is true that there is much learning which does not lead to the truth, but there is some learning which does. The question is where does this “learning” come from. If it comes from man, “beware!” If it comes from God, “embrace!”

Just that simple, and just that hard.

Today, are you “learning?” If so, what? If so, from where? If so, from whom?

__________

© 2015 GBF

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