That Particular Moment in Time

A Meditation for 13 April 2016, the 3rd Sunday of Easter (Year C). The meditation is based on Acts 9: 1 – 6, 7 – 20; Revelation 5: 11 – 14; and John 21: 1 – 19.

When I first began teaching chemistry back in 1971, I had only a rudimentary knowledge of how to teach. I knew the subject but I was still in the process of learning the nuances of teaching and I knew very little about how students learned chemistry. And to top it off, my first teaching assignment was not in a traditional setting.

Highland High School used a modular plan where each class had one or two periods of lecture, one or two periods of recitation, and one or two periods of laboratory work during on a six-day cycle (which was nice because the cycle kept going, even if there was a break in the regular routine).

But that meant that I had deal with something that didn’t really exist in the traditional Monday through Friday, five periods a day, school calendar and that was laboratory time. So it was that I had to begin developing laboratory experiments.

And like a lot of my colleagues, then and perhaps even now, I borrowed from what I knew from college. I would do the same experiments that I knew from college because I had copies of my notes so I knew what to expect and it was a lot easier to do it that way.

Now, some forty years or so later, I still don’t have the knack for creating experiments that one can use in a teaching laboratory. And what is done in the teaching laboratory today today needs to be done on what is called a micro-scale level and be “green” or environmentally friendly. Were I to be in a position to teach future chemical educators, this is one area that I would really be looking at, if for no other reason than it begins to give the educator an idea of how students learn.

Now, this is has nothing to do with the Scripture readings but since I am at this point, it needs to be said. Students learn best when they actually do the stuff one is talking about in class; you really cannot learn something simply by being in lecture all the time. If you don’t do the work, it never really gets understood.

Even Jesus understood that point. Remember that He sent 72 of his group out into the world while He was still in the three year period of ministry. He sent them out to do what He had been doing and to prepare them for what they were going to be doing when He left.

Now, back to the Scriptural train of thought. The other thing that happened during those first two years of teaching was that I developed an understanding of how students learn chemistry. It was, if you will, the beginning of my “aha!” moment (I first defined this idea in “The AHA Moment”; I expanded on this idea a bit in posts linked to that post).

Without realizing it, I was learning what Jean Piaget learned in the early 50s; that students go through a series of stages of learning. In chemistry, they come into the class at the concrete level, comfortable with what is before them and able to use those examples to find the answers to similar problems. But during the time frame in which they are taking chemistry, they are transitioning to a more abstract level, whereby they assimilate the information and are able to use it to solve new problems.

This is a critical point in today’s world. When faced with a problem, we are very apt to fall back on what we know as a way of solving the problem. In the days between the Resurrection and the Ascension, the disciples do just that.

They are certain about what to do, so they go back to doing what they know. And in the case of Peter, Andrew, James, and John, they go fishing. And as we read in today’s Gospel reading, there is that moment when Peter recognizes Christ. It is Peter’s “aha!” moment. And things change as a result. In the dialog that follows, Peter gets a better understanding of what the past three years have been about and what his life is to be in the coming years. Each disciple, each individual who encountered Christ in that period had, I am sure, a similar moment.

There are some who say that your “aha!” moment has to be a dramatic one, such as Paul’s encounter on the road to Damascus. And for some, that is probably the case. For many others, their moment is more like that of John Wesley’s Aldersgate experience, when you understand in your mind and heart what is happening.

In my collection of sayings is the following quote from the The Talmud, the Jewish commentary on the Torah,

In every age there comes a time when leadership suddenly comes forth to meet the needs of the hour. And so there is no man who does not find his time, and there is no hour that does not have its leader.”

Each of us has our own particular “aha!” moment. Though there may be some commonality between our own moment and the moments of our friends, there is no requirement that they be alike. And by the same token, we should not expect our moment to be an exact copy of our friends’ moments or that our friends’ moments should be an exact copy of ours.

The most critical thing about this experience is that it must be reinforced. You can have that moment but if you are not careful, you can lose it. You cannot simply say that you have had the moment and then move on; you must make sure that the moment has taken hold in your life. Perhaps that is why Paul’s moment was so dramatic and why he was blinded. He needed for that moment to take hold; Wesley’s understanding of his own moment came about because he had been preparing for it, though perhaps without understanding that was what he was doing.

But, and that is one of the most important roles of the church in today’s society, we can help each other to find that moment, that particular moment in time when we each come to Christ. In a world where Christianity has quickly become a negative term, the challenge is for those who have Christ in their hearts to find ways to express that experience.

Now, I realize that I do not espouse the traditional line that the mission of Christians is to make disciples of all the peoples of the world. I have had too many negative experiences with individuals who tried to force their encounter with Christ on me and who suggested that if I did not accept that idea that I was doomed.

In one aspect, and I have said this before, they may have been correct. If I do not accept Jesus Christ as my Savior and I choose no other path, then I am probably doomed. But that is my choice. On the other hand, if I understand that Christ’s command to teach those they encounter about Christ (which is what is means to make disciples), then I have to show them what it means to be a Christian and give them the opportunity to become one.

And when we think about that moment when Jesus stood up in his hometown synagogue and told those who were there that he had come to heal the sick, feed the hungry, help those oppressed and bring hope to the world, he outlined what it is that we need to be doing. Throughout His entire ministry, Jesus opened doors and offered opportunities to all who sought Him.

There is one particular moment in time when each one of us sought and found Him; there will be one particular moment in time when others will find Him. It is our task to help make that time a reality.

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