The new WesleyNexus newsletter is now available here. If you happen to read it (and there’s lots of good stuff in it), please notice that my most recent post concerning Evolution Weekend is mentioned. Thanks to the people at WesleyNexus for the link!
Transfiguration Sunday or Evolution Weekend?
This was supposed to have been posted on Sunday February 15th, but things sort of got in the way.
On the church liturgical calendar, this Sunday is Transfiguration Sunday. On the secular calendar, this is Evolution Weekend. Before I get into my thoughts about the nature and significance of this day, let me first identify three organizations that focus on the interaction of faith and science (I have put a link to each group on the side of my blog)
- Clergy Letter project
While the title of this piece suggests that one has to make a choice about what to write about (or perhaps preach), for me, it really isn’t that way. As I hope to lay out before you, both are equally important for me.
Transfiguration Sunday focus on the change that Peter, James, and John saw in Jesus that speaks to the true nature of Jesus as the Messiah and the Christ.
Evolution Weekend focuses on the fact that February 12 is Charles Darwin’s birthday; it is an event that has taken place for the past ten years or so and looks at the relationship between science and faith (or at least it does for me).
From that viewpoint, these are mutually exclusive events. But I see a common thread in the two events.
In the Scripture readings for this Sunday, Jesus is seen by Peter, James, and John to have been transfigured or transformed, covered with a bright line and seen by the three disciples to be accompanied by Moses and Elijah. Perhaps the meaning of this is to let Peter, James, and John know that Jesus is really the Messiah and things are going to be changing in the next few days.
This moment, first experienced some two thousand years ago by three men, is a moment that we all have in some form or another when we accept Christ as our personal Savior. It is a moment when we truly understand what Jesus did for us two thousand years ago and what He does for us even today.
But I fear that too many people don’t truly understand what this moment means. They fail to take advantage of this opportunity. They lived their lives totally unchanged, continue to believe and live as they did before Christ came into their lives. They may acknowledge that Christ is the Savior but they do not offer the proof. They still see things as they were and not has they might or will be (thinking of the G. B. Shaw quote that Robert Kennedy so often used).
Look at Peter’s initial response to build three monuments; this represented the traditional thinking of the time. Every encounter with God up until that moment is fixed in time and place by some sort of stone monument. This is not what Jesus wants His disciples to do; rather, I think that He wanted them to see their lives in a new way.
Our encounter with Christ and its life changing quality need not be like Saul’s encounter on the road to Damascus (though there are many who would say that is the only type of valid encounter). But, however we encounter and acknowledge Christ, we have to understand that our lives change, as Saul’s did when he became Paul. If our lives do not change, the encounter with Christ may prove to be limited in its effect.
Early on in my teaching career, I discovered the work of Jean Piaget and its application to the learning of chemistry. Later I would discover research describing the “AHA Moment”. This moment is that singular moment in one’s life where a seemingly difficult item becomes easily understood. In Piagetian terms, it is that transition from one learning level to the next highest one (in chemistry, often times it is the transition from concrete, fixed thinking to a more abstract thinking process). You go from merely solving problems by rote memorization and application of previous solutions to actually creating new solutions.
For some, this never occurs. They are quite successful in their education experiences but they are lacking when it comes to creating new ideas. I wouldn’t say that this is necessarily a bad thing in itself but when it becomes the norm (as I fear that it is becoming in society today), then problems will arise. You simply cannot advance the nature of society if all you know are the same old solutions; they will not work with new problems.
For me, science is critical to one’s life simply because it pushes you to understand the world around you. Too many people of faith fear science for that very reason; it pushes people to seek better answers to their questions of faith. And yet, one’s faith cannot grow if it is not challenged.
Similarly, one’s secular life also cannot grow if you are not willing to look beyond the limits of your normal vision, if you are not pushed to (and excuse the cliché) think outside the envelope.
We live in dangerous times and our responses cannot be the traditional responses. There are too many challenges taking place that call on us to push our faith and our thinking skills together beyond the limits others have established.
Jesus began to push the boundaries of ministry outside the Temple walls and He encouraged His disciples and other followers to do the same. Charles Darwin pushed the boundaries of science beyond the traditional thinking mode and challenged people to see the world a little differently.
If we are to be transformed by Christ, our world has to change. And that means that we must see the world differently, through the eyes of Christ and with a better knowledge of what we do see. So that is why I see Transfiguration Sunday and Evolution Weekend as together and not apart.
I collect sayings and this one caught my eye the other day.
Some people drink from the fountain of knowledge. Others just gargle.” — Robert Anthony, American business professor (my source – Sigma Xi Smartbrief for 21 January 2014)
A friend of mine just asked me a question about John Wesley. An encounter with Aldersgate Road in Springfield, MO, prompted he and his wife to seek some information on John Wesley. Their notes showed that Wesley’s conviction of faith was a result of his study of Luther.
The question asked is “why didn’t he pursue Luther further and possibly become a Lutheran?”
I responded in part by noting that Wesley was already an Anglican priest and so transferring may not have been 1) possible, 2) desirable, or 3) acceptable. I also made the conjecture that there may have been other aspects of Luther that kept Wesley in the Anglican church.
So I know turn to the Methoblog and wonder what you all think?
For those on Facebook, please come over to the blog to post your answers so that non-Facebook viewers can see your response as well.
Peace to all and have a pleasant and safe Labor Day while you ponder this question.
We are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I. For the next four years or so, we are going to be reminded about the death and carnage that circled the world one hundred years ago.
In one sense, I am more attuned to World War I than World War II simply because I have my Grandfather’s diary that he wrote while in France and Belgium in 1918 and 1919. (I have photos from that period in his life on a backup file and if I can find the software to recover the files, will be able to recover them and publish them even though they aren’t pretty by any means.)
What I find interesting is not that this world went to war 100 years ago or how it began. What I do find interesting is how it all developed into what it became and what happened when it was all over.
First, think back to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 and how John Kennedy was worried that what was happening between Cuba, the Soviet Union, and this country could easily escalate into a major conflict. He pointed out the leaders of Europe felt that they were so attuned to each others thoughts that they could anticipate what they were going to do. Obviously, the outcome of that particular thought process didn’t work and millions died as a result.
The other thing that I find interesting comes from a series of comments for the post “Study War No More”. In response to my comment that wars did not solve problems, one commentator replied “except for slavery, Nazism, fascism, and communism”. I didn’t realize that his comment came from a bumper sticker.
When we look at the map of the world before and after World War I, we see the loss of two empires and the expansion of others. The African and Pacific colonies of Germany were given to other European countries and Japan; the Middle East was re-mapped to favor British and French interests (especially considering oil). The concerns of the people living in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia were ignored in favor of the winning colonial powers. And the burdens placed on Germany by the Allied Powers definitely contributed to the beginning of World War II.
So here we are today, watching wars and conflicts in the Middle East that have roots in a conflict in Europe 100 years ago. How different would the world have been if we been more attuned to the needs of the world instead of mankind’s selfish interests?
So this is anniversary we should remember. Maybe we will learn something this time around.
I published my Grandfather’s thoughts for the day of the Armistice on November 11, 1918 here – “My Grandfather’s Diary entry for this day, 11 November 1918”
For those who are interested in such matters, I recently updated my “This is me” page.