Thesis 22: Go Look At The Stars

This post is part of a series of meditations on each of Luther's "95 Theses." You can view all posts in the series here.

22. Whereas he remits to souls in purgatory no penalty which, according to the canons, they would have had to pay in this life.
Last week, I posted on the new and improved UMC LEAD website about a picky wording in the mission statement of the United Methodist Church. A couple of people disagreed with me. You should head on over and do so as well.

Whenever I find myself in these conversations, even when I myself have my nose in the book and am picking apart the law, this general feeling of indifference washes over me at some point. Again, it's a feeling. It's more something that pulses in my ribcage than my temples. 

So, whence this wash of indifference? As much as I can appreciate purposefully assembled rulebook, I tend to be the type who learns them in order to break them. I want to learn my blues scales backwards and forwards blindfolded with one hand tied behind my that I can eventually play jazz.

But I think the church too frequently stops at the blues scales lessons and rarely moves onwards towards jazz.

The indifference wash comes when we stop at the point of learning our canons. Who gets to make our canons these days? Who is still excluded from the creation of these canons? If our canons don't enable us to move forward into the gradual opening blossom of our understanding of God, what good are they?

It reminds me of one of my favorite Whitman poems, "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer," one I first learned in high school:

When I heard the learn’d astronomer; 
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me; 
When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them; 
When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room, 
How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;         5
Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself, 
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time, 
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

Notice how, though he became "tired and sick," the student still needs his learning to make sense of his scientific endeavors. But if he doesn't marry this learning with enjoying the stars in "perfect silence," it is somehow incomplete.

May we take more time to leave the lecture hall and observe the night sky.

Image by flickr user cjewell. Licensed for reuse under Creative Commons.


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