There is a form of contemplative meditation that has become more mainstream in Christian Spirituality (both Catholic and Protestant) in recent decades called Lectio Divina. I have used this practice in staff devotions at my school occasionally. Lectio Divina simply means ‘divine or sacred reading’. It is a way of meditating, contemplating on the Biblical text that comes out of the monastic tradition of the church. For centuries, monks, whether they lived solitary or in community would use Lectio Divina for their private and communal devotions. The process involved what is called in Latin; Lectio (reading the text), Meditatio (meditating on the text), Oratio (praying) and Contemplatio (contemplating). What is particularly noteworthy of this practice from a Lutheran point of view is Luther’s experience of the Lectio.
Martin Luther was an Augustinian monk. His reforms of the Catholic Church of the Middle Ages was birthed out of his experience of monasticism. And in many ways, Luther reacted against the monastic practices he was formed in. He reacted against many of them as he saw them contributing to his image of an angry God who needed to be pleased. They were works he tried to perfect to obtain God’s grace and favour. Indeed Luther vigorously tried to be the best possible monk he could. He prayed hard, he worked hard, he confessed every sin, yet he still felt it was not enough. Worse still, his failures towards God lead him to deep spiritual despair where he doubted God’s grace and mercy.
When it came to the Lectio, which was embedded into every monk's daily life, Luther reacted against it becoming a performative work in which we try to interpret what the Holy Spirit is saying through our ideas, our thoughts, our contemplation. Even meditating on the Bible can become a work to get the favour of God, a ladder to climb to heaven.
The gospel which Luther rediscovered is the opposite of this. We meditate on scripture as God comes down to us. In Jesus, God became flesh and blood, so in the Bible, God comes down to us as the Holy Spirit is given to us through his word as gift and promise. When viewed through this upside-down lens, scripture has the capacity to interpret us rather than we trying to interpret scripture. When we come to the text with humility, the Holy Spirit becomes our teacher through faith in Christ.
Luther reformed the monastic Lectio by changing the order of devotion from ending in contemplation to ending in something entirely different. Something that speaks to Luther’s theology of the cross. Luther’s Lectio went like this; Oratio, Meditatio, Tentatio. Prayer, meditating on the text, then testing and spiritual attack. Luther went so far as to say from his study of the Psalms that this triad of oratio, medtitatio and tentatio is what makes a theologian. Theology is learnt not from academic study or speculation about who God is but by praying for the Holy Spirit’s guidance, dwelling on God’s word to us, and experiencing the cross as we endure with Christ the trials and suffering in our lives. In the end, when we meditate on the word we meditate on the cross. For it is only through the cross that God fully reveals himself.
Head and Heart Mindful Meditation
Below are two mindful meditative exercises I used during staff week of the new school year with our executive leadership and whole staff teams. So much of our work in schools involves the head, it is important to pause and take time to connect with the heart and centre ourselves before we connect with students. The aim of these exercises is that movement from the head to the heart.
This morning I have two mindful meditative exercises we will experience which are based on words from Psalm 139. One of these exercises is for the head and the other one is for the heart. But first, let’s FOFBOC. Feet On Floor, Back On Chair.
Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when
I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. (Psalm 139:1-2)
When you are still and comfortable, imagine you are sitting or lying on a grassy hill looking up at a clear blue sky. You might like to imagine Christ is there with you, silent beside you, accompanying you as your friend. As you sit there you look at the sky and every now and then clouds pass by.
In this exercise, focus on the sky and let the clouds pass. You will notice that, from time to time, thoughts will come into your head. It might be about the things you have to do today, the people you need to talk to, the emails to respond to. It might be about what you are going to eat for morning tea or lunch, or a worry or a memory you have.
When this happens, place these thoughts onto one of the passing clouds. Do not try to control these thoughts. Rather each time they occur, simply place them on a cloud and let it pass by you, through the sky.
Always redirect your attention to observing the sky. In this way you are not controlling or interacting with your thoughts, you are simply noticing them and letting them pass by.
Continue this task for a couple of minutes.
(Katherine Thompson, Christ Centred Mindfulness, p.138)
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. (Psalm 139:23)
Debrief; How did you find that? Are you someone who can visualize imagery and think in pictures? If you’re not that’s OK. How did you go with what the Buddhists call the monkey mind? Did you tame the wild elephant? We can’t block our thoughts or stop them from entering our minds but what we can choose to do is to not listen to them or be controlled by them. With a mindful activity like this and the help of the Holy Spirit through God’s Word we can instead befriend our thoughts.
In this second activity, the silent meditation, we are moving from our heads to our hearts. It might only be about 40cm from our head to our hearts but it can be longest and most difficult journey we ever take. One of the ways people have done this journey of connecting the head to the heart is through breathing.
In this exercise I invite you to choose a mantra, a short phrase, that you will repeat silently as you take a breath in and then breathe out. The mantra I might suggest to you from yesterday’s service is; “I am a loved…child of God”. So, to connect it to your breath, you would say to yourself as you take one breath in “I am a loved”. And then as you take that breath out and exhale “child of God”. We will try doing this during five minutes of silence. I have a chime for the start and the end of the five minutes. (You can also use a meditation app on your phone that has a timer). By saying over and over the words we choose, with our breaths in and out, we will hopefully be moving from those restless thoughts in the head down to the heart, where the Holy Spirit can centre us in Jesus.
You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb… Search me, God, and know my heart; (Psalm 139:13,23)
Sound a chime or use a chime on a meditation app to signal the start of the five minutes of silence. Then at the end of the time sound the chime again. And as people open their eyes repeat verses twenty-three of Psalm 139 again.
Search me, God, and know my heart; (Psalm 139:23)
Debrief; How did people find that meditation experience? Were people able to get out of their heads and focus on their breathing and chosen words?
Prayer: Thank you God for moments of stillness and silence and we commit this day into your hands. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Freedom of a Christian #3
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
2 Corinthians 3:17
Lutheran Christians believe that the human being consists of body and soul. This is not a separating of body and soul like the ancient Greek philosophers did but a holistic view of humans that is deeply embedded in the Old and New Testaments. In the Freedom of a Christian Luther also phrases it as the flesh and the spirit, or the outer and the inner person. Contrary to some philosophies of our time this means that the Lutheran school provides education for the whole student body, mind and soul. Our wholistic approach for the development of children and young people always involves the spiritual, giving time for the growth of the interior life of the person. This interior life or spirituality in which we experience the struggle between what our body wants to do and what our mind wants to do at times.
The section of the Freedom of a Christian that we are about to read outlines what is needed for the soul, the inner life of a person. Luther is convinced that one thing alone is necessary for the Christian and for their freedom, that is the word of God, the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our interior life can lack everything except the word of God, nothing else satisfies the soul as the word of God which brings life, truth, light, peace, joy, wisdom, power grace and every imaginable blessing. For Luther this word of God is so much more than an individual reading ink printed on the page of a bible. The word of God is a living active dynamic thing when one person speaks it or proclaims it to another person and primarily that word is the gospel, the promises of God in scripture which deliver Christ to us. When we hear this word and it sinks into our soul, faith is produced in us by the Holy Spirit and we learn to rely on what God has done for us rather than our good works. What makes us right with God is not the good works our bodies can do but faith in what Jesus has done for us. Faith alone, in Christ, justifies, makes us righteous.
A Reading from the "Freedom of a Christian"
Every human being consists of two natures: a spiritual and a bodily one. According to the spiritual nature, which people label the soul, the human being is called a spiritual, inner, and new creature. According to the bodily nature, which people label the flesh, a human being is called the fleshly, outer, and old creature… This distinction results in the fact that in the Scripture these contrary things are said about the same person, because these two “human beings” fight against each other in the very same human being, as in Gal. 5[:17], “For what the flesh desires is opposed to the spirit, and what the spirit desires is opposed to the flesh”
The Spiritual, New, and Inner Person
In looking at the inner person first, we grasp how someone may become righteous, free, and truly Christian, that is, “a spiritual, new, and inner person.”
What Christian Freedom Does Not Consist In
It is evident that no external thing at all, whatever its name, has any part in producing Christian righteousness or freedom. Nor does it produce unrighteousness or servitude. This can be proven by a simple argument. How can it benefit the soul if the body is in good health—free and active, eating and drinking and doing what it pleases—when even the most ungodly slaves to complete wickedness may overflow in such things? On the other hand, how could poor health or captivity or hunger or thirst or any other external misfortune harm the soul, when even the godliest, purest, and freest consciences are afflicted with such things? Not one of these things touches upon the freedom or servitude of the soul. Thus, it does not help the soul if the body wears the sacred robes set apart for priests or enters sacred places or performs sacred duties or prays, fasts, abstains from certain foods, or does absolutely any work connected with the body. Righteousness and freedom of the soul will require something completely different, since the things just mentioned could easily be done by some ungodly person and since such efforts result only in producing hypocrites. On the other side, the soul is not harmed if the body wears street clothes, goes around in secular places, eats and drinks like everyone else, does not pray aloud, and fails to do all the things mentioned above that hypocrites could do.
The Word of God Is Necessary for the Soul
Moreover, so that we may exclude everything—even contemplation, meditation, and whatever else can be done by the soul’s efforts—all of this has no benefit. One thing and one thing alone is necessary for the Christian life, righteousness, and freedom, and that is the most holy word of God, the Gospel of Christ. As John 11[:25] states: “I am the Resurrection and the Life, whoever believes in me will never die.” And John 8[:36]: “If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” And Matt. 4[:4]: “One does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Therefore, we may consider it certain and firmly established, that the soul can lack everything except the word of God. Without it absolutely nothing else satisfies the soul. But when soul has the word, it is rich and needs nothing else, because the word of God is the word of life, truth, light, peace, righteousness, salvation, joy, freedom, wisdom, power, grace, glory, and every imaginable blessing.
David in Psalm 119
This is why the prophet throughout Psalm 119 and in so many other places [in the Psalter] yearns and sighs with groans and cries for the word of God.
God’s Cruelest Disaster
Again, there is no crueler disaster arising from God’s wrath than when it sends “a famine of the hearing of his word,” as stated in Amos 8[:11], just as there is no greater grace than whenever God sends forth his word, as in Ps. 107[:20]. “He sent out his word and healed them and delivered them from their destruction.” And Christ was not sent into the world for any other office than the word. Moreover, the apostles, bishops and the entire order of clerics have been called and established only for the ministry of the word.
What the Word of God Is
You may ask, “What is this word and how should it be used, when there are so many words of God?” I respond as follows. Paul explains what this word is in Rom. 1[:1, 3]: “The gospel of God . . . concerning his Son,” who was made flesh, suffered, rose, and was glorified through the Spirit, the Sanctifier. Thus, to preach Christ means to feed, justify, free, and save the soul—provided a person believes the preaching. For faith alone is the saving and efficacious use of the word of God. Rom. 10[:9] states: “If you confess with your heart that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved,” and again [in v. 4]: “For Christ is the end of the law, so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” And Rom. 1[:17] states: “The one who is righteous will live by faith.”
Faith Alone Justifies
For the word of God cannot be received or honored by any works but by faith alone. Therefore, it is clear that the soul needs the word alone for life and righteousness, because if the soul could be justified by anything else, it would not need the word and, consequently, would not need faith. Indeed, this faith absolutely cannot exist in connection with works, that is to say, in connection with any presumption of yours to be justified at the same time by any works whatsoever. (1)
 The Freedom of a Christian 1520: The Annotated Luther Study Edition, translated by Timothy J. Wengert, Fortress Press, Minneapolis: 2016, 11-15.
 Carmelo Santos, The Freedom of a Christian: A Study Guide for Martin Luther’s Treatise, Marking the 500th Anniversary of its Publication, ELCA, Chicago: 2020.
Freedom of a Christian #2
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
As educators in a Lutheran school we know how important it is to encourage students to learn through making mistakes, to move through those times of feeling stuck, to step out of the learning pit, and be challenged, to question, to reflect, and grow in resilience and mindset. Luther knew how important these aspects were in learning, not just in the classroom but also in the Christian faith. Luther emphasized that as Christians we learn through our trials, tribulations and even through suffering in life. It is in this vein that Luther begins his introduction to the Freedom of a Christian.
As a Doctor of Theology who lectured at university in Biblical studies Luther suggests that he has little faith. He encourages us on our spiritual journey that no matter how great or small we think our faith is, we all can access and experience the strength that is offered through faith in Christ. For Luther this faith lies outside of ourselves. It is not mere knowledge. Yet it does include knowledge, reason and logic. Faith in Christ is reasonable, verifiable, historical. That is really important when we encourage and nurture faith in students. For Luther and Lutheran theology faith is primarily trust. Trust in who Christ says he is and what Christ has done for us. Trust in the promises of God. Promise which is found in the Biblical story together with the demands of God. This is where we find paradox and two seemingly contradictory themes; because of God’s grace and forgiveness we have freedom yet as flesh and blood humans we are still bound up by sin. Let’s read now the opening paragraphs to “The Freedom of a Christian.”
A Reading from the “Freedom of a Christian”
Many people view Christian faith as something easy, and quite a few people even count it as if it were related to the virtues. They do this because they have not judged faith in light of any experience, nor have they ever tasted its great power.
This is because a person who has not tasted its spirit in the midst of trials and misfortune cannot possibly write well about faith or understand what has been written about it. But one who has had even a small taste of faith can never write, speak, reflect, or hear enough about it. As Christ says in John 4(:14), it is a “spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Although I cannot boast of my own abundance of faith and I also know quite well how short my own supply is, nevertheless—given that I have been troubled by great and various trials—I hope I can attain to at least a drop of faith. And I hope that I can talk about faith in a way that, if not more elegant, is certainly clearer than has been done in the past by the fancy writers and the subtle disputants alike, who have not even understood their own writings.
In order to point out an easier way for common folk (for I serve only them), I am proposing two themes concerning the freedom and servitude of the spirit:
A Christian is lord of all, completely free of everything.
A Christian is a servant, completely attentive to the needs of all.
Although these topics appear to contradict one another, nevertheless, if they can be found to be in agreement, they will serve our purposes beautifully. For both are from the Apostle Paul, when he says in 1 Cor. 9 (:19), “For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all” and in Rom. 13 (:8), “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another.” But “love” by its very nature is dutiful and serves the one who is loved. The same was true of Christ who, although Lord of all, was nevertheless “born of a woman, born under the law” and who was at the same time free and slave, that is, at the same time “in the form of God” and “in the form of a slave.”
Let us approach these two themes from a rather distant and unsophisticated starting point. Every human being consists of two natures: a spiritual and a bodily one. According to the spiritual nature, which people label the soul, the human being is called a spiritual, inner, and new creature. According to the bodily nature, which people label the flesh, a human being is called the fleshly, outer, and old creature. Paul writes about this in 2 Cor. 4(:16), “Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.” This distinction results in the fact that in the Scripture these contrary things are said about the same person, because these two “human beings” fight against each other in the very same human being, as in Gal. 5(:17), “For what the flesh desires is opposed to the spirit, and what the spirit desires is opposed to the flesh.” 
 Timothy Wengert Translation, Fortress Press: 2016, pp.10-11.
 Carmelo Santos, The Freedom of a Christian: A Study Guide for Martin Luther’s Treatise, Marking the 500th Anniversary of its Publication, ELCA, Chicago: 2020.
Freedom of a Christian #1
So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:31-36.
On the first day of this term I was able to lead a study for our whole staff. I decided the content for this study would be Martin Luther's treatise on The Freedom of a Christian. This year happens to be the 500th anniversary of the writing and publishing of this document. Below you can read an abridged introduction to this study as well as download the PowerPoint quiz and discussion questions I used. In subsequent weeks I will be posting followup reflections on The Freedom of a Christian as I select readings from it to use in our staff devotions. Toward the end of the term I will include the complete study of readings and questions in the Devotions part of this site. Blessings as you enjoy your freedom that serves!
The Freedom of a Christian, written by Martin Luther, is a great introduction to Lutheran theology and spirituality. In this treatise Luther makes the classic Pauline and Reformation distinction between faith and good works, that is freedom comes from the righteousness of faith apart from the law. According to God’s grace we are justified by faith alone through Christ, this is the biblical teaching that Luther rediscovered and is at the heart of the Reformation. In the Lutheran school this has many implications including the fact that the mission of a Lutheran school is to provide not only a quality education but also to be Christ centred and grace focused. This means a Lutheran school is a place of grace in all aspects of learning so that students, staff and families are exposed to and nurtured in a faith that frees us from the accusations of the law and the addiction of works righteousness.
In the ears of people today freedom is usually thought of in terms of the economic or the political. To be free is to be an autonomous individual who has a wide array of consumer goods or the right to choose their government representatives. Since the enlightenment of the eighteenth century freedom tends to be defined in terms of deliverance from oppressive structures, especially those connected with church dogma. For Luther the individual self lacked the resources that would lead to true freedom. “Rather than knowing true freedom, people are much more prone to cling to some earthly good such as wealth, status, or sex. The result can be a bondage that is deep and profound. And it is…ironic because it can happen under the guise of a supposedly autonomous self that is simply doing as it pleases.”
“The freedom Luther has in mind is deeply relational…it is found in a relationship with Christ”. Tranvik in his introduction to Luther’s work makes this analogy. In long term relationships like a good friendship or a faithful marriage there is an abundance of faith and trust along with the joys and sorrows of life. Within such relationships there is little pretension or need to prove one’s worth or value. Hours can pass without a word and yet there is no need to explain the silence. This sense of freedom cannot be purchased in the marketplace or obtained. It cannot be generated through the earnest efforts of an individual will. Rather it is a gift of the relationship itself. This is the freedom of the Christian that Luther writes of in this document.
 Martin Luther, The Freedom of a Christian; Luther Study Edition, translated and introduced by Mark D. Tranvik, Fortress Press, Minneapolis: 2008, Introduction, 28.
 Martin Luther, The Freedom of a Christian; Luther Study Edition, translated and introduced by Mark D. Tranvik, Fortress Press, Minneapolis: 2008, Introduction, 29.
In these anxious times of the corona-virus pandemic, pausing, taking a breath and centering ourselves on God is so important. The rate of change in the day to day life of schools for the end of this first term has been mind-blowing. Teachers and staff have been amazingly open to the huge demands put on them, especially in the area of upskilling their digital technology capabilities. In what looks like a totally new technology driven learning environment for students and staff next term, taking regular breaks from screens and connecting with our bodies will be necessary for everyone's well-being.
With this in mind I have created a devotional resource for staff and possibly secondary students based around the ancient concept of breath prayers (thanks to Steph Maher from LEQ for the idea!). There are lots of mindfulness and well-being resources floating around at the moment but there is not much mindfulness material that uses biblical passages and the promises of God. These breath prayers link a focus on our breath with succinct phrases from the scriptures. I have put them into a PowerPoint Presentation with guided audio on each slide. Below is a taste of what I have created with introductions and the whole script of ten prayers. If you are interested in the whole collection of breath prayers for a ten week term click here Staff Devotions.
Growing Deep Devotion #10
3.2 Nurturing Faith
The second descriptor for leading the team is nurturing faith. This descriptor involves providing opportunities for the spiritual formation of others appropriate to their spiritual journey. It includes demonstrating a commitment to one’s personal faith journey, leading the school community in faith, reaching out to the wider community to build faith and deepen their understanding of Lutheran beliefs and values. It also includes creating an environment where Christian spiritual reﬂection and formation are valued and strongly encouraged.
The Apostle Peter is his letter to the early Christians in Asia Minor who were experiencing persecution penned the following words which also impact how we nurture faith in our school communities; Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.
How do we encourage the nurturing of faith or spiritual growth in our early learning centres, schools and colleges? You might think I am not a pastor, a chaplain, a Christian studies teacher, I am not a regular churchgoer, I not a person of great faith, that’s not really my thing. But we are all part of the Christian community present in our school, so we all have a part to play in being formed in faith and influencing others to grow spiritually. Whether we are strong in our Christian identity or not we all impact and influence other people, either positively or negatively. The spiritual values and beliefs we model have an impact on others.
Reflecting on your own spiritual journey, how comfortable are you in talking about your faith, your spirituality to others? Many people find it hard to talk about their faith for a variety of reasons. They don’t have the language, the background or the confidence. The advantage of teaching in a Lutheran School is that we are all on a spiritual journey through life, growing in our knowledge of the Bible, God, and the teachings of the Church together. We are not doing this alone, we are part of a community which welcomes the growth and grace that comes from questioning together; where are we and where is God in this?
Check out this list of seven “ush” words below. Seven reasons why people find it hard to talk about their faith.
1) Blush (it’s too personal or private)
2) Hush (I wouldn’t really know what to say)
3) Rush (I would struggle to find the time)
4) Push (I don’t have a right to force my faith on anybody else)
5) Gush (I wouldn’t feel able to speak intelligently about my faith)
6) Mush (my own faith feels confused or unclear)
7) Crush (I’m worried or scared how people might respond)
Gracious God, help me to take time out to reflect on my own faith journey. Encourage me to engage in those spiritual practices like prayer and worship which will grow me closer to you. Give me the grace to live out my faith in my school community and when the opportunity arises to share my faith. Teach me, Lord, that you are with me in a very real way in all the ordinariness of life, of work and of family. Bless me with your presence, Jesus, as you bless others through me. Amen.
 Modern day Turkey
 1 Peter 3:15
 From the resource “Faith Pictures” which is produced by the Church Army UK, Getting started, Session 1, Leader’s Notes, http://www.faithpictures.org
Soft and Hard Eyes
Jesus said this about the eyes in his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:22-23; Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have! (The Message). Or as it might be remembered from a more traditional translation; The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! (NRSV)
A person’s eyes are said to be a window into their soul. That’s why that exercise of standing in front of a person and staring directly into their eyes for an extended period can be very disconcerting but also deeply personal and highly bonding. Writers on spirituality talk of soft eyes as compared to hard eyes. Soft eyes help us look at the world in a different way to the usual; they help us see things in a more soulful way. Seeing with soft eyes is a receptive mode. It is receiving and being open to what you are receiving. Seeing with hard eyes is the judgmental, analytical, harsh way of viewing the world. Soft eyes help us step into the world aware but compassionate, welcoming mystery and grace that we might otherwise miss with hard eyes alone.
Rod Windle and Suzanne Warren state in a training manual written on conflict resolution for schools in the US which uses this technique; Soft eyes happen when we relax the muscles around our eyes and let ourselves see with our peripheral vision as well as with our central, focused vision. We see the individual in front of us, but we also see the people to either side, the clock above his head, the lights on the ceiling and the pattern on the floor. We take in everything and are distracted by nothing. Seeing in this way sends an entirely different set of signals to the brain from seeing with hard eyes. As our eyes see more, somehow our brains become more open to the diversity of possibilities that always surround us. Soft eyes also tend to have a calming effect on the people around us, and often on ourselves as well.
Physiologically, we normally use what’s known as our foveal vision. A tiny area of the retina which helps us see details in a focused, analytical way. Things like threading a needle, reading a newspaper or looking at a screen. Foveal vision is about actively retrieving information through our eyes. It’s great for detail but too much of it, and we end up with eye strain, tension around the eyes and in other parts of the body. When we use our soft eyes, we use our much neglected peripheral vision. The aim is to see the detail still but to maintain our wider field of vision so that we are in the moment, more fully are aware of what’s around us. Soft eyes can be particularly useful in a sport where players can receive a pass focusing on the ball while sensing where everyone else is positioned on the field, in their periphery.
Parker Palmer in “The Courage to Teach” writes; Soft eyes, it seems to me is an evocative image for what happens when we gaze on sacred reality. Now our eyes are open and receptive, able to take in the greatness of the world and the grace of great things. Eyes wide with wonder we no longer need to resist or run when taken by surprise. Now we can open ourselves to the great mystery.
Our eyes are a window to the soul, to God, to other people and how we view the world. As our sight is transformed through the grace of God, may we gaze on people, on the world with soft eyes as the light of Christ shines through us.
Purpose and Meaning in Life
A staff devotion I wrote for the thread of purpose we were exploring as a college:
As a young adult in the late 1980s I read a novel that was popular at the time by Douglas Adams called “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”. In the story the main character, Arthur Dent roams the universe in a Vogon spacecraft in his dressing gown and towel, after earth has been demolished to make way for a hyperspace bypass. The story was originally written for a BBC radio show and overtime it has been adapted to stage shows, novels, comics, a television series and a feature film. Anyone who has experienced “The Hitcher’s Guide to the Galaxy” story knows the famous scene in which the computer “Deep Thought” calculates the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything. Indeed this scene from Douglas Adams has achieved cult status with people readily acknowledging that the answer to the meaning of the universe is the number 42.
Ever since Adams wrote 42 as the answer to the ultimate question of the universe, people have wondered and theorized why he chose that particular number. If you search online there are copious theories about the significance of the number 42 and Adam’s intention in using it. Some English newspapers have suggested that Adams was paying tribute to the writer Lewis Carol, who was a mathematician. Lewis Carol made use of the number 42 in Alice in Wonderland and other writings. The number 42 is special in mathematics as it is a meandric, polygonal, pronic, abundant, Catalan number and importantly, the perfect score for the International Mathematical Olympiad. Another suggestion as to why Adams used 42 is because it is the number of lines used in the first modern book, Gutenberg’s Bible which had 42 lines of text per page. A third suggestion is that it is an obscure reference to the traditional number of rulers of Tibet. Adam’s close friend and voiceover in one of the movies, Stephen Fry, swore to secrecy that he would go to his grave never disclosing his friend’s reason for choosing the number. But one newspaper report is that Douglas Adams is reported to have said when he was writing the story he wanted to choose a simple number and at the time as he looked out into his garden, the number 42 came to mind.
For me, that goes to show who much we as humanity complicate things. When confronted with deep questions such as the meaning of life and what our purpose is, we can theorize, come up with great conspiracies, unduly wind ourselves up in intellectual knots, when really the truth is much simpler than we desire. When I was pondering these questions last night, I came across this Bible verse from Philippians two verse four. It’s in a section where we are told of the attitude of Jesus in coming to earth and taking on human form. In four words at the start of verse four we are told that “in humility (Jesus) valued others”. That nails the ultimate question of the universe for me. It’s that simple and that basic; in humility value others, in humility we are to value others above ourselves.
As we journey through life, with maturity we learn that we are not the centre of universe, that our mortal lives on earth are short, everything we experience is a gift from God, and meaning is made through having humility like Jesus as we value others and in turn serve them. What is our purpose and the meaning of life, the universe and everything? Some would say its a number 42, I would say its a person who in humility values us so we can value others.
About this site
"Meditations & Musings" is my humble attempt to share what I have found useful in ministry in an Australian Lutheran School setting. It contains chapels, devotions and other resources I have written, used and adapted in my K-12 school context. If you would like to also share your ideas, resources or start a conversation about mission and ministry in your church- school location, feel free to contact me.
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