Friday, November 11, 2011

Moments of Insight

Friday, November 11, 2011 -- Week of Proper 27, Year One
Martin, Bishop of Tours, 397

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 992)
Psalms 88 (morning)       //       91, 92 (evening)
1 Maccabees 1:41-63*                *found in the Apocrypha
Revelation 19:11-16
Matthew 16:13-20

There are moments of intuition.  Occasionally in an instant, things become clear.  Sometimes we see profound, complex things that have perplexed us, and suddenly it all seems so simple.  Insight happens.

As I read again the story of Peter's confession -- "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God" -- I can imagine him speaking in a tone of voice and with facial gestures conveying that even he is surprised by his own words.  Where did this insight come from?  "Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you..." 

Years ago our local radio station broadcast a winsome little program by Earl Nightingale, a motivational speaker.  It only lasted a minute or so, but Nightingale tried to offer listeners a nugget of his brand of wisdom or encouragement.  One story that has stuck with me concerned a chemical engineer who was trying to solve a complex problem about the molecular structure of a particular substance.  He had spent hours in the laboratory.  He had wasted much paper trying various sketches and equations. 

One day at home, as the scientist was watching something distracting on television, his mind in neutral, the answer to his research just appeared to him like a 3D vision in mid-air, between his lounge chair and the television screen.  He saw the structure of the substance in its entirety, and it made complete sense.  He could even ask the vision to turn around so he could see it from all angles.  The answer was given to him. 

Of course there had been hours of preparation that set the foundation for his discovery of a moment.  But isn't that often how these things happen?  We dig and struggle and persevere, sometimes with great futility, then, in an instant something is revealed.

In the back of my mind there is a story about Einstein's discovery of relativity coming in a flash of insight from a mind game he was pondering.  Many of us treasure Thomas Merton's Louisville epiphany on the corner of 4th and Walnut where he "suddenly realized that I loved all the people and that none of them were, or, could be totally alien to me. As if waking from a dream -- the dream of separateness."  (Private Journal, March 19, 1958)  Gerald May tells the story of an addict who found equanimity and freedom in a moment while walking his dog.

Today is St. Martin's day.  Legend has it that while Martin was a Roman soldier and a catechumen, a beggar approached asking alms.  Martin impulsively drew his sword and cut off a portion of his soldier's cloak and gave it to the poor man.  That night in a dream, Jesus appeared, clothed in half a cloak, and said, "Martin, a simple catechumen, covered me with this garment."

These moments happen to us.  They are full of grace.  They also seem ephemeral and fleeting.  Though we may be changed, we must claim the change.  It helps to write things down, like Merton's journal.  It helps to tell another, like Peter's witness to Jesus.  We can forget.  We can also, like Mary, treasure these things, and ponder them in our hearts.  


Audio podcast:  Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week.  Click the following link:
Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at -- Click for online Daily Office
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this location -- --  Click for Divine Hours

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

See our Web site at

Our Rule of Life: 
We aspire to...
    worship weekly
    pray daily
    learn constantly
    serve joyfully 
    live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas


At 9:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice reflection. Moments of discernment occur none too often.


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