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Knowing and Not Knowing

Knowing and Not Knowing

Friday, April 20, 2012 — Week of Easter 2

Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 959)

Psalms 16, 17 (morning) // 134, 135 (evening)

Exodus 16:22-36

1 Peter 3:13 – 4:6

John 16:1-15

[Go to for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” (John 16:12)

It is part of our condition of ignorance and finitude that we don’t know now what we don’t yet know. I can think back to times when I had very different perspectives on some things that are important to me now.

There is one whole category of changed perspectives that emerges from my critical reflection about things that I inherited from my family of origin and my culture.

There is another category that seems to come from my growing beyond the need to belong and to identify with the values of groups that I have associated with. After learning “what we believe” in order to belong, I’ve let go of some of those beliefs when they didn’t hold up for me.

A physician friend of mine remembers a teacher telling the first-year students in medical school that 90% of what he’ll teach them will be wrong by the time they finish their service as doctors, the problem is, he doesn’t know which 90% it is.

So we move about in faith, trusting our best sense about things, but ready and open to surrender our notions as soon as some better knowledge comes to us.

There is a positive and a negative road to travel here.

The old proverb says “when the student is ready, the teacher will come.” We need to nurture our positive “hunger and thirst for righteousness,” for deeper truth and fuller perspective.

But there is also the need to jettison old ideas and attachments that no longer work. I think it was Teresa of Avila who said something like, “God in mercy never makes us aware of our sin until God has also given us the grace to confess it.”

I don’t know now what I don’t know, but God grant me the courage to turn away from my falseness whenever the Spirit of truth comes and guides me into new truth, no matter how scary or humbling it may seem.


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Ann Fontaine

I think the Episcopal Church is based on this passage more than any other.

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