Thursday after Ash Wednesday

by Jeffrey Johnson

abstract art

“Who do the crowds say that I am?”

“But who do you say that I am?”

These are explicit, challenging questions. Jesus asks these pointed questions to those around him – notably – after “praying alone,” according to today’s account in Luke. Yet his disciples are within earshot. They appear surprised by the first question and stunned by the second.

Here Jesus’ direct questions suggest two realms: an outer realm of the opinions of others and an inner, idiosyncratic, individual realm. He implies, firmly, the inner realm needs more serious self-reflection, reconsideration, and reforming. The consequences he states are daunting, but those outlined in the readings from Deuteronomy and the Psalms could seem even starker. Great. Here’s to entering a happy Lent.

Yet I wonder if these texts for the season have to be reduced and interpreted so literally as to only seem paralyzing or divisive. Instead, perhaps they could be absorbed as a candid, tough, but loving guide for working through inner, personal discords – for bracing up in order to re-embrace an unsure future more wholly. Or, reframing a familiar popular meme: to boldly go inward in ways one has not gone before.

Below is a link to a brief video clip of a Mandelbrot set of fractals, which, though not consisting of religious imagery per se, might, with a little imagination serve as a visual allegory to initiate one’s inner journey this season.


[youtube.com: “Slow deep Mandelbrot zoom“]