I expected the BBC to kick off its evening news with the gathering of the nations of Europe to discuss how to respond to the latest twist in the Brexit saga. But no, perhaps making a subtle joke about Brexit, they started with a report on the first ever photo of a black hole.
The photo cost $50 million to take and involved 25 years of preparation with 200 scientists coordinating 8 telescope cameras positioned across the globe – one at the South Pole. The hole is 500 million trillion km away and is 40 billion km in diameter. The whole operation was a bit more complicated than Brexit. It seems the BBC got its priorities right.
Well, maybe not! The taking of that photo involved setting in motion a series of algorithms, ‘processes or sets of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer’. One just has to wait until all the calculations have been done! Einstein proposed there were ‘black holes’ as a result of the calculations of his own brilliant mind but he could not prove it. Now it has been proved. There is euphoria among the scientists involved. But there is no algorithm for Brexit. It is less a matter of calculation; more a matter of judgement. And no set of legislators have been able to convince a sufficiently large number of other legislators of their judgement. So there has been an impasse for months. Wisely, they have come to the decision not to make a decision. They will wait until a consensus emerges.
Some conclusions are reached by scientific evidence; others by painstaking judgement. But others, and this is where we are in Holy Week, are reached by prejudice and blind adherence to fixed ideas. For Jesus to say, ‘Before Abraham ever was I am’, struck some of his hearers as blasphemy and ‘they took up stones to throw at him’. From his words and signs one could surely conclude that Jesus’ claim ‘that I am he’ had merit and was worth exploring, as Nicodemus did. But most of the Jewish leaders – and all those they represent in every age – did not and do not. One of the saddest qualities of being human is the ability to close down our mind and build a wall around it that seems impenetrable. How we develop this ability is a mystery but it is real. And closed minds perpetuate injustice, oppression and death.
‘And yet ours were the sufferings he bore, ours the sorrows he carried’.
14 April 2019 Palm Sunday Isaiah 50:4-7 Philippians 2:6-11 Luke 22:14-23:56