There are plenty of ways to learn something new. Take, for instance, a new piece of music. Some people can pick up a sheet of music and sight read what’s on the page. Others may need to hear it once or twice and have a chance to repeat it before they can internalize the tune.
This method of learning by repetition is sometimes called “rote” learning, and it’s most commonly used in the areas of music, mathematics (think of your times tables), and religion (ever required to memorize a bible verse?). The technique is sometimes criticized as leading to a surface understanding of a subject and missing an opportunity for deep learning.
For the last four weeks, during this season of Epiphany, we have heard God’s voice and the testimony of witnesses saying pretty much the same thing about Jesus over and over again, “this is the child of God.” At the river Jordan and on the mountaintop God says, “This is my Son, with whom I am well pleased.” John the Baptist and Peter offer their testimony to that effect. We are told to listen and to follow.
Very soon, however, we will come to the end of this season of Epiphany. Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. The season of revelations and manifestation gives way to a time of journey and mystery. Lessons not learned through repetition will return to us as opportunities for imitation. The light found during Epiphany shines on Lent’s pathways, and we begin the deep learning of the coming forty days.