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The Rev. Anthony Robinson The Rev. Anthony Robinson
The Rev. Anthony Robinson is a minister in the United Church of Christ, author of 12 books, and president of Congregational Leadership Northwest in Seattle, WA.

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Tony Robinson: Understanding

February 16, 2014

"Who is wise and understanding among you?" - James 3:13 

Now there's a good question. "Who is wise and understanding among you?"

In the modern era "understanding" came to mean something like standing over or above something. To understand was to analyze a thing into its constituent parts, to figure it all out. Sort of like dissecting a frog in biology lab. Understanding as control.

But in an earlier, pre-modern, time "understanding" meant something different, something more literal. It meant standing beneath or under something too large to fully see. From underneath a bridge or a mountain something remains hidden. Understanding as wonder.

We understand God, to the extent we do, in a similar way. We stand under a reality, a power and a presence that we do not fully grasp, completely know, or - well - understand.

In the Islamic faith this point is made with the little story of the One Hundred Names of God, according to which the Prophet revealed 99 of God's names to his followers, but the 100th name of God he confided to his camel. Why? Because no one should know - or think they know - all that there is to know about God.

True wisdom is an awareness of our limits, an awareness that we don't know, not fully, not completely. We stand beneath truths too great to fully grasp or control. 

Grant me grace, O God, to grow this day in wisdom and understanding. Amen.


Taken with permission from UCC StillSpeaking devotionals. Visit

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