6.18.2009

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Proper 7), Year B

Job 38.1-11
Psalm 107. 1-3, 23-32
2 Corinthians 6.1-13
Mark 4.35-41

Wouldn't it be great if we could at least have a list of all the things we did not know? It seems like it would somehow be helpful to at least know what it is we don't know. Most of us have a decent grasp on the fact that we do not know everything, but it is often hard to specifically know exactly what it is we don't know at all or what we don't fully understand about the things we do know a little about. Maybe that would be a step in the direction of a little more humility in the world and in our relationships.

And speaking of things we do not know....maybe there are some things we just cannot know. No matter how deep or how far the methods of science and discovery can take us, maybe there are just some things that we as humans to not have the ability or capacity to grasp. Maybe we are not meant to fully understand how the univerise was created, maybe we are not capable of identifying genetic causes of all diseases, maybe it will always remain a mystery why there are so many single socks in our laundry room.

And, traditionally, in most belief systems when faced with a mystery, the response is often (some version of) "Only God Knows" or "Let Go and Let Yahweh" or "It is all in Allah's Hands", etc.

This week our lectionary readings have us look at some of the things we don't know and some of the things folks in the stories didn't even know they didn't know.

The first scripture is such a great example, we could stop with it. The story of Job is one that lots of folks swing around for a lot of different purposes. Often people want to focus on the topic of Job being "tested" or on how Job lost everything and then was returned to material wealth, but (for us) the important part of Job comes in the last three chapters. Chapter after chapter recount Job and his friends questioning each other and questioning Job as to why he lost his family and material success. And then we get to chapter 38 where it says "and God answered Job out of the whirlwind..." Job and his friends spent a lot of time trying to answer a question it was not theirs to answer. God responds to Job and reminds him that there are some things known only by God.

In Psalm 107 we have several verses that describes God Redeeming people from a variety of trouble and distress. It is a description of folks being "saved" from situations and contexts in which folks normally perish...it is a description of things happening that are not explicable by any human logic...some things are only possible and only understood by God.

In Paul's letter to the followers of Jesus in Corinth he offers many examples of the reasons he and his fellow followers of Jesus should have been killed or changed their minds, but somehow and for some reason they have made it through. Verses 2-10 are a beautiful testimony by someone who knows what he doesn't know. Paul knows that he shouldn't have survived those tests and trials and that it is only by the Grace of God that he is still there.

In Mark we see another Classic Bible Story. Jesus and the disciples get on a boat to cross the sea, a violent storm blows in, the disciples get frightened and ask Jesus to do something, Jesus speaks directly to the storm and the sea, and then Jesus points out to the disciples something that they did not know they did not know. Jesus stops the wind and the waves in a way that no human can do. And then he points out to the disciples a lesson they had not really been faced with so far--they did not know that Faith was something that they might not have fully developed, that they could develop and that with their faith, they might be able to overcome the fear instilled by a violent storm out on the sea.

The scope of what we do not know - what we cannot know - is sometimes too hard to comprehend and maybe (just maybe) our pride gets in the way of our admitting to what we cannot know.

Have you identified unknowable mysteries in your life? What do you do with those mysteries?
Are there things that you cannot accept not knowing? Why?
For you, what is the difference between knowledge and belief?

God,
There is so much before me every day -
so much that I cannot understand,
so much that I cannot know.
And what I cannot know,
I cannot control - and that is hard.
Help me to relax to be still
and to know that
You are God,
for some days,
that is all I can know.
Amen

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