Dear Fellow Children of God,
This week I was sitting in a meeting when I was casually asked a number of questions. It seemed that my answers to the questions were consistently, “I don’t know.” Someone else jokingly pointed out the pattern of my not knowing. But, a third person present responded with the comment, “It takes a wise person to admit when they don’t know something.”
Actually, there are many situations in which God’s children have to admit that we do not totally know or understand how God is working at that time in our lives. For example, on Wednesday evening I used an example from a movie in my sermon. After worship I had a conversation with someone who pointed out how much that example reflected their life. I had no idea. However, I also believe that when some incident in life may seem like a coincidence to us, maybe that incident is not a coincidence. God may be acting in ways we don’t understand.
However, this week we have also prayed for God’s mercy in the life of a family member of one of our church members. In spite of our prayers, every time we got an update it seemed that the health of the person for whom we were praying got worse. While I believe God can and does act in grace and love even through death, I am not ready to say that death is God’s will. Death is the result of sin, not the plan of God.
Does that sound inconsistent? I am sure it does. How can I on one hand say there are no coincidences, and on the other hand say that death and evil are not the plan of God. But, who are we to think we can understand all of who God is or how He acts? In fact, sometimes there IS wisdom in admitting that God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours are.
St. Paul faced a number of mysteries. One questions of those really tugged deeply at his heart. Paul was born Jewish and deeply loved the people of his heritage. Paul also believed Jesus’ words that people are only saved for eternal life in heaven by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus. Yet, when we read Romans 9-11 and consider Paul’s struggle, we see that Paul also believed God had not abandoned his ‘chosen people.’ Paul believed God had a plan of grace and mercy in Jesus, the Messiah, for these beloved people. Is this inconsistent? Yes, it seems to be. That is why Paul ended these three chapters with the following song of praise.
“33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! 34 "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?" 35 "Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?" 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.” (Romans 11:33-35)
However, when we are led to admit, “I don’t know,” when life leads us to questions that only God can answer, and when it seems that God is not speaking, there is something that God wants us to know. That something is actually someone – Jesus!
God also caused Paul to write in 1 Corinthians about the mystery of how our Lord works. “22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (I Corinthians 1:22-24)
It doesn’t seem to make sense, it seems inconsistent that the Holy Lord of the universe who calls for His created children to live holy lives would send His only Son into the world to suffer and die for the sins of those who rebelled against Him. But, the greatest action of God in history is found in the life and death and rising of Jesus Christ, even if the grace of God in the life of Jesus is beyond our understanding.
When I was in college in the 70’s a popular saying among Christians was, “Jesus is the answer.” One of my friends was offended by the over-simplicity of this pronouncement. When he heard someone speak this pithy statement his reply would be, “So, what’s the question?” Yet, the longer I live, the more I realize that I don’t know and I don’t understand everything about life, nor how God is working. But, I see greater wisdom now in that pithy saying. Because when I don’t know and when life is beyond me, I believe God’s answer is Jesus. In Jesus, God is speaking love and grace for the unanswered questions of life.
A Child of God, Finding Strength in God’s Wisdom for my Lack of Understanding,
ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ - I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have. (I am always adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.) However, if you don’t want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message. . . Or, if you know someone who would like to receive one of these e-mails, please send me their e-mail address.