A few days ago a relatively new member of St. Timothy’s told me that the reason he joined St. Timothy’s was because we were willing to acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers. Having been raised in a tradition that claimed to have all the answers, he was astonished when Alex began a sermon saying, “I must confess I don’t know what this biblical text is about.” This was a breath of fresh air for him and he and his wife realized that they had found a home.
As the Episcopal Church seeks to be part of God’s mission in the world today, one of the gifts we can bring the world is the spiritual maturity reflected in this kind of humility. When it comes to living out our faith in the world, we should not be ashamed to acknowledge what we don’t understand. We should adopt the humility of Paul, who at the end of a long reflection on God’s saving work cries out, “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways (Rom. 11:33)!”
When you think about it, isn’t it rather naïve to think that we could fully grasp the God of all creation. Nevertheless, because most of us have been raised to think that there is a definitive answer to everything, and we long for the presumed security that such certainty brings, we find it disconcerting when we can’t grasp the Almighty. Preachers are notorious for doing this. Preachers find it hard to simply invite people into a relationship that is elusive and full of paradox. Therefore, we try to reduce everything—including God—to something that is fixed and manageable.
Of course, God will have none of this. The Spirit keeps blowing “where it chooses” and we haven’t a clue where it came from or where it is going (cf.John 3.7). God will not be managed because God wants something much more from us—a living, ever-changing relationship that values our participation. How about that! The God of the Bible isn’t a static entity whose mysteries we are trying to unlock. No, the biblical God is more of a lover and friend we get to know as we are companions on a journey.
Therefore, as is the case in a life-giving human relationship, it is all about our willingness to invest ourselves in a living dynamic relationship. Are we willing to be honest with God, sharing our disappointments as well as our gratitude, our pain as well as our joy? Are we willing to connect through prayer on a daily basis rather than just once a week in worship service? Are we willing to express our needs and make demands? Are we willing to simply listen? Are we willing to learn how to simply be with God in silence?
In the end, it is all about a loving relationship rather than knowledge. As in a human relationship, the primary goal isn’t comprehending the object of our desire. I will never fully understand the mystery who is my wife, and the goal isn’t to spend my life gathering data to flesh out that understanding. The goal is to remain steadfast in my love for her as we continue our journey together. We will never fully understand the mystery that is God. The goal is to love God with everything we have got and be open to where that leads. Alhough a living, dynamic relationship with God can often be unnerving, would we really want it any other way? Where would be the wonder? Where would be the unexpected surprises? Would there be any passion? We wouldn’t want our human relationships to be static, would we? Such a static relationship wouldn’t require our ongoing loving attention. Would we really want a relationship like that? Sounds pretty boring to me.