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God Only Knows

sowerandseedMark 4: 26-34
2 Corinthians 5: 6-10
Introduction to the reading
In the Gospel of Mark, the first parable that Jesus tells is the familiar “Parable of the Sower”. Later, when he is alone, his followers ask him about parables, those stories with meaning beyond the literal. And so, he explains to them the parable they’ve just heard. And you know that interpretation: the seed is the word falling on different types of soil that re either barren in some way or fruitful. The kind of soil is critical, and the take away of the story is that we should be good soil, open to the seed of God’s holy word.

The reading for today, five verses later, focuses on the seed that falls on good soil, the ones who “hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”

Most mornings, Peter and I turn on the Weather Channel, just to know what we might expect for the day or the coming week; we pay attention to “Weather on the 8s”.

On Wednesday, I happened to hear Stephanie Abrams discoursing on the heavy rain in New Mexico. “It’s a little early for so much rain,” she said. “I don’t know whether this is the beginning of the rainy season or not… it’s early for that.”

Well, Stephanie, of course you don’t know. You can’t know.

Just like we don’t know the path a hurricane will take or what will happen when the polar ice caps melt – if they do – and when the oceans become more acidic. Just like we don’t know the arc of history ahead of time, even as we might worry over the current ominous signs in this country or in the world. Just like we can’t know why a cancer treatment works for some individuals and not for others.

We can learn, experiment, think, reason, assume, surmise, guess, but only God knows. We can’t know until we look back…

Our scripture readings this morning teach us about that in two ways.

First, from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, as he works out a theology of contrast: body and flesh/spirit; outer nature/inner nature; present/future; transient/eternal; human weakness/divine power and glory. The last verse seems to sum up his thinking on the matter: For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil. In the end, only God knows who you have been and who you are and who you will be.

Paul is consistent on this point. Recall what he wrote to the Corinthians in his first letter to them, in the familiar love passage: For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

Now the way you live your life certainly says a lot about who you are and what matters most to you. You have chosen or fallen into a particular career or profession based on your interests and talents. You carry an attitude toward others – kind and generous or self-absorbed and too full of pride. You strive for goals – to raise your children well, to be good parents; to acquire possessions; to get ahead; to travel the world; to earn as much money as possible. The way you live your life outwardly does say a lot about you.

But it is not the full picture, is it? And maybe not even the true picture of who you really are and what matters most to you.

When I was progressing through the Presbyterian ordination process one of the questions I had to face and answer was: How would I describe myself as a person, a Christian person, seeking to serve God and others as a Minister of Word and Sacrament.

It is a good exercise for anyone – how to describe yourself as a Christian person. It calls for an honest inward look at the most important relationship in your life, for only you and God really know what there is to know about you and only God and you know what there is to know that really matters. From God no secrets are hid.

Secrets are hid from us, however.

The second “God only knows” idea springs from the Gospel reading. The key sentence: “… the kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how.

It does not seem to matter where the farmer sows the seed or what he does afterward. Indeed the human role in the process is minimal after the sowing is done. Night and day, the seed grows while the human sleeps.

We live in an age that seems to be a technological extension of the 18th century Enlightenment. We can come to know anything and everything, from the details of the inner workings of our minds, so that we can dare to try to create artificial intelligence, to the exploration of the vast reaches of the universe. Eventually, we will know it all.

No, we won’t. Not ever. For as much as we think we know, as much as we learn, experiment, think, reason, assume, surmise and guess, only God knows. There is a mystery, miracle and surprise about God’s presence in life and human history that is totally beyond our ability to comprehend. There is a dynamic vitality, a grace and power that we must be in awe of and take no credit for.

Our role is to be thankful, to keep on discovering and to keep on scattering the seeds of God’s will for the world, proclaiming the word, serving those in need, seeking justice and peace in the social order, loving one another.

And now to the One who by the power at work among us is able to do abundantly far more than anything we can ask or imagine, to God be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Rev. Kathryn Henry
Peapack Reformed Church
Gladstone, NJ
June 17, 2018

khenryRev. Kathryn Henry
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