Emmanuel Episcopal Church
June 20, 2021
Proper 7, B
2 Corinthians 6:1-13
A Mystery Beyond My Comprehension, and That’s Enough For Me
I don’t remember the first time I heard the story of Jesus sleeping through a terrible wind storm at sea and then silencing the storm with a word, but I imagine it went something like this. I heard the story and then went, “Wow, how’d he do that?” “Well,” I was told, “Jesus is God.” “Oh, ok.” See I was never all that amazed by Jesus’ miracles. Not that his miracles weren’t amazing, but starting from a place of believing Jesus is God, it seemed totally natural that Jesus could control the weather, heal people, multiply food. Jesus, being God made all of this, everything, “laid the foundation of the earth…when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy,” so of course he could do anything at all. So, going from that belief about Jesus and then hearing that Jesus could control the weather with a word, I figured, “Well yeah, of course he can.”
For the disciples, on the other hand, Jesus’ controlling the weather was rather mind blowing. “Who then is this,” they asked, “that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Rather than starting from a place of believing Jesus to be God, they were gradually coming to know who Jesus was, and they had barely scratched the surface. Like Job, when God said of him, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?”, the disciples, though they knew Jesus well, were also realizing the enormous depths they had not even begun to plumb.
We’re like this with everyone we know. My brother, Kevin, and I are identical twins. We share the same DNA, and we grew up together, so we are very close and know each other very well. Still, if we plumb the depths long enough, we get to places I don’t know and he doesn’t know. We begin darkening counsel by words without wisdom. We can know people our entire lives and still be surprised by them. There are always greater depths we can plumb, new awareness and understandings of each other to discover.
Being that that is the case for our knowledge of other human beings, we have to admit our knowledge and understanding of God is greatly limited. God is known and has been revealed to us, and God is a mystery. Whenever we try to define God too much, we end up with God’s response to Job, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” We think we know God. We sometimes construct rather tight models of God and have rules around how and who and what God is, and then something happens that we can’t fit into our God understanding box, and our tightly constructed models of God come crashing down. Far from a disaster, what that means is we get to plumb the depths of God even more fully. When our understandings of God prove insufficient, we get to be the disciples in the boat with Jesus, wondering, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
As I said at the beginning, as a child simply hearing, “Jesus is God,” was enough for me to say, “Oh, ok,” to the question of how Jesus could control the weather with a word. Of course he could, he was God. Through further decades of study and plumbing the depths, I’ve barely scratched the surface of much anything more, though I have brought about a lot of helpful questioning and come to a greater heart knowledge of who Jesus is. God is still a vast mystery and yet I have come to experience God as goodness and love, healing and freedom.
I believe we are called to accept and embrace the mystery of God, and to be content with what we can say we know. God is love. Sounds simple enough, but what force or action on earth has greater depth and mystery than love? God is good. We don’t always know what that means, but we can trust in God’s goodness and give up some of our need for and illusion of control at all times.
Here’s what I know personally: when I spend time in prayer and meditation, seeking God’s will, and setting aside my efforts at control, I find peace and unity with people and within myself that I don’t otherwise find. Who is this that brings such peace and unity to life and relationships? God, whom I don’t fully know, and that’s enough for me.
Accepting some knowledge of God as well as great mystery of God, I get to see God all around, in the beauty of creation: in the earth, the skies, the trees, the wind, the water. Seeing God everywhere in the earth brings greater awe for all that is around me, greater respect, and a desire to honor the earth in how I live.
Seeing God in others helps me to see each person’s beauty and to want to give them respect and to honor them in how I live. We see in Jesus’ teachings and actions, that such is his desire for us.
I don’t understand how all of that works, but I accept it as true because it is beautiful and because the fruits of that belief are greater peace, love, and honor towards others and to the earth. Accepting some of these mysteries of God brings the very love, healing, and freedom which I believe God to be.
Looking at another mystery of God, how can Jesus be fully human and fully God? How is it that Jesus could calm a storm with a word? Well, on the one hand, what can’t God do? On the other hand, how exactly does that work, God being everywhere and also that one person? I don’t know. I don’t need to fully understand it. I don’t need to understand how God was specifically there in the human being, Jesus, while also being fully present as the Holy Trinity in the heavenly places, while also being in and through all creation in the known universe and beyond.
I don’t need to fully understand how we are both here living finite, mortal lives on this earth and we are at the same time alive with God in the heavenly places fully united to one another in Christ. Paul writes about that in his letter to the Ephesians, and I don’t know how that works. On this Father’s Day, however, I think about my dad who died six years ago. I still miss him, and I also have joy because I believe that like Paul wrote, I’m not only waiting here on earth to be with my Dad again; I’m already with him in the heavenly places. Now that’s a mystery of God beyond my comprehension, but I don’t have to understand it. I believe it, and that’s enough for me.
How does connecting with God through prayer and meditation, connecting with God through people, connecting with God through nature, how does any of that bring love, healing, and freedom? How are we both here and with God in the heavenly places all at the same time? How does all that work? How does God make all that happen? Well, I’ve got the same answer as my parents had for me when I was a kid asking, “How did Jesus calm a storm?” He’s God. Then I can figure, “Oh, ok. Goodness, love, healing, freedom, of course God can do all that.”