In the second reading for Sunday, January 29, we have a passage from the First Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 8, verses 1-13. St. Paul, as usual, points us to something true and profound. Here’s what he writes: “Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge, but anyone who loves God is known by him.”
I can recall several times in my life when I thought, beyond a doubt, that I knew something. I can think of examples growing up, in school, while involved in a give ministry and in relationships when I was certain I had come to clear, concrete and definite conclusions about the matter at hand. In fact, I can recall times I was so sure of what I knew that I judged others with contrary opinions to be lacking in some fundamental way. Those who had a different ‘take’ than I did, I reasoned, just hadn’t been shown the true or right way. In fact, my line of thinking continued, if they would just ask me, or listen to me (since I frequently volunteered my special insights without invitation), they would come to the correct understanding that I had reached before them.
Over times, I came to realize that I know less and less. The refrain written by folk singer Bob Dylan rings true: “I was so much older then. I’m younger than that now.”
This has been on my mind as of late because I’ve been meeting with a number of parishioners and going through a small book entitled, The Episcopal Handbook. It’s a wonderful sometimes humorous and most times very insightful book that describes many of the great facets of our Episcopal life and faith. One of the hallmarks of our faith tradition is a pretty staunch refusal to define for people in some sort of exhaustive way what they must believe or adhere to in order to be part of the Episcopal Church, or a member of this parish.
Does this mean that “anything goes”? Not at all. Rather, it means that we remain rooted in and committed to a faith based in ancient Christianity, the Creeds and the Scriptures. At the same time, it means we seek to keep “the main thing the main thing” as we search for the truth and a closer walk with Christ. It also necessarily means that we admit in all humility that we do not have all the answers, as individuals or as a Church. We seek to recognize and affirm that people of good will, even fellow believers in Christ, may come to significant disagreement about some very important issues. However, we also have profound agreement when it comes to seeking, knowing, loving and sharing faith in Jesus Christ.
Yes, I am not as sure now as I used to be – about many things. However, with that sense of being certain of less, I find that I am also growing stronger in faith, hope and love. I don’t need as many black-and-white answers as I once did – I entrust a good deal of that to our loving God and His care. I seek to do His will by doing the next right thing. I seek to praise Him and follow Him. I try to love Him by loving others and I try and remember that when I care for the least among us – the most broken, vulnerable and marginalized, He has promised me that I will find Him there, too.
Somehow, what I know “for sure” is becoming less important to me. I hope that what I know and what I believe may be evident in how I live. I’m nowhere near that point of synthesis, but with God’s grace I remain hopeful!