(1 Kings 3:5-12, Psalm 119:129-136, Romans 8:26-39)
Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
(watch here: https://youtu.be/p9-pp8yPf10)
31He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.
33He told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with* three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.
44‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
45‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
47‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Treasures New and Old
51‘Have you understood all this?’ They answered, ‘Yes.’ 52And he said to them, ‘Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.’
What does it mean to know God? Is it even possible to know God? How do we even begin to know God? These questions are at the root of our assigned readings for this morning. We all want to know God, even those who claim there is no God. Sure, they might devote all their attention to better understanding his creation than actually getting to know him better. They might be afraid of getting to know God better. For some reason, they had an encounter with him that scared them or angered them or frustrated them or just plain confused them. Instead of moving beyond that experience and seeking to better understand God and why He does the things He does, they dismiss his existence altogether. But that isn’t enough to dismiss the longing to know God. No, we ALL want to know God. Perhaps more importantly, we all want to be known by God. We all want to know that our lives have a purpose. We all want to know that we’re not aimlessly stumbling through this life. We want to know that we matter, that what we do matters, and we come to know these by getting to know God. Only God can give purpose and meaning to our lives. Only God can truly know us. Only God can understand what we do and why we do it. It’s no wonder that we have this innate need to know God.
And yet getting to know God is the most difficult thing. There’s no book out there, no class, no experience, no relationship that can give us exactly what we need to know God. Knowing God, knowing the mind of God, is an elusive, impossible goal. None of us can ever fully know God and the mind of God. At best, we can only hope to get glimpses of his full glory and majesty. We can only hope for quick flashes of God’s might and power. We, like Moses on Mount Sinai, must avert our eyes when in God’s presence. We must look away lest we are consumed and destroyed by his sheer majesty. Even the slightest glimpse of God caused Moses’ hair to turn gray, a sign of death and decay. Just imagine if he was exposed to his full glory. We can’t handle God’s full glory. We can only handle portions of God’s glory. We can only handle little bits and pieces of God’s glory in this life and in this world. The price is far too great to receive his full glory. No, we must be content with receiving whatever glory God feels we can handle.
Over the last several weeks, we’ve set out on our long journey through Pentecost. It is a journey meant to help us better understand God, one that many people have taken over the years. Many people have sought to know God and God’s will in their lives. In our passage from 1 Kings, we heard the request that King Solomon made of God. Solomon, the son of David, ruler of countless people, was approached by God in a dream and given the opportunity to ask for anything from God. He could have asked for long life or riches or fame or status or death to his enemies. He could have asked for anything in this world and God would have given it to him. But Solomon asked for an understanding mind to govern God’s people and ability to discern between good and evil. He understood his responsibility to God’s people and valued that responsibility more than any personal gain. He valued that responsibility so much that asked for exactly what Adam and Eve asked for in the garden of Eden: the ability to discern between good and evil. In essence, Solomon asked to better understand God. He wanted to know God so that he might govern God’s people accordingly. Perhaps because he asked for such knowledge instead of stealing it as Adam and Eve had, God grants Solomon his request. He goes on to reign with profound wisdom and compassion.
In his letter to the Romans, Paul also seeks to better understand God and God’s ways. We heard him boldly assert, “we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” Paul starts the assertion with “we know” yet who among hasn’t wrestled with believing that “all things work together for good for those who love God?” It takes great faith to believe that simply loving God enables all things to work together for good! All we have to do is love God with all our hearts and minds and everything will work together for good. That is a hard thing to believe when we see our world falling apart in front of us! That is a hard thing to believe when we see lives destroyed, families torn apart, resources squandered! To believe that “love in God” will somehow turn it all into something good…that is a hard thing to hold onto! Yet we can make such an assertion because God IS love and love is a mighty force in this world. Love is what holds our world together. If we but love God, then the love of God will go to work in our world bringing all things into goodness. To know God is to know the love of God. To know the love of God is to know goodness. We are loved by God! All goodness comes out of his love for us! Loving God unleashes his love and goodness in our lives and our world! Though we struggle at times to believe in God’s goodness, we mustn’t forget that his love is steadfast and true and that his goodness is shared when we love him.
Both Solomon and Paul came to know God better through wisdom and love. God’s glory wasn’t fully revealed to either of them. Remember, none us can handle God’s full glory, only portions of it. So God came to us in the form of a man, a limited portion of himself. Yet Jesus revealed a lot of God’s glory. In our passage from Matthew, Jesus taught us several ways to understand heaven, God’s kingdom. Just as we long to better know God, so, too, we long to know God’s kingdom. We long to know where our souls will reside for all of eternity. We know that this world is only temporary. We know that our time in this world is only temporary. We want to know where our permanent home is, what our permanent state of existence is. Jesus uses several comparisons to help us better understand what that home looks like. Beneath all the comparisons is the understanding that to know God is to know heaven. The more we know God, the more we know heaven. Heaven is nothing more than an awareness. It is a state of being at peace and harmony with all that is. Heaven is both in this world and out of this world. Of course, this teaching has naturally spawned several transcendental philosophies but the underlying wisdom still holds true—to know God is to know heaven. To know God is to be aware both of ourselves and the world around us. Awareness is the key to understanding God and God’s kingdom.
So as we go through this long journey of Pentecost, let us strive to become more aware. Let us seek God in all that we do from day to day. He’s there walking beside each one of us. He’s there, always eager to offer wisdom and love. Let us set about becoming more aware. God reveals himself to us in precisely the right form at precisely the right time to never completely overwhelm us. God knows what we need to know about him. What we need to know, and what so many of us forget, is that God is love and loves us. God loves each one of us so very much! To know love is…to know God.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.