Psalm 139:1-11, 22-23; Genesis 28:10-19a; Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
We went out the other night to look at the comet. It was almost impossible to see with your eyes alone, but with a pair of binoculars or a camera pointed in the right direction, you could see the a small white ball of ice & rock and it’s glowing tail racing away from the sun. It will end up beyond the edges of our solar system soon to return in 6800 years! Truly a once in a lifetime experience!
The Psalmist says, “If I climb up to heaven, you are there!” I’m like, “Oh, I’m right there with you!”
Likewise, “if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.”
- A teen playfully jumped off the railroad trestle bridge last week & tragically drowned.
- A dear friend died a week ago to a debilitating pulmonary disease that took away her ability to breathe.
- Hundreds of thousands have died, and continue to die because of the coronavirus.
- John Lewis died early yesterday morning. A man who worked tirelessly most of his life to counter the evil of racism.
All of these people lived lives few of us will ever truly know. They were once in a lifetime children of God whose experiences are only fully known to their Creator. I have hope in believing these people died into the arms of our merciful God.
Psalm 139 is my favorite psalm because it brings me home. It holds me together like glue when joy causes my heart to melt and puts me back together again when life seems to be out of control. We read much of it today, although not all of it, which I think is too bad because (teaser alert) it says much about the whole of us and how we can be filled with such goodness and such heartlessness.
Go read the whole thing sometime. I used to hate that part and was glad when it wasn’t included. Now I know it is a part of who we are and that we should name it so that God can heal us.
You can think of this psalm as, “Oh my God! there is no place I can escape,” or you can think of this psalm as, “Oh my God, there is no place you are not here for me.” I prefer the latter.
To know God when life is good is a blessing. We see the beauty and love all around us and we smile and give thanks. But when all else has failed, fallen apart, or blown up in my face, to know that God has not left me to go it alone, makes all the difference in the world. It doesn’t matter if the sun is shining down on me & I’m joyful or if the awfulness of the day threatens to throw me into despair. God is always there.
There is no place I can go where God is not present. God knows me so well that I’m never alone. It doesn’t mean things might not go horribly wrong, sometimes they do. It does mean that I will never have to go through them alone.
Think for a moment about the people you know. Who knows you best? How long have they known you? What secrets have you shared with them? What secrets have you kept from them? How well do you think they really know you?
Even in the closest of relationships, there are secrets that are kept hidden. There will always be things and feelings I hold too sacred or too shameful to share.
But these intimate relationships are essential to us because when others know us, and more importantly love us, our very existence matters.
Theologian Frederick Buechner said, “What we hunger for perhaps more than anything else is to be known in our full humanness, and yet that is often just what we also fear more than anything else.” (From Telling Secrets)
In this psalm we learn something about God…that God knows us in a way that no other person does or can, or probably even wants to. God sees through the walls we build around ourselves and the personas we put on depending on who we’re with or what we’re doing.
God knows us intimately, personally, lovingly. And being known by God in this way, there is the wonderful affirmation that we truly matter. Everything about us matters…the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful. If you applied the Gospel to this knowing, it would be that God knows the wheat part of you and also the weeds part of you.
For many people this idea that God knows us so totally can be more than a little frightening, because we do know about ourselves; the secrets we hide from others, and the evil thoughts that run around in our minds.
Maybe this is why confession is so good for us.
The promise of the Psalm is that “even the darkness is not dark to God; the night is as bright as the day.”
God sees beyond the evil that lurks in me and in God’s knowing of me in this profound way God continues to love me. It is that way for each of us. God sees beyond the evil that grows in us along side the goodness and lets it be because sometimes rooting it out destroys everything that we are.
It’s easy to look at the gospel story this morning and overlay the wheat and the grain on things that are happening today. Many people are so want to do that. Including me. There seems to be no shortage of evil activity on the right and the left and the up and the down.
There is so little regard for the people who do good and work so hard to bring it into being. And yet, evil chokes out this good and we want to go in with a machete and all it will do is take out everything.
Let us for at least a moment, let it be. If God knows us so well that our inmost thoughts and hopes and dreams are held up in utter goodness, then perhaps we can leave the final act alone. God knows how we feel, what we would opt to do if given the chance. It is not our place and our trying to do so just thwarts God’s work at restoring all things.
In the reading from Genesis, we pick up the story of Jacob. Honestly, Jacob is a despicable man. He has stolen his brother’s inheritance, fooled his father, cheated people right and left, had tricks played on him and played them back to get revenge. And yet God says to him, “Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go…” When Jacob wakes from his dream he says, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” He may have been afraid, but he says, “How awesome is this place!”
Our world is awesome, and it is filled with evil that we do not understand.
Don’t let it blind you to the beauty of the cosmos, the gift of friendships and love, and the endless love of God who loves us and will be with us in the midst of it all.
© The Reverend Patty Baker, Vicar
St. Clare Episcopal Church