June 2024


All-Knowing Creator

Ascribe to God

Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year B

Of course, this week’s psalm invites us to recognize that we are also a mystery to ourselves. So, how do we invite people to enter into the mystery of themselves as well as the mystery of God? Perhaps begin with singing and reading the assigned verses from Psalm 139 together.

“Search me.” I don’t know if we say that anymore. “Search me!” That shows you how far out of coolness I am these days. Ah, well. But I remember saying it all the time. “Search me.” It has probably been replaced by the ubiquitous “whatever” by now. “Search me.”

It was an “I don’t know” kind of thing. It was an admission of ignorance and maybe complacency. “Search me.” It refers to what we don’t know. And the list of what we don’t know is rather long—starting with ourselves and moving on to … well, almost everything. In this first after-Pentecost series, we are looking at God. Better yet, we are studying God; we are analyzing God; we are, in short, doing theology. Cool. What do you know about God? What do you think about God? What do you believe about God? Search me.

One of the problems the church has these days, some think, is that we are no longer sure what we believe. We want to move beyond a childish faith, and we want to incorporate all that human beings have learned about how the world works - and how we work - and yet we keep being told that what we’ve learned about the world can’t fit into what we believe about God. They don’t match; they bump up against each other, and something has got to go. Unfortunately, for most of us, what has gone is diligent theological thought. That isn’t the same as saying that we’ve lost our faith. We just don’t think about it all that much anymore. We can’t make it work, so we don’t bother. What do you believe about God? Search me. That’s what many have come to these days. It is just easier. Search me.

Of course, “search me” is also used in another way. The way that Psalm 139 uses it. And maybe it is that searching or the acknowledgment of God’s searching that might help us reclaim our faith as a reasonable part of our existence. Faith can be reasonable? Does that make sense? Search me.

No, wait. I didn’t mean that. Of course, it can. We think about our faith. We declare our faith. We even itemize our faith. Let’s consider, for example, the opening statement in the Apostles’ Creed. We could look at the articles of religion tucked away in our Discipline, but let’s go simpler. We believe in God, the Father, the Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.

Luke Timothy Johnson, a biblical scholar, presents in his book simply called The Creed that faith is an existential response of the whole person characterized by trust, obedience, and loyalty (faith is what we do, not simply what we think). Johnson writes that he “has come to appreciate how critical the role of belief is in structuring that response.” (Luke Timothy Johnson, The Creed: What Christians Believe and Why it Matters, Darton Longman & Todd, 2003, vii.) In other words, if faith is about doing, our doing has to be driven by our believing. And the church is the “gathering of those committed by faith to a radical response to God.” But that response, Johnson argues, grows out of a communal sense of identity that is hard to grow without something like a creed.

A creed, then, is a statement of belief that defines us as a community of faith. It identifies us for ourselves and for the world at large. We are the people who believe. And because we believe, we live, we serve, we act, we love.

The problem with starting with the doctrine of God is that it is, in the end, too large a subject to grasp in its entirety. Every statement, every image, every description about God is only a part of the whole. And the whole is beyond our reach, which is exactly what the psalmist says. The psalm ends with an admission that knowing all of God is beyond us. But it begins with the affirmation that being known by God is the nature of the relationship. In fact, the essence of the psalm is the declaration that the only knowledge of God accessible is in relationship.

The Apostles’ Creed reminds us that we call God, Father. This is not to reduce God to a human role but to lift humans by acknowledging that the parenting role is a part of the divine. So, whether we are father or mother, whether we care for birth children or adopted children or children baptized into the family of God, we reflect an aspect of God. We believe that God cares, and so we do too.

The creed also reminds us that God is creator and that all of creation has a single point of origin. However, we understand that creation to have taken place, we worship God as the creator of all there is. We can argue methodology, and we do, but there need be no conflict with the article of faith that claims God as creator.

The creed echoes the psalm with a single word – “Almighty.” What does that mean? Search me. No, wait. It means that there is more to God than I can grasp with my understanding. It means that I trust in the power of God, even when I can’t sense it. It means I believe in the power of God, even when it seems God has lost a grip on the world God created. It means I will spend my days seeking evidence of that power and that presence with confidence and hope.

O Lord, you have searched me, and known me. Let me in my own small way return the favor.

In This Series...

Trinity Sunday, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes Third Sunday after Pentecost, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes