TO KNOW AND BE KNOWN

PSALM 139, JOHN 1:43-51
ST. AUGUSTINE’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH, MORROW, GEORGIA
THE REV. BARRY GRIFFIN, RECTOR

Some Sundays, at the onset of worship, the priest says a brief prayer that begins with these words: Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid…

All hearts are open to God.  All desires are known.  No secrets are hidden from the Almighty.

When I was little I told my share of lies.  Maybe I told more than my share.  But when I lied, somehow my mother always knew.  There was no foolin’ Mama.  She could see right through me.  Mama always knew.

As I grew older my lying skills got better, and I fooled her now and then.  But I’ve never fooled God.  God knows me too well.

Our creator knows us.  God knows our various weaknesses.  We are, after all, made of dust.  God also knows our various strengths.  Remember, our souls carry the image of God.

In this morning’s psalm we prayed:

                  Lord, you have searched me out and known me;

                           you know my sitting down and my rising up;

you discern my thoughts from afar.

                  You trace my journeys and my resting-places

                            and are acquainted with all my ways.

                   Indeed, there is not a word on my lips,

                            but you, O Lord, know it altogether…

These verses remind us that God knows us through and through.  The key words of Psalm 139 are Know, Known, and Knowledge.  In the 24 verses of Psalm 139 these words occur seven times.

         We are assured that God knows us.  We are also assured that God is with us.  This is very good news.  For the tone of this psalm is trust, not fear.  And if we dare to embrace this good news, if we allow it to shape our thinking, inform our words, and govern our actions, our lives will be changed forever, and we will change the lives of others.

         Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid.  Yet, you love us just the same. 

         Perhaps that’s what Nathaniel discovered in this morning’s gospel.

         Today, we find ourselves at the beginning of the Gospel of John; chapter one.  John’s gospel begins with the most profound theological statement ever written concerning the Incarnation: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… and the Word became flesh and lived among us…”

         The Incarnation: God, in the person of Jesus, became a human being. 

         Then follows the testimony of John the Baptist in Bethany, beyond the Jordan: “I am not the Christ,” he said.  “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’”

On seeing Jesus come toward him, John the Baptist cried out, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world…  this is the Son of God.”

Next day, two of John’s disciples followed Jesus.  “What do you seek?” Jesus asked them. 

They replied, “Rabbi, where are you staying.”

He said to them, “Come and see.”  They stayed with him that day.  (Remember that phrase, “come and see”.)

One of these men was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter.  Andrew found his brother and brought him to Jesus.

“Jesus looked at him and said, ‘so, you are Simon the son of John?  You shall be called Cephas (which means Peter).’”

Now we find ourselves at today’s lesson and the end of the introduction to John’s gospel.  Here we go.

On the following day Jesus decided to leave Bethany and return to Galilee.  He found Philip and said, “Follow me.”

Now Philip was from the same city as Andrew and Peter.  I’ll bet they knew each other.

“Philip found Nathaniel and said to him, ‘We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.’”

Nathaniel didn’t think much of Nazareth: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” he replied.

For the second time in John’s gospel we hear these words; not from Jesus but from Philip: “Come and see.”

And so Nathaniel did just that.  He went to take a look at this guy named Jesus.  When Jesus saw Nathaniel approaching he said out loud, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”

Perhaps Nathaniel was surprised, even shocked: “Where did you get to know me?” he asked. 

Jesus said, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

Nathaniel replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God!  You are the King of Israel!”

In the gospel of John, Jesus knows the hearts of all those he encounters.  He knew the heart of Nathaniel, the Israelite with no deceit.  Having been so identified, having heard his true nature proclaimed, having been known and named, Nathaniel perceives the truth about Jesus: “You are the Son of God!  You are the King of Israel!”

We must know that we are known by God before we can  know God.

An epiphany is a new understanding of God’s identity and our own identity in relation to God.  An epiphany is a gift from God. 

“Follow me,” Jesus said in this morning’s gospel.  “Follow me” is an invitation: an invitation to a new understanding of God.

Here’s the paradox.  It is only when we know that we are known by God, when we finally understand that God knows us and loves us anyway, that we, in turn, come to know and love God.

“Follow me” is an invitation to discover that you are known and loved by God, and to know and love God in return. 

The human heart seeks intimacy: to be truly known, and to truly know.  “Follow me” is an invitation for nothing less than intimacy with God.  It remains an open invitation, no matter how many times we decline.

God has blessed St. Augustine’s.  We are known and loved by God.  In turn, we know and love God.  But the best is yet to come.

St. Paul got a glimpse of what awaits us.  He wrote to the Corinthians: “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face.  Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.”  (1 Corinthians 13:12)

In this world we are limited.  In eternity we will lose earthly limitations.  We will see clearly, face to face.  We will know God fully, even as we have been fully known.

Let’s look forward to that day.  Let’s rejoice in advance, around this table, for the greatest epiphany is yet to come.

Let us pray:  Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid.  God, you know us but you love us anyway.  Give us grace to trust this and to love you in return.

Amen.

         If you would like to respond to this sermon or receive future sermons by email, contact me at barryqgriffin@earthlink.net

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