Looking at the bookshelf in my office I see the clutter accumulated over my career. Between my Oxford Bible Companion and my Book of Worship sits the DSM V with a canister of pick up sticks and a candle to keep them company. Books of poetry, theology, and psychology along with hymnals and worship resources line the shelves cluttered with rolls of duct tape, shells, dog biscuits and an odd assortment of other things. Some of these things I’ve had since childhood – the Romeo and Juliet dolls my mother made and a picture of Jesus surrounded by children. Other things are more recent additions – remnants of group therapy activities and other items that migrated from my desk at one time or another. Someone recently pointed out that a person could learn a lot about me based on what is on these shelves.
These items wouldn’t tell the whole story, though. You wouldn’t see the part of me that marvels at Abram’s courage to follow God into a new life by leaving everything familiar behind. You get no hint at the tears that come to my eyes every time I read the passage about Nicodemus going to Jesus in the night, desperate to find answers and understand and accept. Nothing shouts out the gratitude I have for the life I am living nor does anything whisper the secret yearnings of my heart.
Anyone could walk into my office and gain knowledge about me. But not the same knowledge as that gained from meeting me. This sort of knowledge has been the theme of my week. Several people have said some version of “I know all about God. I read the Bible so I’m good. What more do I need to know about God?” The Bible says a fair amount about God, but it doesn’t begin to tell the whole of the story.
God invited Abram into a new life. It was a life that involved a trusting relationship with God, not just knowing about God. Nicodemus knew all about God. When he encountered Jesus on that long-ago night, Jesus spoke of a different kind of relationship. A God-so-loved-the-world kind of relationship that was full of life and more truth than factual knowing could ever reveal.
As I contemplate the semi-contained chaos of my bookshelf and those who came to me insisting that the Bible tells them all they need to know about God, I’ve realized the path that might lead me through Lent this year. It’s time for me to clear out some clutter and some false notions about who God is in my life and maybe satisfy some of those secret yearnings.
I lift up my eyes to the hills from where will my help come? My help comes from God, who made heaven and earth. God will not let your foot be moved; God who keeps you will not slumber.
RCL – Second Sunday in Lent – March 16, 2014
Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
John 3:1-17 or Matthew 17:1-9