God knows you
A sermon preached by Pastor Ken Carrothers on July 5, 2020
•Exodus 5:1-2; 7:8-23•
What does it mean to know God? It feels as though that question is at the heart of our reading today. Moses and Aaron tell Pharaoh that the Lord, the God of Israel says, “Let my people go.” And Pharaoh responds, “Who is the Lord, that I should heed him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and I will not let Israel go.” And so back to the question: What does it mean to know God?
Now Pharaoh trusted and believed in the divine. In fact, Pharaoh believed in a whole plethora of gods. There was a sun-god, the god of the dead, the god of storm and a whole host of others. And then Pharaoh even took it one step further and believed he was a god himself. In that way he isn’t that much different than any other leader who buys their own hype. Pharaoh put his trust and belief in himself.
But that didn’t stop Pharaoh from knowing about the God of the Hebrews. After all it is of great benefit for a leader to know about the people whom they are using to build their empire. But knowing about God and knowing God, while connected, are different things.
I have to think that we each know at least one person who like Pharaoh wonders, “who is this God you speak of?” But just because they ask the question doesn’t mean they don’t believe in a god. A lot of people believe in a “higher power.” In the Large Catechism, Martin Luther writes this, “to have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe in that one with your whole heart.” In that way everyone knows a god, but the question we are asking today is what does it mean to know God — the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?
It is perhaps strange to continue asking the question — what does it mean to know God? — in this specific context. The assumption is that because we are here, we know God. While others may say, “God may be real, but God is not for me” we are taking time to spend with God at this very moment. Therefore, the assumption is we know God is real. We believe in God. We listen to God. We trust God.
Don’t we? Well let’s ask a different question. What does it look like to know, believe, listen and trust God?
For starters, one would obey God wouldn’t they? They would hear God’s commands and they would follow. They would listen for God’s will in their lives and they would willing go. They would trust God’s words. They’d believe God’s call is for good and therefore they would obey.
I suspect one would pray to God wouldn’t they? They would hear God’s promise to listen and they would offer what was upon our hearts. They would hear the invitation to bring their joys, sorrows, worries, troubles and they would bend their knees. They would trust God’s assurance to hear them and therefore they would pray.
And one would share God with others, wouldn’t they? They would take seriously the call to spread the good news of what God has done. They would offer freely what has given to them. They would live out of a sense of abundance and promise that God will provide. They would trust God to bless their sharing and therefore they would share.
And through those actions — obey, pray, share — what they would really be doing was worshipping God. Therefore the answer to knowing God — the Father, Son and Holy Spirit — is to worship God with one’s whole life and being. It is a movement from knowing to action. Leonardo da Vinci has a great quote, “I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.” In this light knowing God is inspired action.
So do we? Do we know God? How often do you feel you obey God? What kind of shape do your prayers to God take? In what ways are you sharing what God has done with others? How much of your life is actually worshipping God?
These are difficult questions and here is another. The folks who say, “God may be real, but God is not for me” — what do you suppose they would say when they looked at our lives any day but Sunday? Would they conclude we know God or would they think we feel the same as them? Would they note any difference between us and them?
Perhaps that is why we are actually here. We are here not because we know God is real. Not because we believe in God. Not because we listen to God. Not because we trust God. We are here because we know we can’t do those things. And that is perhaps exactly why we show up week after week. We are here because we know we fail time and time again and only God can forgive our failings. Only God can bring us peace. Only God can inspire the faith and action of knowing.
Because in the end we are closer to Pharaoh, than we are too Moses and Aaron. Pharaoh didn’t want to listen. Pharaoh didn’t want to change. And when we are honest, that is us as well. We often come down on the same side as Pharaoh. We don’t want to let Israel go. When the status quo benefits us, we want to maintain it. And in doing so we unravel God’s plans. It is not a question of if we will unravel them — it is a question of when.
Ask yourself these questions: What is God asking of us in response to the racial inequality facing our nation? How is God asking us to respond to the coronavirus? What question is God posing when speaking to us about our neighbors in need?
In America our answers are often and quickly equated with being either Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, socialist or capitalist. But I ask, does God really care what political party, persuasion or ideology you subscribe to? I think not, unless it has become the thing you place your trust and belief and in that case your political party, persuasion and ideology has become your god. Then I suspect God cares a great deal.
Otherwise I suspect what God cares about is our response to God’s will and our neighbor. What God cares about is how we are caring for one another. God wishes for life for all and if the status quo isn’t bringing that about, then the status quo has to change. In some ways it is as simple as a friend shared with me this week, “if it is not good for some, then it is not good for all.”
And so why have we come today — we come here to listen to God and to learn to listen better. We are here because we need help in our trust of God’s call upon our lives and the courage to follow that call into faith-inspired action for our neighbor. We are here, gathered near and far, because we desperately want to experience God’s grace upon our hearts and lives. And so we trust God might make it so — because I don’t know if you’ve heard but eventually Pharaoh’s does let God’s people go. It’s another story — another sermon. But if God can convince Pharaoh to do what God is calling him to do, then certainly God can move us. For while we may not know God — one thing is certain — God knows you. Amen.