Interim Pastor Doug Marshall
Thought for Meditation:
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Test me and know my thoughts.
See if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24
A pastor wrote a book about finding God’s love in the interruptions of life. One Sunday as people were leaving the sanctuary, a member of his church commented that she had just finished reading his book. She loved it, saying it was the best thing she had read since “The Bridges of Madison County.”
The pastor said “That is an interesting review. The message of the two books is completely different.” The woman replied, “I know that, but it doesn’t matter. They both touched me deeply.” The pastor didn’t say it, but he thought to himself, “I guess truth doesn’t matter anymore. What counts is being ‘touched.’ Theology isn’t important.
There is an attitude about theology in the church that is rarely spoken but I sense is very real. Members tend to think “Theology is too hard. It’s over my head. I can’t understand it so I’ll leave it up to pastors. They have plenty of time to think deep thoughts.” Let me give you a little inside information about pastors. Most pastors have the same attitude. “I don’t have time to read theology. I’ll leave that up to the seminary professors. They are the professionals who are paid to think about irrelevant and useless ideas.” [2:00]
If we were to have a theological discussion, one of the best known theological concepts has to do with the “omni’s.” God is omnipotent – all powerful. God is omniscience – all knowing. And God is omnipresent – all present. I looked up a definition of omnipresence.
Omnipresence is that attribute of God whereby he is said to be everywhere present. Traditionally this has meant:
I’m going to stop there so that I don’t totally bore you and put you to sleep. It’s good information and true, but tends to be rather heady and pointless. I think the Bible has a better way to talk about theology. The passage Melissa shared with us talks about God’s omniscience and omnipresence, but in a very different way. Let’s take a look. You may actually want to get your Bible out and follow along.
Psalm 139 has four stanzas. Each stanza has 6 lines. In the first stanza, verses 1-6, we hear about God’s omniscience. God knows us. God knows everything we do. He knows when you stand up or sit down. God knows all of the paths that you walk. God knows what you are going to say before you even say it. God knows when you break your diet. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sneaked a cookie, or two, or four, assuming that if no one see me eat it the calories don’t count. I know that isn’t true, but even if it were true, God sees and the calories count.
God not only knows what you do, he knows what you think about, even if you don’t do it. God knows the lustful thoughts that run through your mind. God know the things you wish you could say to other people but are too polite to say it. God knows the temptations that eat at your soul and the worries that destroy your peace. God knows you intimately, better than you know yourself.
I want to skip the second stanza for now. I’ll come back to it in a few moments. The third stanza develops this idea of God’s omniscience. The reason God knows you so well is that God created you. God formed you. God knit you together inside your mother’s womb.
My mom is a wonderful knitter. She actually made this sweater. I tried knitting once. Knitting is hard work. It takes way more skill and concentration than I could ever have. When I tried to learn how to knit I discovered my gift to the knitting process. I can take yarn and roll it into a ball. That’s about it. Anything else, forget it.
If I actually tried to knit a sweater, it wouldn’t even be allowed into an ugly sweater contest. However, God is a master at knitting. God’s knitting is exquisite. It’s perfect. The psalm says that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. God’s works are wonderful. You are not an accident that just happened to come from a random combination of DNA. You are intentionally created by God and you are a masterpiece!
I doubt that most of us feel like a masterpiece. But Psalm 139 reminds us that we are a wonderful creation. God knows you. God made you just as you are, and God loves you.
The idea that God knows us so intimately might cause us to try to hide. Let’s be honest, most of us want someone to know us, but at the same time, we are terrified that we might be known. We are afraid that if someone really knows us they will reject us. And so we try to hide; from each other, and from God. If you don’t think you try to hide, reflect on your reaction to the idea that someone knows all your secret thoughts. Or try to look someone in the eyes for more than about ten to fifteen seconds. Even that long is uncomfortable.
We all hide, in countless ways. The second stanza of Psalm 139 tells us that hiding from God is impossible. This is the omnipresence of God. Where ever we go, God is present. If we go into heaven, God is there. That doesn’t surprise us. We expect God to be there. If we go to Sheol, the place of the dead, God is even there. This is the hope we need any time someone we love has died. Death doesn’t separate us from God’s love and presence. As Paul says in Romans, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ, neither death nor life” (Romans 8:38-39).
If we cross over the ocean, the farthest place we could imagine going, God is there. If we go into the place of deepest darkness God is there. Even when we struggle or sin, God is with us. This is the omnipresence of God. No matter where we are, no matter how much we struggle, God is with us, and loves us.
Do you remember playing hide and seek? In the neighborhood where I grew up we played it almost every night. Our front porch was home base. We had ten to twelve kids who would play, and we had a great time playing. But if you think about it, hide and seek is really a stupid game. What other game do you play that you want to lose. Think about what winning at hide and seek means. It means that no one finds you.
That happened to me one time. Right across the street from our house there was another house with some huge junipers along the front. Behind the junipers was a great place to hide. One time I was behind these junipers and found that there was a little space in the middle of the junipers. I crawled in there and you couldn’t see me from either side. My sister’s friend, Luann, was it. She walked in front of the junipers and then behind them. She never saw me. About 25-30 minutes later I realized that no one was looking for me. They had all left and were doing something else. You don’t want to win at hide and seek.
Friends, the good news is that God never lets us win at hide and seek. The omnipresence of God means that no matter where we are, God is with us.
Omniscience and omnipresence – two great theological truths about God. Thankfully, this psalm doesn’t describe them with abstract ideas about God. The psalm describes them in personal terms. It isn’t that God knows all things, but God knows me. It isn’t that God is present everywhere, but God is with me. God knows, God is present, and God loves me. Thanks be to God.