This week’s eNewsletter Feature
was written by Jim Teague,
FPCE director of communications.
My wife is unknowable. A self-proclaimed sports dolt, she stunned me this weekend by not only knowing that Jonathan Toews was a Chicago Blackhawks player, but that he was the team captain (who ended his stellar ‘Hawks career just in the past week).
My youngest son is unknowable. At a family dinner the other night, he used the word “unattributed” in a sentence… correctly (to be fair, it wasn’t completely a shock, as he was talking about a video game at the time).
My oldest son is unknowable. A recent Sunday dinner discussion about the Rapture revealed that he and his contemporaries have had more than a few serious discussions about whether or not Jesus is coming back soon. I also learned he is firmly in the post tribulation camp regarding the timing of the return of Jesus, and that he is pretty sure most of his contemporaries are pre trib (our Sunday dinners are VERY entertaining, by the way).
My mom is unknowable. She moved from Northern California to Atlanta one month ago, and she has already begun to refer to various neighborhoods around the city by their location relative to a clock face (I am told by reliable sources that this is a very common thing Atlanta natives do).
Who are these people? I love them with all my heart, but it’s like I don’t even know them!
Now, you might be thinking, “Jim, rather than these people you love being ‘unknowable,’ perhaps it’s just that they are more complex and interesting than you gave them credit for?”
No way! These astounding revelations (which have taken place over just the last few days) make it clear that I have never truly known them and I never will! In fact, it means no-one can truly know them!
Had enough of the unknowables? Me, too.
The reality is that just because I can still be surprised, pleasantly or otherwise, by new information about the people I love and value most deeply doesn’t make them unknowable, right?
On Sunday, Rev. Amanda Golbek will be preaching from Luke 24:13-35. In this passage, Cleopas and Simon are walking on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus on the Sunday after Jesus was crucified. Jesus appears to them, but they do not recognize him. It’s only after he takes bread with them, blesses it and breaks it that they recognize him. Then, he vanishes.
They didn’t turn to one another and say, “Well, I guess we never really knew Jesus, did we? He’s just unknowable and there’s no point it trying to understand him, resurrected or not.” No! Instead, they acknowledge there was something about him that was familiar, even though they couldn’t say what it was. “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” (Verse 32)
And instead of running back to Jerusalem to warn the others that Jesus was no longer the way they remembered him to be and, therefore, unworthy of their trust, they shared with joy that the one they loved was “risen indeed,” as if it were the greatest thing to ever happen to them (which, of course, it was!).
I find incredible hope in this. I confess that I get discouraged, at times, by how unknowable Jesus seems to me at times, despite my having identified myself as a follower of his for almost 43 years. But that is all part of the glorious mystery of “God made man” and “God on Earth.” Far from being discouraged by the innumerable ways Jesus surprises us, I am working to rejoice, repeatedly, over God’s patient persistence with us, revealing himself again and again, that we might recognize him anew.
In Isaiah 55, God speaks through the prophet and tells his people “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near;…” (Verse 6) And he goes on to remind them:
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
He has been rebuking them, but for not seeking him rather than not knowing all there is to know about him.
A number of things happened this week to remind me that I just don’t know Jesus the way I had hoped to at this point in my life. In some ways, it has been humbling to be taught – again – that the only remedy is to seek him continually, while understanding that I will never fully know him.
One other confession: As a young believer, I used to pass judgment on those disciples who I thought were fleeing Jerusalem in fear and whose fear blinded them to who Jesus was as he accompanied them. Forgive me, Cleopas and Simon.
Today, I have a different conclusion (you’ve probably figured this out way ahead of me). Jesus was hidden from them the way those we love change before our very eyes, without us noticing, until something about them reminds us of who they were and we finally see the new thing in contrast to the old.
Last week we said goodbye to our Senior Pastor Raymond Hylton and his wife Judith. Even as I fully believe God has GREAT things ahead for First Pres, I’ve struggled with the grief of saying goodbye to a truly great man and terrific friend. Today, I am going to work at seeing First Pres in a new way, celebrating all the new things I learn, and praising God for what has come to pass and what is yet to come.
We look forward to seeing you in person AND online this Sunday. Our new adult education classes start this week. You can learn more about them here.
Walking with new eyes open,