Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Bethany Bullet-Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Yesterday our 8th graders graduated. They chose Jeremiah 29:11 as their graduation text. It was intriguing to me as a preacher that on a day they celebrated their knowledge; they graduated because they had proven they knew things, enough things about math, science, history, English, and religion to become Bethany graduates. Yet, their text was one verifying what they do not know.

The Kingdom of Israel was in exile. The Babylonian captivity was in full swing during the ministry of Jeremiah and soon after his prophetic ministry the Kingdom of Judah would also fall into exile. No son or daughter of Abraham knew how bad things could get nor when exactly this exile would end. In his most famous passage, Jeremiah proclaimed such knowledge was unnecessary, after all God knew! “I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to grant you a hope and a future.” Israelites, you don’t know, but you know the One who does know and that is all you need to know because He has made it known that He knows His plans for you are for your good and welfare. That is a pretty fair translation of Jeremiah 29:11

In speaking to our 8th graders it was easy to address their reality of ‘not knowing the unknowables.’ There is so much they simply do not know. They don’t know how much time they will spend with their Bethany friends come next year and they move on to ten (or so) different high schools. They don’t know if after high school they will go on to a university, join the work force or the armed forces. They don’t know what they will end up doing, who they will end up marrying, if they’ll be residing in the promised land of Southern California or go into exile somewhere else. But they don’t need to know that, for they know the One who does know, and that is all they need to know, because in Christ He has made it known that His plans for them are for their good and welfare.

Yesterday our Choir also led us in morning worship under the theme, “Through the Church.” What a powerful phrase, Through the Church is! When fully fleshed out it means that, God has chosen that rather than working through prophets and apostles, angels or His own Incarnate self He will work through average, ordinary people. We are those people!

Like the Israelites of Jeremiah’s time and like our ’08 graduates we too are a people who don’t know the unknowables. We don’t know how high gas prices will go. We don’t know how far housing costs will fall. We don’t know what will happen to the stock market next week, nor the unemployment numbers next month. We don’t know when the war in Iraq will end nor if the war on terror ever will. We don’t know who will be elected president, or if the gubernatorial declared drought will come to an end soon. We don’t know how far the assault on traditional culture will go.

We don’t even know the easier things. We don’t know when declining demographics of school age children combined with a positive economy will bring a sizeable return to private/parochial education. We don’t know for sure if our budget will finally balance next year at Bethany. At the writing of this we don’t know for sure if we will be adding staff—that is a voter’s meeting decision.

We certainly don’t know the tougher things. We don’t know if those we’ve been witnessing too and praying for will finally embrace Christ by faith. We hope but we don’t k know. We don’t know if the most dramatic years of ministerial growth are in Bethany’s past or its future. We hope future, but we don’t know. We don’t know when Christ will return and in the words of C.S. Lewis, “put all things right.” We hope soon, but we don’t know.

That is where the two totally different events of yesterday, Hymn Fest and Graduation merge into one collective message. We don’t know the unknowables, but we know the One who knows and that is all we need to know for He has made it known that He knows His plan for Bethany and each of us and it is one in which He intends for our good and welfare. We also know that He has determined to work for that good and welfare of Bethany and even the world through the church, that’s us, to make Him known even in the midst of a world chuck full of unknowables.


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