When I finished my confirmation instruction, I can remember thinking to myself, ‘I must know everything there is to know about God now. What more could there possibly be to learn?’ Looking back I can see that I was quite deluded.
I guess you would never say such a thing today either – you know full well you don’t know everything. But the way we live our lives might reveal that we may still think something akin to that delusion.
When we consider reading the Bible daily something that we can take or leave; when we think that attending a group Bible discussion is not all that important because we have attended hundreds of church services over the years; and when reading up on matters of theology is for others, we are deluding ourselves into thinking that, in matters of faith, we know most things.
I have been a pastor for 36 years and I certainly know a lot more about God than I did after my confirmation. But, unlike in my younger days, today I try to take quite the opposite attitude: I try to say to myself, ‘There is probably much more to this than I know’.
I try to take an expectant attitude towards God, to the word of God, to the things of God and to all the people I meet, both Christian and non-Christian.
So when I read a Bible passage that I have read a hundred times, I read it expecting to see something that I have never seen before, something that is fresh. When I meet someone who is new to me, I ask the question, ‘What can this person teach me?’, or ‘What can I learn from this human being that I have never known?’
When I worship, I expect something I have not noticed or heard before. The reality of God and also his creation is that they are mysteries, something we will never fully understand. And that includes the person sitting next to you, since they are made in God’s image.
No wonder the psalmist says in Psalm 145:3: ‘Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no-one can fathom’.
This is what makes knowing God so exciting. There is always something yet to be discovered. There is always something still to be learnt. There is always something new.
What difference might it make in our Australian and New Zealand Lutheran church if we all started to approach life with this expectant attitude?
LCA Bishop John Henderson is currently on Rest and Refreshment Leave. While he is away, three of the LCA’s district bishops will contribute to Heartland.