God Only Knows

As I write this, the season of Advent has just begun. We’ve dug our way out after the first two big snowstorms of the winter. Thanksgiving is past. Christmas is less than a month away. It’s a time of great anticipation and hope.

After Advent and Christmas celebrations are done, the calendar flips to a new year. For most people this is another time of anticipation and hope. The old year is behind us and a new year stretches before us like a huge piece of construction paper, just waiting for us to draw or paint on it, adorn it with glue and sparkles, or cut it into a fun shape with scissors. What will this art project called 2020 look like on December 31? It’s hard to predict with much accuracy. Or to put it another way, God only knows what is to come.

We sometimes toss off that phrase, God only knows, with nonchalance, and the Beach Boys even had a hit song with those words as its title back in the 1960s. But it really is only God who knows what 2020 will be like. As I reflect on 2019, I could list many events which occurred that I did not foresee, nor could I possibly have guessed at given a million chances.

The human desire to want to know and control the future is a symptom of my idea of “original sin”: the whisper from the serpent to Eve in the Garden, “You will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Yet that whisper, tempting as it is, is fraught with danger, as humanity has discovered ever since. I sometimes think I would like to know what the new year has in store for me, but then I ponder whether I would have wanted to know last January 1 all that would happen this year.

In First Corinthians chapter 12, the Apostle Paul writes to the people of the church in Corinth about the gifts of the spirit. He lists various gifts such as prophecy and healing, then adds,

All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

1 Corinthians 12:11

In the next verse, Paul switches to talking about the human body. Our bodies are made of many different parts that work together in harmony. An eye can’t do the job of a foot, nor could we survive if all we had for a body was feet.

God has given us individual and unique jobs to do each day, and being God isn’t one of them. Martin Luther was very clear in his teachings that vocation is a part of a life of faith. Luther wrote that God has provided us our vocations and works through those vocations to further God’s kingdom. But too often the term vocation has been interpreted only as our career paths. Luther’s idea was much broader. Whatever we do in our daily lives, all our actions and interactions, can be and are used by God to further our relationship with God and one another and continue God’s creative work in the world.

Lutherans are always leery of “works righteousness” so I must add that we are not required to do anything in order to receive God’s love and grace. One Luther quote I read said, “God doesn’t need our works, but our neighbor does.” But having been loved and redeemed by our God through Jesus Christ, why wouldn’t we want to answer the call to live our lives in a way that reflects our relationship with that amazing God?

So instead of wondering and worrying about 2020, we can let God be God, while we answer God’s commission to us to go into our world, maybe the ten feet to our spouse or another loved one, maybe the 75 feet to our next door neighbor, or maybe the more than 8,000 miles to Zambia, to serve our neighbors and show them the love God has first shown us. The leadership of Zion will continue to partner with congregational members and the greater community to create opportunities to serve God in mission, but there are many other ways each person of Zion can find to fulfill the vocation of living out our faith. God only knows what might happen when we do.