Sermon for Aug. 23, 2020 - "How Do You Know You Know?" -- Hugh Drennan

How Do You Know You Know?


Little Johnny Certain went to the Ankeny’s Hardware store in my hometown to get some screws. He told the owner John Ankeny that he needed a dozen Phillips head screws. John asked him, “Do you know how many a dozen is?” Johnny replied, “Yep, 12.” John then asked him, “How do you know that’s right?” Johnny said, “Because my Dad told me.”

Delilah Deduction asked her mother, “Does Tabby have a good nose?” Her mother said, Tabby is a cat, all cats a have great sense of smell, therefore Tabby had a great nose as well.” Delilah said, “Thanks Mom.”

Trudy Teacher held a softball over Sophie’s head and dropped it. It hit Sophie on the head, and Trudy exclaimed, “It works!” “What works?” Sophie said rubbing her head “Gravity,” said Trudy.

Paul Preacher stood in front of his catechism class and said, “There is one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”  His students replied, “One plus one plus one plus one equals one?”

And that’s the way it is in my hometown where folk are pretty much like folk everywhere else.

Just before I went to seminary I was wrestling with the concept of the hypostatic union; doesn’t everyone?  In case you are not familiar with the hypostatic union it is the belief that Jesus was completely God and completely human. I kept reading and thinking and trying to reason this seeming contradiction out. I asked teachers about it and they mainly said, “Good luck in your quest.” Particularly I kept trying to find scripture where the hypostatic union was expressed. I just couldn’t find any.

One day I read the gospel passage for we had for today. And then after all my exhausting research and reasoning I asked myself the same question. “Who do I believe Jesus was?” And I found myself saying I believed that Jesus was totally God and totally human. What a relief!

So, how do you know you know something?

Little Johnny trusted his father to always tell him the truth, so a dozen was 12 of something.

Delilah’s mother used deductive reasoning to tell her daughter that their cat had a great sense of smell.

Trudy Teacher showed her class an example of scientific proof.

And then there is Paul Preacher telling his catechism class that 1+1+1=1. One triune God. A statement of faith.

When I served my first church, a parishioner said to me, “Hugh, you tell us things that are supposed to be true, but other pastors have told us things that contradict what you said. Who are we to believe?”

So, how do you know you know something?

In a history class in college, we discussed truth one day. How do we arrive at truth, and can a truth be proven? I declared we could not prove anything. Our teacher looked at me and said, “Of course we can.” And I said, “Prove something.” He grabbed his lecture and shook and said, “This lectern exists. I can feel it. That’s a truth.” I said, “And what makes you think your senses are correct? Perhaps this is just a dream and you think you are holding your lectern.” The class seemed to agree with me, and the teacher was not happy. After that, when I wrote a paper, I would get is back with these words, “Very good work. C+.” There is bitterness sometimes in the search for truth.

When Jesus was beaten and brought before Pontius Pilate, Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” And Jesus just stood there.

Also before seminary, I read a good deal of theology including the Dynamics of Faith by Paul Tillich. In he wrote, “An act of faith is a finite act with all the limitations of a finite act except where the infinite participates beyond the limitations of that finite act.” I was blown away and never forgot it. That may seem a strange thing to remember and my memory isn’t all that great, but it settled the concept of truth in my mind.

Tillich, I think, was saying that human faith has the limits of the human and we have many. Those limits are either from limited ability or sinfulness or whatever keep up from knowing absolute truth on our own. But God does not leave us there. The infinite God reaches into our soul and lets us know what is true. God transcends the gap between God’s self and ourselves to reveal what is ultimately true. It is an act of faith.

We move from Jesus loves me this I know, for my mother told me so. So, this I know, for my God has told me so.

How do you know you know?

Faith is not static but dynamic. It is not a set of theorems and scientific analysis, or inductive or deductive logic; faith is the active participation of God in our lives.

So, look inward to find that outward source of complete knowledge, to God.

I told my parishioner, who asked who she should believe, to look inside and ask herself what she believed. Trust the Holy Spirit to work in her to reveal truth to her.

I am always amazed at what folk hear in sermons we preachers preach. I am often dumbstruck by what they heard in words I said. The work of the Holy Spirit is active in both the sharing and the hearing of the word.

Perhaps this is not the way to truth in the world in which we live, the common path. And Paul in his letter to his friends in Rome, tells them and us, “Don’t think like most folk do, but let God be in the process of what you come to believe. He tells us we all have gifts of discernment that need to be shared with each other.”

How many of you just love serving on committees? Well, I love it. I firmly believe that God speaks better through groups than individuals. In groups we share our truths with each other and together arrive at more solid and complete truth. Now committees like individuals are finite and have the same shortcomings. But sometimes you feel the grace of God invade a group and the group becomes much wiser than the individuals in it.

How do you know that you know? I’m not sure, but I think we can feel it. Just make sure that outside influence is from God rather than human sources.

Just keep listening for the voice of God, share freely the gifts God has given you, and truth will find you.  WWJD

This all it seems to be is caught in the simple phrase that has become popular, WWJD – What would Jesus do?

  August 2021  
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