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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, January 11, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading | Ephesians 3:1–12

This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given me for you, and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given me by the working of his power. Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him. (NRSV)

 “There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.” —Donald Rumsfeld

That’s one of the most useful statements ever made, one that we would all do well to keep in mind. It’s also a good idea to keep in mind that the relative sizes of each of those groups grows vastly from one to the other. Known knowns, that’s the smallest. Known unknowns, quite a bit larger. Unknown unknowns? Unimaginably vast (obviously).

Everything that is now a known known was once an unknown unknown. Then it became a known unknown, and finally a known known. And all that movement comes either from our own personal experience or the experience of others.

There was a time when the great love of God was a mystery cloaked in rules and punishments and exclusions. People didn’t know about grace; they knew about behavioral transactions—do this, get that. And then someone received a great gift, even though they knew that their behavior didn’t deserve it and told folks, “Hey, there’s this amazing thing you get from God even when you don’t deserve it. It’s called grace. Amazing, right? Grace?”

How does it work? We don’t really know. We’re a lot more comfortable in the transactional world, the world of known knowns, where you get what you deserve and you know why you got it. But grace lives in the world of known unknowns—it’s there, but we don’t know why; it works, but we don’t know how. When something works and we don’t know how, it’s a mystery. And faith lives in the mystery, the “I don’t know how it works.”

In faith we move ahead with both the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns, toward the time when the light shines through, cutting the fog and making the unknown known.

Lord, give us the faith to live in the mystery until we can step into the light. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts

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