To Know or Be KnownRead Now
1 Corinthians 8:1b-3
Plymouth Congregational Church, UCC
Fort Collins, CO
The Rev. Jane Anne Ferguson
Today our scripture text is quite short. It comes from Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth. He is responding some tangible issues in the young church that is made up of Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor. It seems there is a debate over whether it spiritually harmful to eat meat that has been sacrificed to idols when you visit someone’s house. Paul speaks specifically to the wealthier Gentile Corinthians who feel they have enough excellent spiritual knowledge be able to eat this meat when hosted by pagan friends and not fall back into pagan practices. He bypasses the whole tussle saying, “Your knowledge that this meat won’t hurt you because the idols are false gods that do not exist and you know the One God revealed in Jesus the Christ, is correct and not the point. The point is, will your practices influence those who have been Christ followers a shorter time than you and lead them back into pagan practices? How will your “superior” knowledge affect and shape the community?” Paul says to them that the beloved community, its unity and spiritual nourishment is more important that any special spiritual knowledge that any of us might have. We are all called to love the One God, the real God revealed in the love of Jesus the Christ. Hear this brief text with me.
1 Corinthians 8:1b-3:
We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes people arrogant, but love builds people up. If anyone thinks they know something, they don't yet know as much as they should know. But if someone loves God, then they are known by God. 
We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes people arrogant, but love builds people up. If anyone thinks they know something, they don't yet know as much as they should know. But if someone loves God, then they are known by God.
For the Word of God in scripture, for the Word of God among us, for the Word of God within us …. Thanks Be To God!
Do you love God? What does it mean to love God? Do you believe/understand you are known by God? I wrestle with these questions. I share some of my wrestling with you today.
The piece of Gareth Higgin’s book, How Not To Be Afraid: Seven Ways to Live When Everything Seems Terrifying, that stunned me, took my breath away, comes from the chapter in the book titled, “The Fear Of Being Alone.” After telling a childhood story of being lost on a bike ride with his father, not knowing which turn to make to find his dad and feeling quite alone, Gareth writes, “ … true knowing is a two-way street between us and the divine (or higher power, or universe, or God, or whatever may be the best synonym for Love.) The way to overcome the fear of being alone is to find friendship with God and with yourself. Knowing isn’t as valuable or life-giving as being known. Being known is not something to be achieved but experienced.” 
Is Gareth echoing Paul here, knowingly or unknowingly? Paul wrote, “If anyone thinks they know something, they don't yet know as much as they should know. But if someone loves God, then they are known by God.” Knowing is something we seek to achieve. And well we should in many circumstances. Being known, however, … Loving … that is to be experienced, isn’t it?
I like to know things! I even strive to know things. I have strived to be well-educated, to know stuff! I strive to create the best sermons and programming possible to help individuals and church communities on their journeys to being God’s kin-dom on earth, strived to know God so I can share God! However, I had to ask myself as I read Gareth’s words, have I ever known that I am “known,” particularly “known” by God.
Are some of you – out there in the pews, watching at home– “strivers”? Do you strive to know things in life, to know God? Perhaps, you are better than I am at being with God, accepting that God knows and love you? Accepting that you love God?
There is a something about these questions that I am grasping to understand. Like I want to understand/experience Gareth’s words about being known is an experience far greater than knowing, I want to understand/experience Paul’s word’s “if someone loves God, then they are known by God.” These words speak to me in such deep place in me that I can barely articulate what I sense or feel. I thought I desired to know God. It seems I desire to be known by God.
This desire brings me to the question, which may seem odd given the fact I have been in the Christian church all my life, baptized at 10, working in full-time ministry for over 20 years, if I desire to be known by God, then how do I love God? I love my family, I love my friends, I love my husband, I love my dog, I love my church. I know the choices I make because of all this loving. I can feel these loves tangibly inside of me. I love these things without a lot of striving because they are tangible in my life and because they love me back. But how do I love the Mystery that is God? How do I know that I am loving God? How do I do it right so God can know me?
And see - I am back to the striving, striving for knowledge, for achievement, for excellence. I can think and ponder my way into and around this desire to be known by God, to dwell in God’s love, until I have worn myself out. And worn you out as well. What else did Paul say? “If anyone thinks they know something, they don't yet know as much as they should know. [That’s me.] But if someone loves God, then they are known by God.”
Being known by God is about loving, Being in the loves of this world that are real and tangible. Being in the Love that is God that may not be as tangible at first. Paul knew that the wisdom of the Hebrew scriptures commanded us to love God, neighbor and self. And I include creation, all its animate and inanimate beings, as well as humanity, as our neighbors. God, neighbors, self – these three things are the very substance of life and when we intentionally dwell in loving with them we dwell in Love, in the Divine, the Holy, and are somehow, beyond our knowing, we are known.
To be known by God, is a mystery, is a given, is not something we can strive to achieve. It is a relationship experience. It is dwelling in Love. Gareth reminds us that being known by God is not knowledge, but experience. He writes, “And it can be experienced right now through a practice that is often called prayer but is accessible to everyone, no matter your tradition or belief. … Any practice that unfolds love to you can be considered prayer.” He continues, “Prayer is not a chore. Prayer is one way to community. Prayer literally remembers us into the experience of not being alone.”  If we are known by God, we are not alone.
I recently was given a poem by a friend in a contemplative writing group that I am in by a contemporary poet that I did not know, Alfred K. Lamotte. Like Paul’s words, like Gareth’s words, this poet’s words struck me to the core. “Fred”, as his publisher referred to him when I wrote for permission to share this poem, titled his poem, “Gospel.” Remember that “gospel” literally means in New Testament Greek, “good news.” In the poem, which I will conclude with today, I think the poet offers an experience of prayer and of being known. There is one line that gave me pause, “There is no bad news.” How can he write this? I have definitely received news that seemed bad, very bad, at times. I know you have as well. Keep listening, though, to the end of the poem. The next few lines will juxtapose that line with meaning in the surrender of prayer and being known by God. I invite us all into this place of surrender in relationship and being known, even if just for a moment, this day.
"Gospel" by Alfred K. Lamotte
Nothing is wrong.
You have never not been free.
This is the good news.
Every photon of your flesh
Is the boundless sky.
This is the good news.
You lost yourself
In the shadow of beauty
So that beauty might
Find you again
There is no bad news.
From a heartbroken place
Where you’ve breathed out
Everything you carried.
The next breath
Is God’s love. 
So it is. Amen.
©The Rev. Jane Anne Ferguson, 2021 and beyond. May only be reprinted with permission.
1. Bible, Common English. CEB Common English Bible with Apocrypha - eBook [ePub] (Kindle Locations 44157-44159). Common English Bible. Kindle Edition.
2. Gareth Higgins, How Not To Be Afraid, Seven Ways to Live When Everything Seems Terrifying, (Broadleaf Books, Minneapolis, MN: 2021, 88-89.)
3. Ibid, 89.
4. Alfred K. Lamotte, “Gospel,” Savor Eternity One Moment at a Time,(Saint Julian’s Press, Houston, TX: 2016, 13.)
Associate Minister Jane Anne Ferguson is a writer, storyteller, and contributor to Feasting on the Word, a popular biblical commentary. Learn more about Jane Anne here.
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