A number of years ago I was having a conversation with the children during worship. We were talking about how you come to know things. We talked about seeing, hearing, touching, smelling and tasting, another words using the five senses to know things. Then I asked the question, “How do we know God?” One little boy who was about 6 0r 7years old, Christopher, piped up and said, “Through your imagination”
That for me was a profound statement and it wasn’t what I expected from a young child. I said, “You’re exactly right Christopher. One of the ways we do know God is through our imagination.” Whether Christopher realized it or not, he was witnessing to the fact that there are different ways of knowing. The philosopher, Descarte, recognized four faculties of knowing: understanding, imagination, sense and memory. None of these were superior to the others in determining whether something is true. A belief which comes through our imagination is as valid as a belief that come through sense or understanding, in fact Albert Einstein said at one time that imagination was even more important than knowledge. He went on to say:
The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true science. He who knows it not and can no longer wonder, no longer feel amazement, is a good as dead.
Some people talk about knowing intuitively or instinctively as well as logically or rationally. They refer to right brain thinking or left brain thinking. There is also knowing a person through an intimate relationship which is a multifaceted kind of knowledge that includes the senses, understanding, intuition, memory and imagination. So knowledge is not a simple thing. It is not just a matter of knowing or not knowing. It varies in kind , breath and depth and there is also room for that which is beyond comprehension even in the scientific world.
Interesting enough Mrs. Albert Einstein was asked if she understood her husbands theory of relativity. She smiled and said:
No, I don’t understand it. But what is more important to me is that I understand Albert. (That was probably even more complex than his theory of relativity.)
We have in the Gospel today Jesus talking about knowing God. He says
“If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
It is written as if He was saying this to the disciples primarily. They had Jesus in front of them as a physical reality. They could see him, hear him touch him. In contacting him in this way, they eventually were able to realize that they were in touch with God. But what about us. He is not a physical reality to us. However, when we come in connect with his life through our intuitive sense, our imagination, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, he can become real to us, and we can know God through him. We make a spiritual connection and that spiritual connection is just as real as any physical reality.
When people talk about conversion, they talk about moving from the realm of ideas and formal statements of God developed by others, to a sense of the real presence of God in their lives. It is not just a matter of wishful thinking and emotion. It is a matter of true experience.
Nels Ferre, the theologian said about his conversion:
I’ve been converted three times. The first was to traditional Christianity; the second to honesty and the third was to the Love of God and man (humanity) The third was the real conversion. The first two were preliminary.
My spiritual journey included being brought up in the church as a child, and then as a teen and young adult resisted the connection with the church. God was unknowable to me. God was not accessible through the senses. God wasn’t in my rational and logical frame of reference.- god was beyond understanding. A very close friend of mine was converted to the Jehovah Witnesses and tried his hardest to convince me that I should join him in this quest. I was determined to resist but in my resistance I became interested in discovering who Jesus was. I had some conversations with the Anglican minister. I read the Bible and some material that he had given me to read. I began to worship and participate in the Eucharist. A different way of knowing kicked in beyond the rational logical and into the imaginative and intuitive. I became aware of sensed that I had never used before, and was caught up in an unfathomable mystery which was drawing me into it. I became over come by the love of God. It was like Jesus saying to me as he said to Philip in the Gospel today:
“Have I been with you all this time , and you still don’t know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father”
What I saw in Jesus was love. Love for me. Love for humankind. I had to admit, “God is love” and I knelt down and prayed for the Love of God to come into my life and remain with me. Since then I have prayed regularly to God, “in whom I live, and move and have my being”
Like all relationships there have been ups and downs but there has always been time of returning, starting over and reconciliation along the way. I draw strength from the sentence in the scripture this morning, “In my Fathers house are many mansions” . I have come to understand the “house” mentioned here as any place where God dwells. It could be anywhere in the world and in our hearts. I think of “mansions” here as meaning “resting places” like something you would find on a journey, a place to be revitalized before continuing. So I have interpreted this to mean “in my relationship with God, there are many resting places where I am refreshed, renewed, healed before I move on in my faith journey.”
This is how I have come to know God
How do you know God?