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Devotion: To know, and be known

Before the choir's final performance together for the season, at the Festival of Homiletics in Minneapolis on May 19, 2014, bass Tim Sheie shared this devotion.

From Psalm 139: (the subtitle of the Psalm coincidentally reads: For the director of music. Of David)

You have searched me, Lord, 
and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise; 
you perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is on my tongue, you, Lord, know it completely.


In the summer of 1950, Northwest Airlines flight 2501 took off from New York, heading to Minneapolis.  It disappeared in a thunderstorm over Lake Michigan, somewhere near South Haven or Holland, Michigan.  At that time, it was the worst accident in American aviation history, and the wreckage was never found.   On that plane was my uncle Ralph, traveling to join my parents for the ELC church convention in Minneapolis.  You can imagine their grief waiting for a plane that would never arrive.  I never knew Ralph, and he never knew me—I was not even born yet.  But life yields up so many stories, artifacts, letters, Army medals, pieces of shrapnel from the War, photos—that you begin to feel that you do know someone.  But to know someone surely is not just the trail of artifacts we leave behind. 

So what is it to know someone, and to what is it to be known?

(As is our NLC custom, half of you are now going ‘junior high’ on me, thinking about how Abraham “knew” Sarah, or David “knew” Bathsheba in that Biblical sense.. don’t go there.)

We claim to be an NLC ‘family,' but do we really know each other?  Why, you can even learn a lot about someone by checking the preset buttons on their car radio. But let’s ask some questions that previously we considered un-askable:

  • Do you know who among us has had a really difficult year, and have you done anything about it?

  • Have you gone weeks when you didn’t even open your folder from one Tuesday to the next?

  • Secretly, do you think you’re such a good sightreader that you don’t have to?

  • How many of us can no longer sing “The King of Love My Shepherd Is” without getting tense?

  • You know how nervous you get waiting for your turn to sing “..I nothing lack..” at callbacks?  Why is it that we can’t sing openly with each other?  (I don’t mean you known extroverts—I mean the rest of us, the normal people.)

  • Wouldn’t an ensemble that was so confident and open with each other, to know each other so well as to be willing to sing anything, anytime, with anyone—wouldn’t that be something special? 

  • Why is there something about being known that well, that we feel the need to protect ourselves?

  • Don’t we even try to hide from God?

Yet, even as we try to hide from God in the Garden, the miracle is that the God of love calls us, searches us out, comes to us, knows us fully, loves us anyway, and walks with us through every human experience:

Again, from the Psalm:

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
 and the light become night around me,”

even the darkness will not be dark to you;
 the night will shine like the day,
 for darkness is as light to you. 

     (remember that line? From where?) 

For you created my inmost being;
 you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
 your works are wonderful,
 I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you
 when I was made in the secret place,
 when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed body;
 all the days ordained for me were written in your book
 before one of them came to be.


Search me, God, and know my heart;
 test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,
 and lead me in the way everlasting.

The Lord be with you.

As we end this season together, let’s pray as Jesus taught us to pray:  Our Father, ...