When the Truth speaks to you

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When the Truth speaks to you

John 8:33–47 (NRSV)

They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”

Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you look for an opportunity to kill me, because there is no place in you for my word. I declare what I have seen in the Father’s presence; as for you, you should do what you have heard from the Father.”

They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing what Abraham did, but now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are indeed doing what your father does.” They said to him, “We are not illegitimate children; we have one father, God himself.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now I am here. I did not come on my own, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot accept my word. You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is from God hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear them is that you are not from God.”

“…and the Truth shall set you free.” He told them. But the Pharisees thought they were the ones with the corner on truth. How could this young teacher claim to have truth to share with them. Power, yes. New interpretations of the Law, perhaps. Truth? No.

And the audacity He had to call them slaves! They were the chosen people of God, born of the line of Abraham himself. They had no experience of slavery. That was something reserved for the baser Gentiles. Well, politically they might be slaves, but their spirits would never be tethered. Jesus pointed out to them that if they sinned, they were already spiritual slaves, and sacrifices would not free them because it was not misdeeds that condemned them in this instance, it was their belief in a lie. They followed a lie and in doing so shared and spread that lie out to everyone around them.

What was the lie? The lie was that God judges us and punishes us for our imperfections.

What is the truth that sets us free? Jesus taught that God loves us so much that He was willing to take those spiritual consequences of our sin upon Himself.

That should have been very good news… a good truth for the Pharisees to hear. Yet many were disturbed by this truth. Not only did they get off the hook, everyone else did too! If everyone gets out of jail free, there is no real benefit in being a Pharisee anymore, perhaps even being a Jew! The truth of God’s love threatened their very identity.

If that is hard to understand, think about Blockbuster Video. They were a major franchise for movie watching at home until Netflix took advantage of the increased availability of Wi-Fi in homes and started streaming movies to the viewers, thus eliminating the middle man of video rental stores. The Pharisees felt like Jesus brought in a truth that did not set them free. It put them out of business.

Maybe they were in the setting business. Jesus opened His life to investigation. “Which of you convicts me of sin?”, He asked. The lack of evidence turned their convicting back upon themselves. “Whoever is from God hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear them is that you are not from God.

What truth gives you hope and excitement? Why?

What truth makes you unsettled? Why?

What truth do you need to share?

 

 

An Acrostic on Wallace Stevens’ “One” Aphorism

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One needs everything

dealt out evenly, sincerely

not only true

words read in terrible epiphanies

form our railings

and nearly yield

raiment eaten away, deploring each rude

etched xenolith caught entering public tribute

one never escapes.


 

Why Time Matters. Part 4

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So it is that regardless of whether we look to the past, present, or future, there is no absolute certainty regarding what is to come. All of it requires some leap of faith over gaps in the information. How then, do we plan for the future? Is it even realistically possible or are we simply deluding ourselves?

Giving up is a legitimate response. We can crawl into a survival mode, preparing at once for everything and nothing. There may be very real reason for the despair, depression, and anxiety that plague many people who cannot see hope in their future. I’ve heard it said before that pessimists are slightly more in touch with reality that optimists are, and if there is no real way of knowing what tomorrow may bring, there may be some truth to that. Even if that saying is wrong, it would be the pessimists in for a pleasant surprise rather than the optimists caught off-guard by a curveball. Some of us may laugh at the idea of those who make bomb shelters in their basements, preparing for the end of the world – but there may be a semblance of real preparation and security in that kind of attitude. If they are delusional, it is more likely along the lines of their belief that they can do anything to change the inevitable. The bomb shelter mockers might instead choose to live in carpe diem terms, not in that they are somehow optimistic about the future, but believing they lack the power or the motivation to change what might be considered an inevitable outcome.

These options come into play on a daily basis as people receive medical “death sentences”. You have six months to live. Some immediately change their diet and exercise, trying everything to tack on a few more weeks, months, even years – even though the outcome is indeed inescapable. Sometimes they put themselves through a great deal of suffering and indignation in exchange for the possibility of an extension. Others resign themselves to the inevitable and try to maximize the little time they have left, often shortening that time considerably because of the choices they make. Some, choosing to take control of the situation themselves, end their lives intentionally. The thing is though, no one, not even the best of the medical profession, can be entirely sure when death will come knocking and under which pretense. We’re still simply reacting to shots in the dark, not knowing from which way they are fired.

We are not in control of our lives, any more than we are in control of the world around us. That is a fact. So what hope do we have? Our only hope is that there is something in control and that it has vested interest in each of us. Religions that fail to juxtapose power and compassion, justice and mercy, will always ultimately fall short of the hope that they promise. Our reason and technology, devoid of the divine, can promise no more than the power of our own hands, the sharpness of our own minds, or the compassion of our own hearts – in a ironic way, the option of independence, should we choose to live life on our own. Unfortunately, those of us who choose to cast our own lots must bear our own burdens, and extensionally, the burdens of anything else we deem under our own control.

So it comes down to this: if there is any certainty in life, it must come from something outside of us. If there is any security in life, it has to come from some kind of benevolent caretaker overlooking the world. I’m not making a proof for the existence of any particular god(s) here, I’m just putting the cards on the table and letting you compare them to the hand you have been dealt.