When Truth Isn’t Truth –
This past Sunday, on a news show, President Donald Trump’s attorney uttered an interesting phrase; “Truth isn’t truth.” I don’t want to get into the politics of why it was said and how similar the statement was to Bill Clinton’s; “It depends on the definition of what ‘is’ is.” For those who know their history, this whole investigation is eerily similar to what happened in the late 1990’s except the two parties have switched sides.
My question is; “What is truth?”
It is the same question Pontius Pilate asked Jesus before he was crucified. In the gospel of Saint John, chapter eighteen reads; “Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” 38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate.”
Pilate’s world was politics, not conviction. He was stuck in this black hole of a place called Jerusalem and wanted to get out as soon as possible. Jesus had upset some influential people and he wanted the mess to go away. Later in the chapter, he gives Jesus over to these people to have him killed and even “washed his hands” of the whole situation as if choosing not to be involved is not being involved. He even questions Jesus, stands toe to toe with the Master, declares that he has no evidence against Jesus, but allows his crucifixion anyway. The truth was too dangerous.
“What is truth?” “Truth isn’t truth.” “I am the truth.” “Know the truth and it will set you free.”
Wisdom is the search for truth and to accept it wherever it leads us. The problem is that the truth leads us on a journey that often stands against power, sides with the poor and downtrodden, make choices that angers influential people, puts us on the side that often loses. Truth has never been and will never be an easy way.
This morning, as we were both getting ready for the day, Beth exclaimed; “I remember!” “Remember what?” was my response. She reminded me that she had misplaced something yesterday and it dawned on her where that place might be. To be honest I had already forgotten she had lost it. However, Beth hadn’t forgotten and had been thinking about it since it turned up missing.
The situation reminded me of the three stories Jesus, the Master, told of things missing; the coin, the sheep, and the son, in the Gospel according to Saint Luke, chapter 6 (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+15&version=MSG). In these tales, a woman loses a coin and tears her house apart until she finds it. A shepherd loses a sheep and leaves the herd to locate it and bring it home. The last one is about a spoiled son who leaves home gets a taste of the real world and comes back to a father who is overjoyed and thankful the son found his way home.
In all of these stories the one looking never gives up until what’s lost has been found. In our culture where it seems everything is disposable, it’s good to be reminded that not everything is for short-term use. There are “gots to have” “use every means to find” “never give up looking for” things that exist, are eternal. Wisdom helps us learn and helps us find these truths.
Wait, Hurry Up! –
This past weekend I went to see “The Last Jedi,” the latest movie in the Star Wars saga. Beth with went me and when we bought our tickets they told us to go stand in line while we waited for the designated theater room to open. We were first in line and as time ticked by we noticed some people who had bought their tickets weren’t waiting. They were going into the theater room while the rest of us stood by and watched. After this happened several times the line behind Beth and me started to grumble. Finally, a man a few people behind us broke from the pack, hurried to the room and then signaled for us to come. We were swept away in the wave of frustration and elation that at last something was happening. I’m not sure what the manager thought when the line broke but people would not wait any longer!
When we arrived in the room showing the film it was large, seating over 1200 people. The people who had not followed the protocol were already seated but didn’t seem nearly as many in such a sizable place. Everyone found their place and the disgruntled ones settled down and after a few moments and too many previews the movie started.
Afterwards, Beth and I were talking about the movie and what happened before. There was a sense of injustice of the rule breakers being rewarded while the rule followers were punished. This isn’t how its supposed to happen. However, there are reminders around us every day that good doesn’t always win, the righteous aren’t always rewarded, and injustice triumphs more than it should.
So, what do we do? Do we all become rule breakers, go our own way and let the rest of the world be damned? It is a choice we all must make but remember what the Master said; “What good does it profit a person if they gain the world, yet lose their souls?”
Chirp and Chatter –
Yesterday afternoon I was sitting on the front steps to our shed waiting for Beth to come home from work. Me and the dog enjoying the day when a bird overhead began to chirp loudly! It wasn’t the usual chirp and it was incessant. I looked to the limbs of our big Oak tree trying to find it. I couldn’t. The chirping didn’t stop but I couldn’t find it among the leaves. Finally, it stopped and only when it flew away could I see that it was a large woodpecker.
After watching this beautiful bird fly away I reflected on the constant chirping and not knowing where it was coming from. Some thought are like that in our minds. They chirp and chatter and we wonder, why and for what reason, they are filling our minds with noise. Perhaps its regret at an action, a question about why something is happening, puzzlement for a big decision which needs to be made, a betrayal, a hurtful word given or received, a reliving of past events, or worry about the future. Whatever the thoughts, the chirps, and the chatter can keep peace of mind and spirit elusive and unattainable.
Wisdom reminds us that thoughts are going to come and go but it is up to us not grab them and ruminate. A wise master once said; “I cannot stop the thoughts from coming to my door but I do not have to serve them tea.”
A wise master received a university professor who came to inquire about true wisdom. The master served her tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full and then kept on pouring. The professor watched the overflow until she no longer could restrain herself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!” “Like this cup,” said the master, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you wisdom unless you first empty your cup?”
This is one of my favorite wisdom parables. It is a great reminder that we can become so full of ourselves, our opinions, our convictions, our beliefs, and our ego that we are unable to receive something new, different, exciting or growth producing.
To come to each day with an empty cup and allowing it to be filled with each experience, every person, circumstances, and situations is to be a true student of wisdom.
Today is Holy Saturday. The Master is dead. Hope is gone. Failures are many. All that’s left is silence and the stench of death in a dark tomb.
I went to the dump today and had to take some cardboard to a special container. The big enclosed metal holder was almost empty and dark. I had to take the pieces of cardboard to the back of the container and when I came out of the dark, smelly thing I thought of Jesus leaving the tomb.
On my way home from the refuse and recycling center, which takes me down a long isolated road, a man signaled me to stop and stated that he needed a “jump-start” to his truck. He had been working since early and had forgotten to turn his lights off. We hooked up the cables, waited a while, tried a few times that didn’t work and finally, his battery was charged with enough power to bring his engine back to life.
I thought of Jesus, the Light of all lights and how he had given all his light to those who would extinguish it.I wondered what happened in the empty tomb. Did God the Father have some sort of spiritual “jumper cables” and shock his Son back to life? Or did he gently breathe new life into him like he did with Adam and Eve in the Garden?
Holy Saturday. A day of disappointment. A day of fear. A day after and a day before.
This afternoon, before the person remodeling our bathroom left for the weekend he rigged a shower and a working toilet for us to use. I took my first real shower in almost a week about an hour ago and it was wonderful! Standing there as the water flowed I was reminded of those around the world who have no water due to poverty, homelessness or lack of clean water in the areas they live.
Blessings are in abundance for so many of us and yet we miss the wonders. They are bountiful and flow into our lives like a giant waterfall. Unfortunately, we have become so used to them we take them for granted and dismiss their importance and rarity.
Today is Good Friday, the day the Master died. Because of his death, we in the Christian faith are showered with grace, love, kindness and mercy from our Father who is in Heaven. We’ve grown up with the story. It is so familiar that we miss the importance and the rarity of the God-man who came to our world, clothed in our skin, and made a way for us to bathe in the presence of the Father for all eternity.
For Good Friday, Eternal Acceptance, and showers we thank Thee, O’Lord.
Nowhere to Hide –
Today was my last visit to the dentist for the final part of a procedure that was started in July. I am glad it’s over. My only regret is that you have to keep going back for further check-ups…but that’s only for the rest of your life! Sigh.
The dentist’s office is the only place where I sit in the waiting room and hate for my name to be called. It was, and I went back to the little room with the horrible looking chair and sat down. Waited only a few moments before the doctor came and was in a talking mood! I answered his questions but my only thought was; “Dude, please, just get this over!”
Finally, he swung the big light into place and switched it on. I detest that light. It’s only inches from your face, you can feel its heat, your eyes adjust to the brightness, while it whispers; “You aren’t going anywhere until we’re through with you.” Under that light, the dentist can see everything in your mouth and on your face. It’s a very vulnerable, and for someone like me with claustrophobia, frightening position. After we were done I stood up, shook his hand because he extended it, and got out of that room as fast as possible.
Light has a dual way of allowing us to see and be seen.
The wisdom of the Master says; “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Light” he summed up everything a sojourner needs to know. He is the way, the path, the journey we walk. It is the true way, in the midst of many deceptive roads which promise peace. Finally, he is the light by which we see the way, and the way, in turn, sees us. Our journey is inward, to the deepest recesses of who we are, and only by shining a light in the darkest places are we able to find the way home.
I could tell she needing something without knowing how to ask for it. Finally, she began to say a few words, jumbled, somewhat coherent, and then blurted out a need her husband had and could I help? Responding in an assuring voice with, hopefully, peace giving words I told her; “Yes” and “would she like a card?” She smiled affirmatively, took the card and said; “Thank you.” “Anytime,” I replied back. “I hope you have a nice weekend.” I don’t know if I’ll hear from her or her husband again but it was not my first time I’ve encountered someone looking for assistance and yet hesitant, resistant, to ask for help.
I reflect on our brief conversation and wonder; “Why is it so hard for some to admit need?” I think part of it is our; “Pull yourselves up by your own bootstraps” culture. Folks who need a helping hand often feel they are somehow “less than” others.
Maybe it’s the thought that; “Others are so much worse off.” It seems selfish to take food out of their mouths, clothes off their backs, a roof over their heads.
Might be, perhaps the darkest reason; “I don’t want to be lumped in with the people who ‘have their hands out.'” They are judged, looked down upon, seen as lazy, under-achievers, taking advantage of people, churches, community organizations and the government.
Being in need is nothing to be ashamed of. Whether its physical, mental, emotional or spiritual we all need each other to make it. A wisdom proverb states; “No one can navigate the road of life alone.” In truth, we are all needy, weak, impoverished and cannot do it on our own. Asking for help is not helplessness it’s having the right balance of strength and humility to admit we are flawed, defective, deficient, have shortcomings, imperfections, in short,we are all; human and to be so is to be in need.
“Someone asked the great Master one day; “What is the gospel?” The Master replied; “The gospel is simply one beggar telling another beggar where to find food.” Wisdom Proverb
This morning, Beth and I celebrated Easter Sunday with our brothers and sisters at a small Lutheran church. I have enjoyed being a part of this intimate faith community several times over the last eighteen months. However, this is Easter Sunday and there were many more people than on an average Sunday. We found our seat and soon there were two women who occupied the wooden pew (another reason I like the church) in front of us. It didn’t take me long to notice them noticing others who walked in and found a space to sit with their families. A mom, whose hair was the color of a red came in and the two women looked at her and then each other. Another family with two rambunctious kids sat down and the two women again caught each other’s eye. Throughout the service they would look at each other and smile a slight grin. I wondered what they were thinking and if their glances signaled judgement, curiosity, or something entirely different.
At the end of the service everyone was invited to the front and receive the communion elements of bread (a symbol of Christ’s body) and wine (a symbol of Christ’s blood). We were sitting in the back and able to watch as others partook of the Eucharist. Everyone kneeled in front of the cross. All were equal. Moms with red hair, kids who had a hard time sitting for long periods of time, elderly and young, those in their new Easter outfits, those wearing shorts and sweat pants and two women. None were greater or less but all in a position of humility at the feet of the One Master.
There are some Sundays when I crave a worship service with liturgy, reading and response, rhythm. Today was one of those days. I arrived at an old, little church with wooden pews where I’ve attended before. I sat in the back in anticipation and waited.
In front of me was a young mother with two darling little girls who were active and adorable. They began to color and draw, dropping pencils and crayons, flipping pages and whispering. This would keep occurring even after the service began. The leader called the service to order and an infant, a few rows up, decided he wasn’t happy, a woman beside me started to cough, another parishioner sang off-key, loudly. My hopes for a meaningful worship time faded.
As part of this Sunday’s reading we listened to a selection from the gospel of Saint John, chapter 9. It is the story of man who was born blind and the Master healed him. At the end of the story Jesus finds him again and they share this exchange;
“Jesus … found him and said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ The blind man answered, ‘And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.’ The blind man said, ‘Lord, I believe,’ and he worshiped him.”
As I listened to the words I was reminded that too often we are led by our eyes, what we see and our ears, what we hear, instead of seeing and listening with our hearts. For it is in the heart where belief and true worship come from. Gently chastised, I let go of the frustration of the distractions and I prayed quietly; “Lord, I believe,” and worshiped.