Monday, April 28, 2008

Truth Is

Texts: Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; John 14:15-21

When I was a child, my mother and I would have “big girl outings” where we would leave my pesky younger siblings behind and do things—just the two of us. Usually these outings were chores in disguise, but I didn’t mind. One of our best (and most frequent) outings was to the grocery store. We’d get a big cart and I’d help pile in food. The best part of our trip was when we were checking out. I’d bug my mom about letting me have a candy bar or some other treat the grocery store managers has brilliantly put on display for all the little kids to bother their parents about.

During the really long lines, when I’d gotten tired of whining to my mother, I would read the headlines on the magazines and newspapers that sat next to the longed-for candy. With the exception of the occasional “Nevada Woman Gives Birth to Alien Baby” I believed what these headlines had to say. I took them as truth. Because that’s where you could find truth – in the headlines of newspapers and magazines at your local grocery store check out line. Nothing you read – alien baby aside – was false. It certainly wasn’t just gossip or an interpretation of facts – it was true.

As we get older, we start to question whether or not these sources of information really are true. We question, we doubt, we wonder what is truth?

Do a basic Google search on truth and you’ll come up with several websites devoted to the truth about different things: the truth about Splenda, the truth about hybrid cars, the truth about Mohammad, the truth about the Da Vinci Code, the truth about the church... Usually theses truths are sensational, damaging, and in your face.

Truth is something we throw around rather easily. In this post-modern age when we look at the world in vibrant colors, not just a simple black and white, the concept of truth has been challenged. With so many claims on truth, so many interpretations on what it may be, if there even is such a thing as truth, we are often left wondering like Pilate - what is truth?

Many have wondered about truth, from Aristotle and Augustine to Frank Zappa and Bob Dylan. Romantic poet Lord Bryon is well-known for saying “Truth is always strange — stranger than fiction.”

The truth about truth is that there is no single term or definition on which your average group of philosophers would agree upon.

While philosophers may not be able to agree and our pop culture may confuse us about what it is, you and I can gather together and proclaim what truth is.

I am the truth, says Jesus. The one who gathered his disciples in the upper room and spoke those words we heard this morning, this Christ is the truth. We people of faith can look to the Pilates of our world and say “Word Incarnate is Truth Incarnate.” God is truth.

God as truth does not mean that God has been reduced to “facts.” There is no empirical evidence for God. No indisputable facts we can point to and say “see, there is a God and this God is the one we proclaim.” The etymology of the word truth is based in older words that mean “faithfulness, belief.” Though there are no empirical facts, we believe God is. God is and God is truth.

God is truth is not just a claim we Christians make. Other traditions and faiths have made this claim as well. What is unique about what we claim is that this God who is truth is not only Creator, but also known as the Son and the Spirit. The God we have known in the person of Jesus Christ is the God who moves in and through us in the person of the Spirit.

God—Creator, Christ, Spirit—is truth. This is what the Gospels proclaim and this is what we—the body of Christ—proclaim.

In proclaiming the divine and believing in God as truth, the question of what is truth transforms into what does it mean to be in the truth?

Theologian Paul Tillich addresses this question. “How do we reach this truth?” he asks. “’By doing it,’ is the answer of the Fourth Gospel... Doing the truth means living out of the reality which is He who is the truth, making His being the being of ourselves and of our world.”

In other words, how do we live in the truth? We live in God and welcome God to abide in us.

God, like truth, is revealed in the living and doing. In love, in our love for Christ and Christ’s love for us, we know God more. This love is not just a feeling – though such feeling is important. It is a feeling which is lived out in the following of Christ’s commandments, in loving God and one another.

Christ addresses this way of living in his words to his disciples in the upper room, when his public ministry has come to a close and now, as the end is upon him, he imparts words of challenge and hope.

Out of love for Christ, we are to obey his commandments. We are to love God and one another and we will not be alone as we do so. The Spirit – the Spirit of truth – will be with us, within us. This Spirit is our Paroclete, our Advocate, our Helper. This Spirit is the one who has been called by Christ to come alongside and help.

The Spirit enables us to be in and of the truth. Though Christ is not with us in the physical person, the Spirit of truth is the one that lights the fires of holiness in our hearts.

Followers of Christ, those who live in the Spirit, know that the path we are called to walk is not an easy one. God’s truth is not the world’s truth for though God made the world, God is not of the world. The world does not want to hear God’s truth, the world does not want to hear God.

Truth is a powerful tool against the darkness. In living in God, living in truth, we live so the light of God’s righteousness and justice shines in and through us.

Truth goes beyond not telling falsehoods or half-truths. Truth is speaking the silenced reality. Truth is pointing out injustice everyone else turns a blind eye to.

Truth is speaking in love to the friend you worry may have an addiction, or is in an unhealthy relationship, or is making other harmful choices.

Truth is signing up to give a pint of blood, even if it makes you nervous, because the benefit to others means more than your fear. Truth is that goodness means more than fear.

Truth is staying silent when the words you want to speak are unnecessarily harmful or hurtful.

Truth is that breath of fresh air when you have been suffocating for something that speaks to you.

Truth is the voice which tells you a different story than the world. When you are told “no, you can’t dream,” “no, you can’t reach for the stars,” “no, you can’t be who you were made to be,” the voice of the truth says, “yes. Yes, yes, yes!!!”

Truth is powerful. It is not meek or mild. When you hear truth spoken after eons of falsehoods, it screams out at you.

Truth is not for everyone – yes, everyone should live truth, speak truth, seek truth, but they do not. There are truths that some in our world are not ready for, close their ears, eyes, and hearts to.

Truth is what those who follow the risen Christ are called to proclaim in word and deed – regardless of the cost.

Truth is what we carry with us when we go with God, when we know and receive the Holy One.

We know what truth is. We know how to live in the truth. Now the question becomes, will we? Amen.

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