T is for Truth

So we come to the letter T and thanks again for the weekly suggestions: Trinity (as in Holy), seemed like a bit of a large topic for a ten minute max rambling. Theophilus, Titus, time, trust, tempest were a few more suggestions. If I tell you that one of my favourite ‘comfort blanket’ easy watch TV in lockdown has been repeat episodes of ‘Would I lie to you?’maybe you can guess where I am heading today.
If I say that when I read the paper or watch TV news I often wonder what I am reading or listening to. What is the reality, the truth behind what we are told? Today in the paper I came across the famous Buddha quotation as the footballer Harry Macguire argues his case against Greek police. He quoted this: ‘Three things cannot be long hidden; the sun, the moon and the truth.’ So yes, that’s the T for this week.
Jesus spoke about truth when he said of himself, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life.’ Pilate, when cross examining Jesus in his hastily convened trials in Passion Week, said this:
“37’So you are a king, are you?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.’ 38Pilate said to him, ‘What is truth?’ After saying this, he went back out to the Jews and told them, ‘I find no guilt in him’” (John 18:37-38).
‘What is truth?’ It’s an easy question to ask, especially in the spirit in which Pilate asked it. But what is the answer?

Interestingly in this story Pilate does not even wait for an answer. He went out to the mob, pronounced Jesus innocent, then had him flogged and handed over for crucifixion.
Does this story tell us then that for Pilate, as for many people, truth was relative? For him it was ‘truth’ that Jesus was innocent, but for the Jews and Roman authorities it was ‘truth’ that Jesus was guilty. So, Pilate in all ‘fairness’ washed his hands and allowed Jesus’ opponents to follow their truth. So much for relative truth then. An innocent man crucified because two understandings of ‘truth’ differed significantly. How do we determine whose truth has greater validity?

If you think about it when truth changes from person to person and situation to situation there is a valid contradiction for everything. I’m sure we have all met the person who argues black is white just to challenge us! Wasn’t it Plato who said something along the lines of, ‘What is true for you is true for you, and what is true for me is true for me.’ This philosophical argument that truth is always personal and relative to self, is still very widespread today.
Jesus though had already answered the question, ‘What is truth?’ before Pilate asked it—  ‘I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth; everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.’ (John 18:37). When you listen to Jesus, you hear the truth. He is the voice of truth.
But few people give credence to absolute truth like that —truth applicable to ‘everyone’.  “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; nobody comes to the Father unless through me” (John 14:6). Many people would think such a statement as nonsense.
There are times of course when our truth differs. Last week we visited a good friend and sat in their garden. They reminisced about the times when I would sit wrapped up in a cardigan or blanket complaining of the cold when everyone else was perfectly warm. In such a case truth is of course relative.

But if we make a bigger statement such as, ‘There is a God’, or ‘there is no such person as God’ are both statements true (fact) or are they wholly dependent on our opinion?
Pilate saw truth one way; the opposition saw it another. Nothing changes here, does it? Today very often we see that the voices of what we argue are a minority seem to be regarded as truth. We worry that minority views hold sway, particularly when they conflict with our own view, which after all, in our heart of hearts we hold to be far more valid.
 But I’m reminding myself again this week that Jesus believed in absolute truth and made it the foundation of his life and asks that it is the foundation of ours, too. At the end of his life he prayed to his Father for his disciples: ‘Make them holy in the truth; your word is truth.’  (John 17:17).
He also said, ‘You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’(John 8:32).
The Bible continues to offer a message that some days really seem to flow against the tide of public opinion but nonetheless is worthy of a new look. As I have said before, on my study wall is an embroidery of a Bible verse that has been given to me over and over again and offers me this hopeful truth:
‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and depart from evil.’ (Prov 3:5-7).
And again I am reflecting that the very middle verse of the whole Bible reminds us to put our trust not in man but in God.
What is truth? A big question that is worthy of a significantly longer time slot than this short rambling. I leave you with these foods for thought this week:
‘On the mountains of truth you can never climb in vain: either you will reach a point higher up today, or you will be training your powers so that you will be able to climb higher tomorrow.’ Friedrich Nietzsche

‘If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.’ Descartes

All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.’ Galileo Galilei

Happy discovering. God bless.

U is for Unity

I am sure we all have a new understanding since COVID 19 of the words unity and community. At the start of the lockdown, a small team of people from different walks of life found themselves together in Hammond Hall and within a few days the community support network was up and running.
Within days, a team of support grew and people simply united together to do whatever was needed within our community and reaching out to our neighbours in other villages too.

Unity simply means ‘oneness’ and this ‘oneness’ can produce incredible power.
In church last Sunday our readings led to a reflection on the importance of being united: ‘We are one with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and with one another.’
As ever though, the challenge for us is the practical outworking of this ‘oneness.’

Unity is really easy with people who are like minded and see things our way. On Sunday I was preaching on the opposite of love not being hate, as we might imagine, but rather indifference. Today I am reflecting that perhaps the opposite of unity is not disunity, but rather it is competition. The epistle to Ephesians tells us this:
‘Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.’ Ephesians 4:3-6

When I was teaching many years ago, I used to read a poem to my class at the end of each day. One that was always a favourite was a poem by Kit Wright where two children are in competition about their dads.

My dad’s fatter than your dad,
Yes, my dad’s fatter than yours:
If he eats any more, he won’t fit in the house,
He’ll have to live out of doors.

Yes, but my dad’s balder than your dad,
My dad’s balder, Ok.
He’s only got two hairs left on his head
And both are turning grey.

Ah, but my dad’s thicker than your dad,
My dad’s thicker, all right.
He has to look at his watch to see
If its noon or the middle of night.

Yes, but my dad’s more boring than your dad
If he ever starts counting sheep
When he can’t get to sleep at night, he finds
It’s the sheep that go to sleep.

But my dad doesn’t mind your dad.
Mine quite likes yours, too.
I suppose they don’t always think much of us
That’s true, I suppose that’s true.

In the final verse there is the beginning of a realisation that there is no need to be in competition. We are, of course, called to complement and enhance each other. There is an amazing and beautiful diversity within life within our communities and this must be celebrated!

However, we do live in a competitive world with competition at every level and where differences are often used to cause division. But this does not have to be the case within the community. Whether we are people of faith or not, when we stand united, a real power is released and consequent blessings overflows into the world.

Though the idea of unity might seem simple, ‘let’s all work together for the common good’, it is in reality quite complicated and so I can only offer a couple of personal thoughts this morning. When I became Rector of this parish just over four years ago now, as all new vicars do, I put up new posters and signs and words of encouragement. In our churches for example there is a prayer for all who might visit this place. There was also a verse from Psalm 133 that I put up: ‘How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.’
It’s a verse I still stand by today so that’s why I’ve never taken it down.

Unity it seems to me begins in the heart. I think we need to have a sense of peace and unity within ourselves before we can express oneness with others.
While there is division in our own hearts it is much more difficult to walk in real unity with others. Real unity cannot be about ‘my agenda’ or ‘your agenda’.
Certainly, as a church family, it is about us discovering God’s agenda and together serving his agenda with our gifts and talents working, together as one.

As someone who enjoys cooking in my spare time, I offer you this thought, too. Unity is an essential ingredient for every successful recipe. The interesting thing about it, is that it reveals itself in several ways. Sometimes unity means pulling yourself together when life seems one big catastrophe; sometimes unity asks us to make a hard personal sacrifice, ‘take one for the team’; sometimes unity asks us to work slowly and patiently; sometimes it means we need to stick it out through the thick and thin with our friends; sometimes it is working with the majority interest and having the grace and humility to let others take their time or even go their own way. It is, in fact, an art that can be created and experienced only when the others surrounding it are wholeheartedly involved in it. I will close now with a couple of my favourite quotes on this topic:

‘Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.’ Helen Keller

‘Even if a unity of faith is not possible a unity of love is.’ Hans Urs von Balthasar

‘Within sorrow is grace. When we come close to those things that break us down, we touch those things that also break us open. And in that breaking open, we uncover our true nature.’
Wayne Muller

So let’s continue to explore new ways of being truly in unity, one with another. Let’s walk together in faith, hope, peace and love. Our working in unity is one of the best ways I can think of to demonstrate God’s kingdom to others.
‘Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.’ Colossians 3:12-14

With continuing prayers for you all and those for whom you love and care.

Music for reflection: