…and what is truth?
July 8, 2018
Scriptures: Mark 6: 1-6, John 18: 37-38
Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. 2 When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.
“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? 3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.6 He was amazed at their lack of faith.
Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village.
37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. 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. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.
I find it quite amazing that even after seeing the work of Jesus, even after witnessing amazing miracles at his hand, the people of Jesus’ hometown somehow found a way to dismiss what they saw, to pay it no mind and in fact to take offense at him as our scripture passage from Mark informs us. Somehow the truth they were seeing with their own eyes was not a powerful enough image to cause a change of heart; instead those from his own town chose to see the hand of God at work among them as false and offensive.
Historically, the descendants of those who intermarried with the Assyrian kingdom to the north many years before, were a jealous people…it was a cultural and social trait. And those of Galilee, where Jesus was seeking to share the works and love of God indeed were descended primarily from those Assyrian roots. But I still find it amazing that in the presence of someone who obviously had the hand of God upon him, these of Jesus’ hometown were unable to see past their inborn prejudice and recognize the goodness that was there right in front of them. But our scripture clearly tells us that they refused to acknowledge this one whom they considered as common as they themselves, refused to believe that this one, whom they had seen grow up there in their midst, could possibly exhibit anything out of the ordinary…and so they took offense.
And then our second and shorter scripture reference tells us that not much changed when Jesus got farther out from Galilee, in fact, his reputation did not guarantee him a receptive audience anywhere he went as Pontius Pilate himself questioned Jesus’ assertions about where he was from and why he was there before him by directly challenging Jesus as he asked, “…and what is truth?”
And it seems by all accounts that there are many wondering the same thing today. There seems to have been a shift in people’s trust of that which is reported on mainstream media as well as across the board in print media. There seem to be at least two camps quite opposed to each other in terms of what they think is actually going on, what is to be trusted in, what is actually true…
And in the midst of it all, and in fact driving the information wars are fairly unabashed agenda-driven news companies whose narratives, aside from being almost diametrically opposed to each other much of the time are also trying very deliberately to steer their viewer’s perceptions of what is in fact ‘truth’ and what is instead false or ‘fake’. Truly there are none who are without guilt in trying to have their version of current events be the one believed by the most people. So regardless of who anyone chooses to listen to it seems that the truth is somewhere just outside of almost everything we hear reported. It has become difficult to know who is being honest and who is spinning a narrative to accomplish a particular end.
And since we live in a vast nation and are forced to rely on someone else’s interpretation of pictures and events…since we are unable to see with our own eyes and make up our own minds, like those of Jesus’ day…we are forced to make a choice…to listen to one side or the other…or to listen to our gut…or…to hold up some standard provided by our faith, some measure whereby we can compare the actions or policies reported and see if in fact they sound like something Jesus would have done, or something Jesus would have said.
And for comparison’s sake we do have that measure in the words of the gospels…we do have recounted for us the words and actions of Jesus, the directives and commands he left for his followers regarding how to know, to hear, and to live into the truth of that which we purport to believe in.
In his recently published book titled, ‘What Truth Sounds Like’ , Pastor and author Michael Eric Dyson digs into the history of a critical meeting in 1963 between Bobby Kennedy and black leaders and activists of the day that forced Kennedy to rethink his understanding of the black experience and struggle overall. Dyson urges Americans to continue that conversation today regarding the pervasive illness of racism that plagues so much of our history and the ongoing relationships between all peoples of color and the majority white population of our nation.
But for our purposes today I wanted to highlight something that Dyson said that bears repeating…and that is, that these conversations, which must be undertaken in all seriousness, honesty, and candor involve speaking the truth into the public square…and all too often that ‘truth’ can be hard to hear.
But hear it we must as followers of our Lord and Christ! Even in spite of all the noise and confusing opposing rhetoric, we must as Christians find a way to sort through it all and to stand firmly on the side of love and compassion, unabashedly holding up justice for all of our brothers and sisters, for all of those considered as ‘other’, for all of those who like Jesus were marginalized refugees, outcast and scorned…and the way we choose must stand as a clear and immovable marker for truth.
As followers of the one who said he was the way, the truth, and the life, anything we hold up to be the truth should in some manner reflect the teachings and principles Jesus sought so hard to convey to his followers. Truth as we hear it, must be in line with what I call the Law of Love… meaning, is it truly loving and compassionate? And not only is it loving as we understand it to be but is it loving for and loving towards all…or…is it conditional and perhaps biased towards the few or the familiar?
When we hear truth that is reflective of the teachings of our Lord it should speak of justice first of all…justice for each and every one of God’s children. It should speak of opportunity for and access to the blessing of a fullness of life – fullness of peace of mind, of health of body and soul, and a full measure of joy. Truth should give us hope in the face of hopelessness and encourage us to forgive every time we are asked…even up to ‘seventy times seven’. Truth as we hear it must also remind us that our strength, in fact the underlying strength of Creation lies in diversity…as diverse and as varied as the image of God which we all were created to reflect. That is what truth should sound like to us.
Untruth or falsehood on the other hand is simply the opposite, even if it is cleverly disguised in words or ideas meant to fool the unwitting. False or ‘fake’ news wherever it is found is not loving, it is not caring, and it is not compassionate. False news or untruth is not inclusive of all of God’s children but rather shows a preference for the few…in fact it often shows a decided preference for a single representation of the image of God.
Therefore…in order to better learn to navigate our way through the sea of competing stories…in order to be able to sort through all of the chatter that finds its way to our ears each day we need to become better listeners…to listen carefully, then listen closer, and then to listen again before deciding if what we are hearing or being told is in fact the truth with a capital ‘T’. And not only do we need to listen better, but we also need to learn how to frame what we hear through the lens of our faith…truth, to be truth must be able to pass through the filter of our faith and prove itself by passing the Law of Love.
To truly know truth when we hear it we must be sure not to prejudge or presume when we are listening, and we must be quick to call out and to dismiss untruth whenever it crosses our path. For there are far too many agendas out there that are severely limiting in who they are intended to serve or to benefit. And instead we must hold on to the most critical of agendas – an agenda founded in and grounded on our faith…we need to learn to insist that the truth we uphold and are willing to fight for must reflect the teachings of Jesus as revealed in the four gospel accounts.
Truth as proclaimed by our Lord always has an overwhelming focus on and attention to issues of justice…truth as proclaimed by our Lord speaks loudly for the release from oppression of all our brothers and sisters…truth as proclaimed by our Lord sets a clear path towards and call for us to love one another and to give our lives in service to our Lord in and through the giving of service to others.
There will always be issues that are divisive among us…there will always be differences of opinion and passionately held positions…we must learn to love and respect one another in spite of them…just as we learn to listen carefully enough to be willing on occasion to let go of any untruth we may be harboring ourselves.
And finally we must seek the will of God in all things…we must learn to live such that our words and our actions reflect a desire to seek the blessing of the kingdom of God here in our midst and in this time…and we must insist on letting Jesus speak to us through the gospels, rather than trying to force the scriptures to speak to our own needs or beliefs…
Truth still exists in this swirl of confusing and competing claims…it is still there waiting for us to seek after it…let us listen…and let us love…