Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding
raise her voice?
On the heights, beside the way,
at the crossroads she takes her stand;
beside the gates in front of the town,
at the entrance of the portals she cries out:
“To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live.
The Lord created me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of long ago.
Ages ago I was set up, at the first,
before the beginning of the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water.
Before the mountains had been shaped,
before the hills, I was brought forth—
when he had not yet made earth and fields,
or the world’s first bits of soil.
When he established the heavens, I was there,
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep,
when he assigned to the sea its limit,
so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
then I was beside him, like a master worker;
and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always,
rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the human race.”
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing in the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
[Jesus said:] “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
Humans are capable of believing anything.
Humans are capable of believing anything.
There are humans that strap bombs to themselves and walk into crowds of innocent people, and blow themselves up along with many others, because of their beliefs, because they think their message, or their faith or their God is true.
There are humans who believe it is right to wipe out another group of people altogether because of religion or faith, or culture, or nationality, or revenge, or sexual orientation, or some other reason that makes those people different, unclean, unacceptable or the enemy. The term is Genocide.
There are people who think they alone have God’s ear, and they alone know what God wants, of that they are right and others are wrong.
There are people who don’t believe in God, and there are people who believe in God.
And it seems, that for those in believe in God on this earth, there are myriads of understandings of what, or who, God or the divine is, or are.
There are people who think that this earth and the people and living things in it evolved over millions of years, and there are people who think God created the earth about 5 or 6 thousand years ago.
There are people who believe that the holocaust didn’t exist.
There are people who believe that Edmonton will win the Stanley Cup next year.
There are people who believe that Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau was the greatest Prime Minister in Canada’s history, because of bilingualism, multiculturalism, revamping the criminal code, decriminalizing homosexuality, repatriating Canada’s Constitution, and for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
There are people that believe that Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau was one of the worst Prime Ministers ever in Canada, for huge overspending, running up the national debt, massive inflation and western alienation.
There are still people who believe that the earth is flat.
Humans are capable of believing anything.
And therefore, if humans are capable of believing anything, how do we know what is truthful anymore.
Butter used to be good for you. Then it was bad for you.
Then, it was good for you. Now, some think it is bad for you. Some think it is good for you.
I use margarine, mostly because it is easy to spread, but some say it is bad for me.
How many times have I heard how bad artificial sweeteners are for me? If had a dollar for every time I heard that I could have retired a rich man years ago. There is little scientific evidence for aspartame and sucralose being as bad as what some like to suggest…
…however, I can tell you that there is evidence to show that eating products with a lot of refined flour and/or a lot of refined sugar are doing all kinds of damage to people.
But how do we know exactly what is true? How do we know what is fake news or true news?
Jesus said that the truth will set us free, but doesn’t seem even harder and harder to know what the truth is about everything.
And while we live in a scientific age, where a lot of people put their trust in science, and maybe rightly so. I am not trying to downgrade the importance of science. I just want to point out that with new research sometimes science changes what hitherto was the truth.
So, the truth we might hold today, might change tomorrow with new scientific discoveries.
Science isn’t inerrant, unchangeable or perfect.
And science doesn’t deal with the moral questions of truth when it comes to right and wrong.
Is it wrong to kill a person? Most of us think that is the truth.
What about in war? What about in self-defense? What about if the person is a serial killer, should the state execute that person?
What about killing in the line of duty for a police officer?
What about if the person is terminally ill and in excruciating pain, and wants death?
And we are not even sure when a person is a person?
And even if our Christian faith, we have to confess that the truth is hard to find.
Something in the order of 30,000 Christian denominations.
Some say that the bread in communion is transformed into the actual body of Jesus. Some say the bread is merely a symbol.
Some Christians say that women are not supposed to be ministers, pastors or priests. Some say they are.
There are numerous understandings or theories, for what the death and resurrection of Jesus means, and what salvation means.
There are very diverse views on the meaning and interpretation of the scriptures that we all hold dear.
The scriptures themselves often have different portraits of God, or of Jesus.
There are four distinct understandings of God scholars identify in the Old Testament.
The Covenantal God is a God who enters into relationships with people, and often intervenes in history for the people that God is in covenant with. Promises are made between God and those who are in relationship with God.
The Priestly God is concerned mostly about holiness and right living. God is holy, so we should be holy and different and set apart from others and follow all the right rules to be clean and acceptable to God.
Wisdom theology understanding God or the Spirit as more mysterious. We read a passage from Proverbs that has this theology. God is found in nature and wisdom and has to been searched for or unearthed like a treasure. Those who think, and listen, and learn, and observe the natural world, who watch and pay attention, can find God’s way in wisdom and creation.
The Prophetic God despises human liturgies designed to curry favour with the divine, and get favours from God, and instead God urges us to justice and to equity… to right wrongs, help the needy, stand up for the weak, the widows and the outsiders.
These are distinct but different understandings of God which we as a church hold in some tension. Most of us tend to consciously or unconsciously favour one of the understandings of God.
Similarly, in the New Testament there are five distinct portraits of Jesus.
The four gospels and Paul. We tend sort of to lump them all together into one but they are distinct portraits.
Matthew’s portrait is of Jesus like a new Moses bringing down a better law, where one’s actions count. Did you feed the hungry and clothe the naked and visit the prisoner and look after strangers?
Mark’s portrait of Jesus is of a man always in conflict with the forces of evil, who took up his cross and went all the way to his death for love; and then invites us to do the same, to combat evil and submit to the authority of Christ and Christ’s love.
Luke’s portrait of Jesus is that Jesus loved everyone and especially the disenfranchised in the world. The poor, the crippled, the blind, the lame, the outcasts, the foreigners, the enemies. All have a place and are welcomed to Christ’s table.
John’s portrait of Jesus is about an abiding love that can live in us. The divine invites you into a relationship. So, listen to Jesus, talk to Jesus, think about Jesus, trust in Jesus. In so doing we can live in Jesus and Jesus can live in us.
Paul’s portrait of Jesus is very metaphorical. Jesus is pictured as the head of the body which is the church. Therefore, we the body, submit to the Lordship of Christ instead of the Lordship of Caesar, or other earthly powers, and be Christ’s hands and feet and body, to bring love and good news to the world.
What is the truth? The good news about all these understandings of God and Jesus is that we all experience God and Jesus in different ways.
Some experience or follow God in the search for justice, and find that when they help the poor, they are helping Jesus.
Some experience God in a divine relationship which is close and even personal, with much prayer and listening and overt spiritual practices.
Some experience God in a universal love for all people.
Some experience God in nature and wisdom.
Some experience God in discipline and service and in combatting evil.
Some experience God in holy and right living.
And while Jesus calls himself, the way, the truth, the life, the bible itself give evidence of many ways to God and Jesus through the leading of the spirit.
To use the bodily metaphor of Paul. We are a body and part of a big body. We are not all eyes, or not all feet, or all mouths. We are different and we need each other.
Even the unmentionables are still part of the body. Even the jerks, the losers, the know-it-alls, the self-centred egotists etc… are part of the body.
And so, Jesus’ answer to the question or what is the truth and where do we find it is this: He is the truth.
And when you think about it, that is so refreshing.
No person, book, church or authority can lay claim to being the truth or knowing the whole truth.
We cannot conceive of, or understand the wideness or God’s mercy, the breadth of God’s love, the infinity of Divine Wisdom, nor the depth or height that God will go to, to claim us as his beloved child or family.
Jesus himself is the truth.
The statements about Jesus are not the truth.
The doctrine about Jesus is not the truth.
The bible itself is not the truth.
The Standards of the Presbyterian Church in Canada are not the truth
The historic Creeds and Confessions of the Church are not the truth.
The church, or the Pope, or The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada is not the truth.
Jesus is the truth, and while doctrine and creeds and standards and churches and church authorities may all point to Jesus and help us understand Jesus, Jesus himself is the truth.
And that is why Jesus talks about the importance of the Spirit, coming to us and leading us into truth.
For us, the truth is not the facts of this world, but the experience of divine love and acceptance, and the experience of Christ.
And how you experience God may be different than others, and your experience of Christ may not be the same as others, but it is as the Holy Spirit moves in your life that you come to know the divine, and come to know your truth.
But when we encounter the truth…. When we encounter Jesus we learn something more important than the facts that you find in Wikipedia.
We experience that God is for us. Jesus said. “This is my body, broken for you. This is my blood poured out for you.
We experience that God is with us. Jesus said that he would never leave us or forsake us; and he said that he would live in us.
And we experience that God loves us. God loved the world so much that he gave his only son.
This is a different kind of truth. Not the truth of answers, knowledge and doctrine,
But the truth of God himself, the truth of Jesus, the truth of the Holy Spirit, who guides us into truth.
That truth is not knowledge about Jesus, it is knowledge of Jesus…
And the more we are in relationship with Jesus the truth, the more we become like Jesus.
And the more we are like Jesus the more honest we are about ourselves.
The more we strip away the masks and the roles and the things we put over ourselves to hide our true selves from others lest we be hurt.
The more we are able to honestly look at our own lives and strip away the constraints and the sin and the entanglements that keep us from being the loving person God created us to be…
The more we can just be ourselves.
That is the truth that sets us free. Our encounter with Jesus sets us free to be ourselves, to be honest with ourselves and others, to be what God wanted for us all along.
John Todd was born in Rutledge, Vermont, into a family of several children. They later moved to the village of Killingsworth back in the early 1880’s. There at a very early age, both of John’s parents died.
One caring, loving aunt said that she would take little John. The aunt sent a horse and a servant named Caesar, to get John who was only six at the time.
On the way back this conversation took place with John and Caesar:
Will she be there?
Oh yes, she’ll be waiting up for you.
Will I like living with her?
My son, you have fallen into good hands.
Will she love me?
Ah, she has a very big heart.
Will I have my own room? Will she let me have a puppy?
She’s got everything all set. I think she has some nice surprises for you.
Do you think she will go to bed before we get there?
Oh no! She’ll be sure to wait up for you. You’ll see when we get out of these woods. You’ll see her candle in the window.
Sure enough, as they neared the house, John saw a candle in the window and his aunt standing in the doorway. As he shyly approached the porch, she reached down, kissed him, and said, “Welcome home!”
John Todd grew up in his aunt’s home and later became an ordained minister. His aunt was always a mother to him.
Years later his aunt wrote to John to tell of her own impending death. Her health was failing. She wondered what would become of her.
This is what John Todd wrote in reply:
My Dear Aunt, Years ago, I left a house of death, not knowing where I was to go, whether anyone cared, whether it was the end of me. The ride was long, but the servant encouraged me. Finally I arrived to your safe embrace and a new home. I was expected; I felt safe. You did it all for me.
Now it’s your turn to go. I’m writing to let you know someone is waiting up, your room is all ready, the light is on, the door is open, and you’re expected. I know. I once saw God standing in your doorway…long ago!
The truth is not what you believe about Jesus. Your encounter with Jesus is your encounter with the truth of God and all that God is.
The truth is your discovery that Jesus is waiting for you. Your experience that Jesus loves you. Your fears relieved that Jesus has a safe place for you; and your joy that Jesus is your home and your family.
For surely goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives; and we will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
That’s not scientific truth, nor the truth found in Wikipedia…
that’s experiential truth, the truth of encountering the one who we call The Truth.