what is truth

Scripture: Romans 1: 16-18; 3: 21-25a, 28-30

For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous will live by faith.” For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth.

But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith.

For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 

 The Word of the Lord

 

What is Truth

Yesterday morning, Gerard had a conversation with Claudia, an elderly woman from the Carter Burden Network Luncheon Club. Claudia was born in Switzerland. She hadn’t been back for years and years. Through her frequent conversations with our world-traveling hospitality specialist, Gerard, she remembered the Alps and roamed a mental map of the streets of Geneva. Yesterday, she lamented that she, her brothers and her sisters were estranged from one another. There had been a harsh word here and an argument there. There had been wonderings about who was first… and who was last. Gerard encouraged her to return to Switzerland and make peace with her family. That’s hard when you’re old and far away and the wounds are years-deep, but she agreed that she would think about it. Claudia quietly died a few hours later, passing away after a lovely lunch.

When you’re so, so far away and the wounds of your life story have grown so deep, there are often not many places we feel like we can turn to be reminded of one of the most important truths of scripture: You are loved, and you are not rejected. You are loved, and you are not rejected. Just like I am loved and not rejected. And we, as a collective of beings from all different points along the demographic spectrum, are loved and not rejected. Thanks to Gerard, Claudia was able to know this truth before she entered into her eternal home.

When God said Yes! to creation, that Yes! did not stop. God said Yes! to you, and about you, and for you; and God continues to say Yes! today. You and I are beloved children of God, created equally good in God’s image. This is Truth. Ours is first a God of love, and this truth must offset the many points of rejection we might otherwise feel.

 

Because so many of us are feeling that way today:  Rejected.

 

When a brother or sister turns on us,

like so many family members have turned on us

for what we have done and for what we have left undone,

we can occasionally be made to feel like we are less –

not quite the people God intends to protect; not quite the people God chose:

Rejected.

 

When so much of the world turns on us,

like so much of the world turned on dark skinned people during the dark period of slavery,

dark skinned people are occasionally pushed to feel like they are less –

not quite the people God intends to protect; not quite the people God chose:

Rejected.

 

When so much of the world turns on us,

like so much of the world has turned on women who turn on the men

who kick them over and over like a tin can down the street,

women are occasionally pushed to feel like they are less –

not quite the people God intends to protect; not quite the people God chose:

Rejected.

 

When so much of the world turns on us,

like so much of the world has turned on those in the GLTBQ community

who dance in the streets of New York City on Halloween Night

and every night get ridiculed by passersby if not their own family members,

they are occasionally pushed to feel like they are less –

not quite the people God intends to protect; not quite the people God chose:

Rejected.

 

When so much of the world turns on us,

like so much of the world turned on the Jews during the Holocaust,

some Jews are occasionally pushed to feel like they are less –

not quite the people God intends to protect; not quite the people God chose:

Rejected.

 

When acceptable language turns to language of hate

that enters into open dialogue through social media tweets, popular news sources, and political rallies,

- not-so-every day people with their now-seemingly-acceptable assaults -  

leave you are I to be occasionally left feeling like we are less –

not quite the people God intends to protect; not quite the people God chose:

Rejected.

 

This results in more and more of us who are feeling diminished and rejected, unworthy over time, not quite the people God chose, which we project onto other people we wish God hadn’t chose because, then, maybe there would be enough love for me.

 

These are the times when hate language becomes hateful acts that turn hurting people into murderers.

 

On Saturday, when Robert Bowers turned his semi-automatic rifle onto a large Jewish congregation in prayer at Tree of Life Synagogue, it turned the world on its ear. We heard gunshots and we heard shooting barbs over whose words stoked the fire of rejection in Bowers’ soul over time and whose words might be stoking the fire of hate across groups across America today.

 

Friends: Rejection must stop.

 

The language of rejection must stop. The acts of hate, rooted in fear of rejection must stop. Which is precisely what Paul intended to communicate when he wrote to the people of Rome 2000 years ago from a prison cell where he waited to be called home to the Lord.

 

The God of all salvation; the God who set the stars in the sky and the twinkle in your mother’s eye; the one who has as the thesis of being the very meaning of love wants us to know the truth of the good news: that true power lies in acceptance; that all are worthy of forgiveness just as all are prone to sin; that no one receives preferential treatment; no one gets priority seating; all are one in God’s eyes, all are equal recipients of God’s love and grace.

 

God’s acts of acceptance are not passive acts and ours cannot be, either. Paul wrote that the world really is a different place because of Christ’s presence in it. And Christ’s presence is known today through the grace and love that is shown every time we show our acceptance of others, especially those who are different:

Different from us; different because of us.

Different and loving it! Different and wishing things could be, well, different.

This. Is. Truth.        

…Elvis said it’s just like the sun.  

You can shut it out for a time, but it ain’t goin’ away.

 

Unfortunately,  “What people believe prevails over the truth.” That’s Sophocles, 2500 years ago.

 

So, men and women of God, believe this truth: you are loved, you are forgiven and you are a blessing to the world.  And here is your privilege, as Christians out in the world, sent to love and serve: that you may be one who helps set truth free. That you may be one who shows a spirit of truth and acceptance to the world. That you may be the one who perpetuates the truth of the good news. Because in this truth, there is victory in heaven and on earth.

Thanks be to God. Amen