The truth will set you free, but first it’s going to hurt like hell!
Anyone recognize that quote? It’s a quote by Dr. Brené Brown; she is a research professor at the University of Houston; she has spent the past sixteen years studying courage, vulnerability, empathy, and shame.
Her Ted Talk on The Power of Vulnerability has been viewed more than 13 million times! You can watch it here.
She also said:
The Transition Team is reading/studying/discussing the book Holy Currencies: Six Blessings for Sustainable Missional Ministry and on Monday afternoon, we explored the chapter on the Currency of Truth.
What is truth?
I get a flashback to Jesus Christ Superstar.
At Jesus’ trial, Pilate says, “Then you’re a king.’
It’s what you say I am
I look for truth
And find that I get damned
And the Pilate responds:
But what is truth? Is truth unchanging law?
We both have truths, Are mine the same as yours?
We have been conditioned to think in binary terms: true or false. As if there are only two ways of looking at something. As if truth is easily discerned and made apparent. But what if truth is multifaceted? That we all have a piece of the truth? And that your truth, put along side my truth and all of the other truths that exist within our church community and beyond, will lead us to a better truth.
Jesus, in one of the famous ‘I am’ statements, says, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” Let’s listen to more of that passage as it is written in John 14: 1-7
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
‘I am the way, the truth and the life.’ This statement by Jesus, could so easily to thought of as exclusionary…
Eric Law, in the book Holy Currencies writes this: The Hebrew word that is translated as “truth,” emet, is composed of the three letters, Aleph, mem, and tab—the first, middle, and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The composition of the word may signify that in order to discern the truth, one must know the beginning, the middle, and the end of the event. There is no half truth in the Hebrew emet. We cannot take one moment, one feeling, or one perspective and call that the truth. For this reason, we do not select one verse from the Bible and use it in a polarizing way to make judgments, calling that verse the “truth.” To discern the truth we need to read the whole Bible from beginning to end. (Holy Currencies, page 44)
And if we think of the way in which Jesus lived, we would know the truth in that statement.
Challenging the ‘truth’ of the powerful.
Listening to the ‘truth’ of those on the margins.
Living the truth of the gospel… the truth of justice and full participate and inclusion for all.
In other words, walking the walk, not just talking the talk.
This Intentional Interim Ministry time is a time to examine/reexamine everything in the congregation. To see if Stairs is walking the walk. One of the ways in which we were doing that was through the Listening Circles. The Listening Circles process is designed to get at the ‘truths’ of a congregation. Even in their physical makeup, a circle, includes everyone. Those of you who participated, and 80% of our average Sunday attendance did, might remember that each person had to respond to each question. The whole idea is that each person had a piece of the entire picture of the congregation, or a piece of the truth of a congregation.
Unlike other sorts of meetings or gatherings, when often a few voices dominate, the Listening Circles process intentionally made space for everyone to participate.
Some of you might be wondering if the data from the Listening Circles will still be valid after the pandemic. I took a look at the report yesterday and I believe it does. Remember, the Listening Circles themselves were just part of a process… after the report is shared will be a process about how we live it out.
Just like our tagline or motto: Faith that matters… love that matters… community that matters… that hasn’t changed because of the pandemic, the essential truth of who Stairs is hasn’t changed.
The questions that I posed in my Thursday Thoughts are the same questions that the Transition Team discussed on Monday. And today I have added a couple more.
These questions are for faith communities and all kinds of organizations, as well as our country.
• Whose voices are paid attention to in our faith community?
• Whose voices aren’t heard?
• And the one that silenced them: What are the truths we are afraid to name?
• Do the ways in which we gather facilitate everyone being given the chance for full participation or do they hinder it?
• What wisdom do we miss when we only listen to particular voices?
• How can we create opportunities for truth telling?
For a long time, in Canada and in the United Church, we have not listened to those who live with racism. We have patted ourselves on the back and compared ourselves favourably to the racism that exists in the United States. As if racism of a lesser sort is okay. We can no longer close our ears to their stories or our eyes to the injustice they experience.
I am heartened by the study groups and webinars and other educational opportunities that have sprung up in the last few weeks. People of all sorts wanting to hear and learn some new truths. But learning is not separate from action. Or learning cannot be an excuse for action.
As the Rev. Dr. Paul Walfall said in at the beginning of the service created by the Black Clergy Network, “Throughout this service, candles will be lit, please note that candles cannot be lit by words and thoughts alone. If a candle is to be lit, we have to act to do so.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wFiumMG3PE8&feature=youtu.be
This is our work… this is our ministry… this is our mission…
We are all called to this work. Listen as Paul encourages, inspires and instructs the church in Ephesus:
The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.
We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming.
But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.
Speaking the truth in love.
Eric Law goes on to say that “Developing our currency of truth requires that we have the ability to recognize processes that are incomplete, partial, and divisive, and replace them with holistic truth-seeking processes -from debate mode to dialogue mode, from premature judgment to clarification before judgment, from convincing to mutual understanding, from my-truth-versus-your-truth to shared truth, from mono-perspective to multi-perspectives, from either-or to both-and, from sinner or saint thinking to we-are-all-sinners-and-saints,
from who is right to what is right, from accepting the viewpoint of the powerful to raising up the voices of the powerless, from standing in the center to circling around the margin, from divisive solutions to community-owned resolution, from denigrating differences to being curious about differences, and from targeting the other as the evil one to naming the unjust system.” (page 48)
The truth will set us free… but first it’s going to hurt like hell!
It will hurt because we will have to let go of some long held beliefs and practices. It will hurt because change is challenging. It will hurt because it may put us in opposition to some of our loved ones. And we will make mistakes along the way.
The truth will set us free because Jesus is guiding us.
The truth will set us free because the Holy Spirit enlivens us.
The truth will set us free because the gospel, the good news of both testaments, is for everyone!
Thanks be to God for the challenge and the opportunity of living the truth, amen.
John 14: 1-7
Ephesians 4: 11-16
June 28, 2020 – SMUC