Spirit of Truth
May 25, 2014
Readings for the day:
First Reading: An Excerpt from Wrestling with the Prophets: Essays on Creation Spirituality and Everyday Life by Matthew Fox
“By journeying into our experience by way of art as meditation, we come in touch with our images once again and our power for imagery. This is empowering. It gives us our souls back, and our responsibility to express them. In the process, the Spirit returns — through our imaginations and through our hands, bodies, voices, songs, color, clay, words of poetic truth. As Eckhart puts it, ‘the truth does not come from outside in but from inside out and passes through an inner form.’ We get in touch with the truth through art as meditation, and we also get in touch with a form by which to express our truth. The ecumenical aspect to all this is the discovery that all truth is one — that ‘my truth’ is ‘our truth’ at the level of spiritual experience. As the fifteenth-century Indian mystic Kabir put it, ‘Now beyond caste or creed am I!’ No one owns such breakthroughs of Spirit; they are universal, for no one owns the Spirit, and no religious tradition has a monopoly on it. Indeed, the Spirit far exceeds any one tradition, and that is why all practitioners need to have their hearts open for the Spirit to enter in and tell us truths — some of them new and some of them ancient — that we all need to hear today.”
Second Reading: John 14:15-21. From The Message by Eugene Peterson
“If you love me, show it by doing what I’ve told you. I will talk to the Father, and he’ll provide you another Friend so that you will always have someone with you. This Friend is the Spirit of Truth. The godless world can’t take him in because it doesn’t have eyes to see him, doesn’t know what to look for. But you know him already because he has been staying with you, and will even be in you! I will not leave you orphaned. I’m coming back. In just a little while the world will no longer see me, but you’re going to see me because I am alive and you’re about to come alive. At that moment you will know absolutely that I’m in my Father, and you’re in me, and I’m in you. The person who knows my commandments and keeps them, that’s who loves me. And the person who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and make myself plain to him.”
When we come to this place –
we come to worship God
But we also come to question ourselves;
Our beliefs / Our purpose
I can only hope that what I have to share
Helps in that endeavor . . .
May we be soothed and challenged.
When I was in Algonquin serving a church there, Peggy and I owned an airplane. Until 9-11 I kept it based at a little airport that was just three miles away from the house and church, which were right next to each other. Quite often, we would head out in the airplane on a Sunday afternoon for a picnic or a late afternoon meal at airports within an hour or so from our home; and we just had great relaxing time with our head in the clouds … literally.
There was a fella in the church there who had a real “anti-small-plane-pilot” streak in him. This guy was a roofer, a really good roofer mind you; he worked on our roof while we lived there. He just thought small planes were a waste and private pilots were a hazard to society. Well, I got to talking to him about it one day, and started asking him where this feeling was coming from. I wanted to know the root of his animosity. It turns out that his brother was a commercial airline pilot, and perceived small planes as the nasty mosquito that won’t leave you alone at night.
He said his brother had told him that, “Going flying with an amateur pilot was like asking someone whose ‘hobby’ was dentistry to drill on your teeth.” Now this fella in my church also was one of the biggest critics of any theologically progressive ideas. He knew what he thought to be the truth, and he was absolutely not going to be swayed by any logical or educated argument that was at all different. That’s when I felt like saying, “listening to amateur theologians is like allowing a roofer to perform your appendectomy.”
I ran across this great quote from Isaac Asimov while preparing the sermon for this week. He said once, “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”
Mr. Asimov specifically states there that he is referring to the political and cultural aspects of life, and I don’t want to turn this into a political or cultural discussion. I want it to be a faith based discussion. I want us to think about the difference between what it means to be able to formulate one’s own educated opinion based on good research and in-depth study, and an opinion based on picking up the text and reading it literally for one’s self; or hearing it from a third grade Sunday School teacher; or even hearing an evangelical mega-church preacher say it, who happens to have not one bit of theological training.
Where do we find . . . the ‘truth’?
I grew up in a church that was clearly of the opinion that it owned the truth. According to many in the church of my youth, Catholics were not Christian and other denominations clearly did not know what they were talking about! I also grew up in an era where we were encouraged to question authority. The post-modern philosophical era had begun, the deaths in Viet Nam were broadcast every night into our living rooms and television, the marvel of the age, changed politics forever as we watched the sweat bead up on Richard Nixon’s forehead.
So I questioned and wondered and thought and studied and asked my parents tough questions and challenged the evasive answers – and discovered that the way we were taught is not necessarily the way things actually happened. Yet, hidden between and within the stories, there is a truth waiting to be discovered. It’s in there for all of us. It’s in there to share. As Michael Fox puts it in the first reading this morning, “The ecumenical aspect to all this is the discovery that all truth is one — that ‘my truth’ is ‘our truth’ at the level of spiritual experience. As the fifteenth-century Indian mystic Kabir put it, ‘now beyond caste or creed am I!’ No one owns such breakthroughs of Spirit; they are universal, for no one owns the Spirit and no religious tradition has a monopoly on it.”
No one person or group of people owns the truth; just like no one small town in the USA or Nigeria or anywhere else can give you an accurate description of what the whole world looks like. And if you live in Cuchara, Colorado you have no more ability to describe what it’s like to grow up in Door County than if you had been born in Seville, Spain. But, as a group of people inhabiting one earth, as a collection of people sharing this planet, we owe it to each other to care for and share the nuggets of truth that we have discovered so that all people might benefit.
Jesus says, “If you love me, show it by keeping my commandments, by doing what I have told you.” Live the teachings, is what Jesus is saying; and the teachings include a message of acceptance and sharing; an assurance that the spirit of truth will come and remain with you. In his book, Wayne Muller points out that, “Jesus said that beauty, truth and the spirit of God may be found in everything and every moment… Split a piece of wood, and I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there… Everything that is, preaches the word of God; everything teaches the Dharma (the Sacred Truth of the Buddhists). Every person we meet, every relationship, every leaf, every pebble, every flower, every tree is teaching us about what is possible for us in this very instant. Every instant we may discover what we have missed in childhood — for every moment contains some teaching about love, balance, healing, and truth.”
We have to be able to appreciate teachers and lessons from every background; and we have to be open to what all people have to say – for God is with all and in all. We have to be willing to see and know and hear God speak to us from many sources. And in that process, we have to be able to filter out the parts that are not in keeping with the message that we come to know. A message that compassion and respect for all people is what is most important, for it lies at the center of every major religion.
The roofer in my church in Algonquin and I may not have agreed on the capabilities of private pilots, or theology; but he loved that church was committed to making that church work. He was one of the most generous individuals in the congregation, and I was pleased to find some truth in his perspective from time to time.
Where do we find the truth? We find it in people we agree with and through people with whom we disagree. We find it when we pause and listen for the voice of God in all things. God is still speaking – we are called to listen.