Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What is Truth?

Christ the King Sunday is this coming Sunday. It's like New Year's Eve in the Church ... except we don't play Auld Lang Syne as the closing hymn. The following Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent and a new church year (Year C for those of you following the Lectionary's three-year cycle of Scripture readings).

Speaking of the Lectionary, there's something interesting in how the Sunday Gospel readings are structured from All Saints Day to Christ the King Sunday. We travel back to Holy Week for the Sundays between these two festivals. When we encounter Holy Week at the end of Lent in the spring, we focus intently for a seven day period on the events leading to the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It's an intense seven day period and the readings focus on what happens to Jesus during this time. In the fall, we return to Holy Week but not to focus on what happens to Jesus, but rather to focus on what Jesus taught during that week. So we heard warnings about the Scribes who "devour widows" and the widow who gave her mite (her "whole being") and the fortelling of the destruction of the Temple. These are all things Jesus said during Holy Week ... the kinds of things that push the buttons of the establishment and can get a guy crucified.

On Christ the King Sunday, we hear a portion of the reading from John 18 where Jesus is being questioned by Pontius Pilate. Some call this a "trial" but it really wasn't one. It was an interrogation into a minor matter as far as the Roman Procurator was concerned. But it was far more than Pilate or Jesus' accusers had ever imagined.

The lectionary text ends just before Pilate utters the question, "What is truth?" I plan to extend the reading to include that question ... precisely because it is the wrong question. When we fall into the trap of asking Pilate's question, "What is truth?" we can begin to believe that truth is something we can grasp - a thing to be possessed. The real question is "Who is Truth?"** and the answer to that question stands in front of Pilate - Jesus Christ is Truth. Jesus is the embodiment of the Truth of God and John tells us this at the beginning of his Gospel:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. ... And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1,14)
And what is the nature of this truth? It is found in the new commandment Jesus gives his disciples:

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. (John 13:34-35)
Loving one another requires Christians to be in relationship - not just with other Christians, but with the whole world. When we live in loving relationships, God gives us the grace to become more honest and authentic with ourselves and others. Through the grace of honesty in relationships we come to know the Truth of God's love.

**(N.B. In the Greek, Pilate's question to Jesus in verse 38 is actually a bit more ambiguous. The Greek phrase "Ti estin alhyeia," "ti" can be translated as either "what" or "who." English Bible translations have historically rendered this as "What is truth?" but suffice it to say we cannot know for certain what Pilate intended.)


Crimson Rambler said...

this is really thoughtful and helpful -- thank you!

Reverend Mom said...

You're welcome Crimson! It was one of those smack me in the head moments when I realized the Greek worked both ways. ;-)