Live the Christian Truth
Sovereign God, you choose us to participate in your holy ministry. Your call upon our life is a great gift indeed. It comes, not because we have what it takes, but because you are God. Awakening to your call, when it comes, is a tongue-tying experience. Like Jeremiah, we know that we do not know what to say, or what to do. Provide the words we need, the inclination, and help us to respond to your divine summons. Amen.
I have always thought one of the best things to happen to my life was the discovery of ancient thought that came through great philosophers such as Socrates and Aristotle. I guess in particular I loved how they each pulled apart what it is to be a human being. It wasn’t just about identity, but what are the essentials that help us to thrive in this life…what is it that we need to enhance our personhood. Happiness for example is tied directly to human flourishing. Makes sense that this lines up as one of the virtues, or the goods, we need to perfect our human lives. Happiness, friendships, knowledge and wealth are some of the goods we need to have an enriched life. Socrates would say that for any of us to have any meaning or value to our lives, we need to really know and understand ourselves. Socrates catchy phrase that has hung in there for the past 2400 years is, “the unexamined life is not worth living.”
There’s a slogan going around at the moment that says, “live your truth”. Whatever your truth may be, live it. Don't let anyone stop you from living the life you are called to live or deny you the person you were meant to be. Live your truth!
You may think, what issue could I possibly take up with this slogan?
For me it creates more individualism in the world. It creates a greater divide between the haves and the have nots. And I say this because I see that as a middle aged, middle class, educated white woman – I will find it easier to live my truth, or my calling, than our Christian sister living in Syria.
"Live Your Truth." What does this phrase even mean? From a blog spot on the internet Ledgen Hasse says “it’s living your most truthful self and fully embracing yourself as a person. We are all different as individuals and should be able to fully express our differences and live in full openness and truthfulness.”
There may well be some really helpful aspects to “Living your truth” but for me at its base level, this is a very westernized way of giving people permission to do, live, dress, say and think whatever they want. So for example, if what I want to dress up in offends you, then that doesn’t matter because I’m free to live my truth.
I guess it worries me because we move from respecting and understanding who people are and move back into simply tolerating or putting up with what they are.
I don’t know if it’s really helpful to have to constantly fight to live an authentic life from a slogan that doesn’t build personhood… it builds individualism.
The philosophers were never interested in us as individuals. They were trying to identify what the very essence of a human being is so that human beings can build upon, chase after and expect those aspects of life that help us flourish and live well. Philosophers have been helping us to be people for all time.
Which leads me into what theologians think of people. Now this is important to us because we want to know what God thinks of us. Terrific theologian - Karl Barth, very popular in the Uniting Church, he would say that the uncalled, unsummoned, unaddressed life is not worth living.
Barth believed that the essence of our humanity lay not in our reason, or our emotions, but rather in our being creatures who have been created, summoned, and called forth by God. Therefore, the way to be an authentic person – to be truthful to who you are - is not to engage in self-examination and self-discovery – it’s about being drawn into a relationship with Jesus Christ. And we do this by listening and receiving his saving word through which he presents himself and his work to each of us by calling and engaging us.
It’s a truth we can understand, it’s a truth our Christian sister in Syria can understand because it’s a truth that’s accessible, relatable and livable for all peoples.
Jeremiah understood that to be summoned by God is not necessarily to be called to that which will make our lives easier and more fulfilling. He was often put in dangerous situations and experienced a lot of misery.
God still puts his Church alongside the issues or even some people, we might not have chosen on our own. But that’s the risky aspect of following Jesus. You see once we as church is up and running, Jesus doesn’t hold back any of his friends from us. And you know his friends, the ones who are the poor, the ones who are despised, the hungry, the dirty and the powerless. And I know people can get picky about that because they had a different idea of what being Church is or what following Jesus was all about. If we are honest, there are times we just want Jesus… but not the ones Jesus talks about the most.
These thoughts happen to us. There are days we don’t want to think about the poor, the hungry, the refugee, the oppressed. There are days that thinking about them makes us feel oppressed, weighed down, helpless even. It’s troublesome isn’t it? We become stressed out by other people’s distress. We are happy to be with Jesus but unhappy to be with his friends and so we pull back.
We are after all, only human!
But here’s our reminder about being human – we are drawn into a relationship with Jesus Christ. We have been created, summoned, and called forth by God. And even when the heart of our faith is tested, when people are too much, or when we have to wrestle with social issues that we don’t want too, or when we are sick or dying – when we are pushed to the very limits of our generosity or our kindness or our ability – remember Jeremiah who encourages us to stand strong, to have hope.
The concept of tree roots and water is so valuable to us as they teach about connection, growth and regeneration. Because while the tree stands by itself as a seemingly autonomous life form... beneath the surface its roots invisibly join it to the source of life.
While we are all seemingly autonomous, standing apart on our own “living our truth”.....we all have a root system that weaves its way toward the life-giving water, reminding us of our utter dependence on God.
Isaiah 61 says: “The LORD has anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the broken hearted, announce freedom to all captives and pardon all prisoners; …that they may be called trees of righteousness, planted by God to display his glory.”
Jesus came into the world to create a new garden and to raise these trees. The tree planted by the water is there in our life and is visible to God. Use it to be strengthened and regenerated. Amen