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Below, you’ll find Steve’s reflection and prayer for this week.
Scripture: Ephesians 4:25-5:2
Music: Let Us Build a House, We Are All One People
I remember the time well, it was a little after midnight on Oct 18, 2015 and I was excited because I was watching the first episode of Colbert Report on TV. For those of you who don’t know or who don’t remember, Stephen Colbert, who now hosts the Tonight Show, played a character named, Stephen Colbert, yup, same name but his persona in the show was an over the top, right wing media commentator, sort of the shadow side of the real Stephen Colbert.
That night, in one of the first segments, he introduced a new word, “truthiness.” I hooted.
He said, “We’re not talking about truth, we’re talking about something that seems like truth – the truth we want to exist”. He went on. “Now I’m sure some of the ‘word police’, the ‘wordinistas’ over at Webster’s are gonna say, ‘Hey, that’s not a word’. Well, anybody who knows me knows I’m no fan of dictionaries or reference books. They’re elitist. Constantly telling us what is or isn’t true. Or what did or didn’t happen.”. . .
I was in hysterics because he captured the feeling of the time of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, they and others would spin stuff telling the world about something that could be true but wasn’t.
I especially liked what Michael Adams, a university professor at North Carolina said about, “truthiness”, he summed it up. Truthiness means “truthy”, not “facty”.
Truthiness captured the reality of the time so well that it was named the word of the year.
I was so naïve in those days, I thought truth would return. Well, I was sadly mistaken wasn’t I? We’ve moved way down the road from truthiness to what media and academics are now referring to as the post-truth world.
Truth was something that always seemed important. But, throughout my life it seems we have watched the importance of truth erode. I grew up in the era of Vietnam when we learned that the government and the military lied. Then there was Richard Nixon and later Bill Clinton. We learned about spin and spin doctors and the credibility of politicians just kept going further and further down the drain. We learned that big business lied about the health effect of cigarettes and thalidomide and car safety and pollution and anything else that could impact the bottom line. It seemed like everybody in the public arena was lying about everything.
Still, for the most part, we see honesty as being an important part of someone’s character. It is a trait we usually admire. And it seems to me most people want to be honest. I’ve had many care givers ask me about the ethics of how to deal with a dementia patient who keeps asking when his or her long deceased parents are coming to see them. In some cases, it is more compassionate, to just calm the person and tell them they will be here soon even if we are uncomfortable knowing that can’t happen. In that case, we are dealing with someone who has an illness and just can’t comprehend or remember anything. We are offering them compassion rather than trying to gain something for ourselves.
It has been a struggle as the world has wrestled with Pontius Pilate’s question to Jesus, “What is truth?” – especially when we have gone through years of someone who doesn’t care about the truth controlling the largest nuclear arsenal in the world.
I am not usually a fan of Paul, often there is a lot of moralizing going on in his letters. I usually prefer the Gospel’s where we hear Jesus speaking in a different way, less legalistic and more open to room for nuance and interpretation. But as I’ve thought about this reading and the time we are in maybe it is time for us to heed the advice offered by Paul or whichever of his followers actually wrote this letter and speak the truth to our neighbours, not just individually but collectively.
I am weary like many of us from the pandemic but what has worn me down more than anything lately are those who spread disinformation and who deny the reality that science offers. I know some of the data changes and that is because those who are working on the virus are learning more every day. We also need to remember that the virus changes and mutates, so what is said one day may be slightly different the next. But still these are minor changes and they are based on the best evidence available.
I guess I’ve experienced enough truthiness to know how much brokenness it brings. What I hear from the Israeli government, military and even their courts (which are dramatically different from our ours) does not match up to the truth of the reality faced by Palestinians that I witnessed.
As I think about the words in the reading, it strikes me it is time to move away from truthiness – something that seems like truth, the truth we want to believe and move back toward dealing with the factual truth.
In our own country, we are hearing from survivors of residential schools who are describing the horrors they faced in residential school. Last Sunday was Emancipation Day in Canada, the day slavery ended across the British Empire. Only now are we beginning to realize the struggles that those of African descent faced and still face in our nation. Black, Indigenous and people of colour are finally speaking their truths not just about the troubles their ancestors have faced but also how intergenerational trauma and systemic racism have caused troubles for generation after generation, even unto today.
It can be hard for people to speak about these truths. They are not easy for us to hear but I suspect listening is a whole lot easier than having to live and breathe their reality.
In most of the letters we know were actually written by Paul he addresses issues to the local communities. One of the reasons why scholars are not sure if it was his hand that wrote this letter is that the author is focused more on the church being a universal phenomenon, almost cosmic. Truthiness appeals to us in our own reality and that of the group we are most comfortable with. But the truth, the real, hard and honest truth sets all of us free. Free to be in relationship with one another. Free to hold each other’s pain and to rejoice in each other’s joy. Free to break down the barriers that have been built up. Free to live as God intends for us to be – sister and brother to one and to all.
May God’s truth guide us to living fully and abundantly.
O God, we gather on this Sabbath as people of faith, in a community where questions are welcome about how best we can follow the way of your chosen one, your child and our brother Jesus.
We gather on this Sabbath also to offer you our thanks for all that is good in life!
We thank you for the beauty of the creation that comes forth in summer; for the warmth of the sun and for days that linger. For the beauty that surrounds us; the flowers that bloom in the wild to those that are live in manicured gardens.
For the trees that have provided shade and comforted us on the hottest days. We even give thanks for lawns that must be mowed and cared for they provide comfort and beauty too. And for those who are transforming their lawns into places of sanctuary and nourishment for butterflies and bees.
We give thanks for beaches and the cool of the water and the warmth of the sand. For mountains and coastline where your winds blow cool and refreshing.
Oh yes, we give you thanks for golf courses and for other places where people can join together to compete but more to have fun and enjoy the company of others.
We thank You that this year we are able to be with more of our friends and family than over the past few months. May we truly be able to embrace the more casual pace of the summer season. Draw us closer to You through them O God.
Sabbath gives us time to reflect and renew. To contemplate all that is good in life and also all that gives us trouble and anxiety and to find perspective.
We ask that you be especially with those who are in hospital or awaiting a diagnosis or a treatment. Help them to know that you will be with them to give them strength and grace, . . . Continue to be with the front line workers and those continuing to do research into Covid.
Be with all who feel powerless and afraid of what lies ahead. Help calm them so they may see a path forward even though they may be afraid.
We ask that you be with our brothers and sisters around the world, for those facing wildfires and floods, for places where tensions are increasing especially in Afghanistan and where tensions never seem to be reduced such as Israel and Palestine.
We especially pray for those nations where vaccines are in short supply. Open our hearts and the hearts of world leaders so that those nations who have access to the vaccines share them generously with those who do not.
Help us to listen openly to Aboriginal brothers and sisters who are bravely sharing their stories with us so that we may know better the reality they have faced and the impact it is having on their communities.
Loving One we pray for those who are grieving, the families of Muriel Mills, Jane Eaton and Reid Steeves. Be with them and give them grace and strength for today and the days to come.
Holy God, give us the courage to envision and work toward a world where all are free – free to share in each other’s joys and sorrows, free to share in the warmth of the embrace of family, friends and even strangers, free to live in peace with justice.
We ask these things in the name of our brother Jesus who teaches us to pray, Our Father, …