Pages Navigation Menu

Our Truth

Thomas J Parlette

“Our Truth”

John 20: 1-18, Acts 10: 34-43

4/16/17, Easter

 

Back in 2006, comedian Stephen Colbert invented a word that eventually found it’s way into our cultural lexicon. Perhaps you remember the term “Truthiness. Eleven years ago it won the distinction of “Word of the Year.” Colbert has defined truthiness as “believing something that feels true, even if it isn’t supported by fact.” Both Dictionary.com and The Urban Dictionary add a different shade of meaning to their definitions. Both include a nod to the idea that truthiness involves believing something based not on fact or evidence, but on one’s own intuition, opinion or perception.(1) Truthiness comes about when we believe something based on what we wish to be true, rather than what the evidence will support.

I’ve been thinking a bit about truthiness over the last few weeks. Perhaps you’ve noticed that major news outlets, such as CNN, MSNBC and others, seem to coin a new phrase every day to describe how our political leaders present issues to the country. Juliet and I have taken to keeping a running list. So far, we’ve heard phrases such as “alternative facts” (which, I suppose, leads to alternative truth), “counter-factual”, “reality distortion”, “evidence-free claim”, and most recently, “factually challenged comments.” And of course, we’ve all become familiar with the term “fake news.” All of this leaves me wondering – where do we turn when we look for what is true. Not truthi-ish – but really true.

In July 2016, Katharine Viner wrote an article in The Guardian called “How Technology Disrupted the Truth.” In that article she wrote, “What is common to these struggles between truth and falsehood, fact and rumor – and what makes their resolution an urgent matter – is that they all involve the diminishing status of truth. It simply means that we cannot agree on what those truths are, and when there is no consensus about the truth and no way to achieve it, chaos soon follows. Interestingly, what counts as fact is merely a view that someone feels to be true – and technology has made it very easy for these “facts” to circulate with a speed and reach that was unimaginable even a decade ago.”(2)

So it seems that “truthiness”, which started as late night satire, has become a reality of everyday life.

Well, this morning, we do not gather here to celebrate the “truthiness” of our faith. We do not gather to celebrate something we wish were true. We are not interested in alternative facts or evidence-free claims. We are not here to celebrate “fake news.” We gather this morning to celebrate the Good News of Resurrection.

Today we go to the tomb with Mary in the pre-dawn hours, expecting to find a sealed grave. We share in her amazement that the stone has been rolled away. We follow behind as she runs to tell the other disciples, and we join them as they race back to the tomb. We watch as Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, duck into the tomb and shout back – “It’s empty, the body is gone… but the grave clothes are still here.” We are filled with questions…

What has happened here?

Where have they taken the body?

What does this mean?

The two disciples go back to be with the others, believing that the body is gone – but not quite understanding what has happened. We remain behind with Mary as she weeps at the mouth of an empty tomb. She summons the courage to take a peek inside the tomb, and there she sees two angels, in white, sitting by the grave clothes.

“Why are you crying?”

“They’ve taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they’ve taken him.”

And suddenly, there’s Jesus standing right behind her, but Mary doesn’t recognize him until he speaks to her. Then we follow as Mary runs back to the disciples to report that she has seen the Lord.

We also stand in the crowd and listen to Peter preach to the people of Caesarea, recounting the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection… “God raised Jesus on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to everybody, but to us, the ones chosen to be witnesses, the ones who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.”

We are witnesses, says Peter. We preach the truth as we have experienced it. Christ is risen!

We begin the day in the pre-dawn darkness, question marks are everywhere.

–         What happened here?

–         Can this be true?

But when the sun comes up, we are overcome with exclamation points. He has risen! Alleluia!

Just for fun, I invite you to count up all the exclamation points printed in the bulletin. Don’t do it now – in fact, I’ll save you the trouble. There are   32      exclamation points in our service today. Because today is a day for exclamation points. This is a day of joy. This is the day when we take our Alleluias out of storage.

Christ is risen! Alleluia!

These are not alternative facts. This is not an evidence-free claim. What we proclaim today is the truth – and here is the proof…

–         We have an empty tomb.

–         We have the presence of Jesus.

–         We have eyewitnesses.

It is true, Christ is risen! Death has been conquered. Life wins. It is a new day. That is not fake news, my friends. That is the Good News.

Noted preacher and author, Peter Gomes, tells the story of when he met the Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth herself, shortly before her death in 2002. “As many of you know, I met the Queen Mother last summer, and had drinks with her in Royal Lodge after church in Windsor Great Park. We had six minutes of conversation. I timed it. We had been in church and we spoke of the sermon as people do after church. Her majesty said to me, “Wasn’t the sermon wonderful?” Well actually, it wasn’t. As a matter of fact it was quite terrible, but I did what anyone would do under the circumstances: I lied. I said, “Indeed it was, Ma’am.” And then she said, with eyes glistening and fixed right on me, “I do like a bit of good news on Sunday, don’t you?”(3)

Gomes on to say, “Who doesn’t like a bit of good news on Sunday, especially on Easter Sunday. Isn’t that why you are here today? Isn’t that why you have made the effort to be in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing? So here is the Good News of Easter…

1.                           Easter is not just about Jesus, it is about you. Jesus has already claimed his new life; now is your chance to claim yours.

2.                           Easter is not just about death; it is about life, and not just life after death – that’s the easy part – but real life before death, right now. You do not have to die to live.

3.                           Easter is not just about the past, way back then and long ago; Easter is all about the future. Your best days are ahead of you. The old has passed away, behold, all things are become new.(4)

 

The French novelist Bernard Tristain, was once held captive by the Gestapo during World War II. He and his wife had been in hiding, living in constant fear of being caught. Finally the day came when they arrested. As they were being led away, Bernard told his wife, “The time of fear is over. Now comes the time of hope.”(5)

That is Easter, my friends. The time of fear is over. Now is the time of hope. Our Christian truth is this…

–         God loves and values each one of us.

–         God loves us so much that God gave up the only Son for us.

–         Jesus, God’s Son, came to show us how to live life as God wants us to live.

–         Ultimately, God is in control.

–         God always triumphs.

–         With God’s victory comes Resurrection and new life – for Jesus, and for all of us as well.

And that is Good News. And who doesn’t like a bit of good news on Sunday?

So let us celebrate this Good News as we join together in affirming our truth with the Festival of Resurrection printed in your bulletin…

1.    Wikipedia, retrieved 3/13/17.

2.    Homiletics, Vol. 29, No.2, p22.

3.    Peter J Gomes, Strength for the Journey, Harper Collins Publishers, 2003, p264.

4.    Ibid…p264-265.

5.    Dynamic Preaching, Vol. XXXIII, No. 2, p23-24.