We are not born knowing all truth. Rather, truth unfolds to us as it is engaged and revealed. Truth, therefore, is not our natural possession, or even something we inevitably stumble upon in life. Certainly we get hints of it here and there: snapshots of its immensity and grandeur in moments of insight. But alone that is not enough, partially because we are prone to see and hear only what we wish – or have been conditioned – to see and hear. Also, we tend to distort and disfigure truth in order to control and manipulate it. We use it for power, thus disfiguring it beyond recognition. So, too, truth is often hard, and we are therefore not likely to allow it to remain undistorted in our world. The cross of Jesus provides all the example we need of this tendency.
God knew we needed truth to come from a source outside of ourselves, and so God’s truthful Word became flesh and walked into our midst as a person, Jesus of Nazareth. Christians have come to know through the Jesus event that on our own, we could not discern or decipher enough to get to the truth of God. Who would know that the first are last, those who mourn are blessed, the meek will inherit, or resurrection is possible? Thus, we are people of revelation, relying on the Holy Scriptures, the tradition of the saints, and the gift of inspired reason to point us to the Word of God, Jesus who is the truth. Truth, therefore, is not a birthright, inevitable by our simply being, but rather a gift that could never be obtained without a gracious giver.
Jesus taught the greatest commandment is to love God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength. Yet, too often, the aspect of this command we forget most is the exhortation to love God with our minds, acting as if this only applies to children in Sunday School, or consigning it to a once-for-all class we graduated from in adolescence while preparing for confirmation.
However, there is no such thing as graduation from discipleship. We must continually learn the ways of God, which turn out to be very different – and more exciting – than our own. The wonder is that truth is available to us, reaching out to us, if we will but open ourselves to its revealing nature.
If I may brag a little, St. John’s has extraordinary opportunities for Christian learning that allow us to seek the truth that is Christ in community. In my first days here, I held up the priority of education programs for our children and youth, and encouraged all parents to make this essential investment in the faith of their children. As the way of Jesus is learned and not inherited, our church’s priority of assuring quality Christian education for the children entrusted to our care is a fundamental commitment we make to your family, and that your family should make to one another.
Additionally, we also have wonderful adult Christian education at St. John’s. Each Sunday at 9:15 am and 6:30 pm we have weekly classes offering deep, meaningful instruction on the foundations of our faith. Currently we are doing in-depth studies of the biblical stories and theologies which form the Church year as it moves from Christmas through Epiphany, and into Lent. During the season of Lent, we are going to learn techniques for biblical interpretation, so that all of our members might feel greater confidence in biblical engagement, and find a “middle way” between fundamentalism on the one hand, or abandonment of the biblical texts on the other. Finally, in the spring we will have a course entitled “Episcopal ME” in which we will study the history, ethos, theological worldview, and particularity of the Anglican/Episcopal tradition. Alongside an array of study and book groups ongoing within our parish, each of these provides outstanding opportunities for loving God with our minds.
Therefore, please pay attention to our offerings in the days and months ahead, while considering what God just might want to teach you that you could never learn if you do not show up. Undoubtedly, you will find that as you engage God’s truth, all would-be usurpers to the truth that is him show themselves to be weak, facile and far less interesting, as Christ reveals himself to be the deepest, broadest, most life-giving reality you could never have dreamed up on your own.
Learning with you,
The Rev. Eric Long, Rector