- The Revd Canon Camellia Flanagan, TSSF
Deep truth, inner truth
Pentecost 11 2 Samuel 18; 5-9,14,31-33 & Psalm 130; Ephesians 4:26–5:2; John 6:35,41-51
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit Amen.
When riding in a forest one needs to be mindful of low hanging branches and Absalom met with this very common situation of being caught in low branches, such that his head was held, and his mule rode on without him. Joab had been asked to look after Absalom, but instead of looking after Absalom as the king had asked, he killed him. His action and his hypocrisy was noticed. A man knew what his intentions were, and Joab killed Absalom anyway. When he realised this, Joab could not answer but only dismissed the man. Joab fell into the trap of not taking the time to consider what he was about to do and didn’t care whether it was right or lawful.
When it came time to return and tell the King the result of the battle no one could give a plain and truthful answer, but the King realised that his son Absalom was dead. Then we wonder why David is so upset over the death of his rebel son. David realised that he, in part, was responsible for Absalom’s death. Nathan the prophet, had said that because David had killed Uriah, his own sons would rebel against him, and he truly loved his son even though Absalom did nothing to deserve his love. In hindsight it would have been kinder and more loving to deal with Absalom and his runaway ego truthfully when he was younger.
The Psalm although not written by King David echoes his feelings of despair and shows the realisation of the truth that God does not keep a note of what we do wrong and throw it back to us.
Keeping a record of sins or holding a grudge is like building a wall between us and another person, or between us and God, and it is nearly impossible to talk plainly while the wall is there. God does not keep a record of our sins, when we are forgiven, we are forgiven completely, and we can trust in the truth of the Lord’s mercy.
When it comes to truth telling and speaking plainly, Saint Paul puts a good deal of emphasis on truth. He uses the noun many times in his writings and at other times uses words such as honest, genuine, dependable, and reminds people to tell the truth, and to be truthful. We know that when speaking of truth, Saint Paul refers to truth as accuracy over against falsehood and he refers to “speaking the truth” as we commonly do, such as in the letter to the Ephesians 4:25.
The English language does not have a verb “to truth”, but Paul used such a verb, when he urged the Ephesians that “truthing in love” they should grow in Christ in all things, Ephesians 4:15 . We can understand this as “speaking the truth in love” but more probably we could see truth as a quality of action as well as of speech. Paul wants his converts to live the truth as well as speak it.
Jesus also reminds us that what he is saying is the truth, as in today’s Gospel he says, “Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life.” All people are given an explicit invitation to believe which can also be interpreted as a warning against unbelief with the eternal consequences of the opposite to eternal life. If a person believes they are not doing Jesus a favour, but it is essential to believe on his terms and belief is given by grace. The immediate truth of this is the inheritance of everlasting life. This is what Jesus means by saying in truth, or in certainty, “I am the Bread of Life.”
The contrast between the manna that came from heaven to feed the Israelites in the Old Testament and Jesus the bread from heaven was already discussed in the gospel last week. Now there is another contrast; the manna in the wilderness, although heaven sent and natural life sustaining in the desert, could not give eternal life. The Old Testament people died. The contrast is that Jesus is the bread come down from heaven such that if anyone appropriates Jesus by faith, eternal life is the assured result. Jesus identifies himself as the living bread, or the bread of life. And says, “Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
We remember that the ”Word became flesh” and dwelt among us and it is as the incarnate Logos, the incarnate Word, that Jesus can give his “flesh” for the life of the world. And we cannot help but remember that Jesus is described as the “Lamb of God”, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1. 29. 36) and it is he who gives himself. His sacrifice is voluntary, (Hebrews 9: 14-15) and it is for the life of the whole world.
Jesus also said, ”I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14: 6-7) It is the Father who seeks us out and through the work of the Spirit, helps us to believe all we have been taught about Jesus Christ. We are gathered in Divine love, given insight and internal peace and in the fulfilment of the promise in Isaiah we are taught and guided by the Spirit of God. (Isaiah 54:13ff) All your children shall be taught by the Lord and great shall be the prosperity of your children, in righteousness you shall be established, you shall be far from oppression for you shall not fear, and from terror, for it shall not come near you.
Jesus is truth, because he embodies the supreme revelation of God. In other words, he narrates God to us, he shows us God, and says and does exclusively what the Father gives him to say and do. This is why he is called God. Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, God’s gracious self-disclosure to us, who incarnates the divine longing for union, makes it possible for human beings in the light of truth, to cross the divide between creature and Creator. Amen.
The Reverend Canon Camellia Flanagan TSSF