“God’s Truth”
Rev’d. Tanya Stormo Rasmussen
Congregational Church of Hollis, U.C.C.
25 November, 2018
Reign of Christ/Christ the King Sunday
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
John 18:33-38

It must have been a surreal moment.  For Jesus andfor Pontius Pilate.  Jesus had been dragged in front of the Roman prefect by some Jewish religious power-brokers.  Pilate had no illusions about why Jesus was there: leaders of his own community were trying to get the rabbi condemned to death without having to suffer any political fallout themselves.  They were keenly aware that, unlike themselves, many of their Jewish kindred were persuaded Jesus was the Messiah—the Savior and ruler whom God had promised through prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the Psalmist.  The followers of Jesus believed he was the One whose power and glory had been observed by Daniel in his vision some six hundred years earlier.

The thing about visions is that they can allow us to see into a truth and reality far more expansive than our cramped, materially-shackled, linear space-time existence, where we know we can only see in part.  Daniel’s vision allowed him to glimpse the Messiah, the Christ, long before the world set eyes on Jesus in first-century Palestine.  And Daniel described him vividly as “one like a human being”, brought before the overwhelming throne of glory.  He reported, “To him was given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed.”[1]

The thing is, Jesus was no ordinary king: his power, though obviously and profoundly threatening to plenty of leaders, did not conform to this world.  That’s partly what drove his adversaries mad—his charisma and spiritual authority were undeniable.  They were also unable to be controlled or intimidated, because he managed to turn the power structures everyone was accustomed to, upside down.

For example: this world’s primary notions of power has everything to do with acquisition and possession: accumulation status, of money, material wealth, positions of influence and authority over others.

But Jesus was all about divestment: he gave away everything he had as others had need, because he understood that in God’s economy, there’s always enough when each one shares according to the abundance they’ve received.  And Jesus didn’t seek to acquire power over others; rather, he sought to empowerthem.  He understood and showed others that in God’s society, power is notlike a pie where if you get a bit, then there’s less for me.  His objective was to help others claim the dignity and power they had been given as a birthright by the Creator of all.  His mission was to make it clear that—contrary to the lies being told by the rest of society—they (the outcasts, the ground-down, the misrepresented, and the marginalized) were no less human, no less precious to the Creator of All than those living in the lap of luxury.  They were no less worthy of respect than those who demanded their subservience.

Jesus was more powerful than the power brokers because he spoke and lived the truth.  God’s truth.  And the fact that he lived and spoke God’s truth was proof that his kingdom was not from this world.  It also explained why those invested in worldly ways couldn’t—and still can’t—understand or tolerate him.

As we heard in our Gospel reading, truth has been cast as a slippery thing by many people.  For longer than history has been written, worldly power brokers have exploited the very concept of truth (just as they have exploited concepts of God) for their own selfish benefit.  After Jesus told Pilate that his fundamental reason for being in this world was to testify to the truth, Pilate demonstrated that while he could speak the truth (he went out to the Jews and told them he found no case against Jesus), truth was a matter of equivocation or expediency for him: “What is truth?” he asked.  He would have felt quite comfortable in today’s world, don’t you think?

How would youanswer Pilate, or anyone else who might put that question to you today: What is truth?

Here’s what I would say: truth is an enduring reality.  Its veracity is not measured merely by whether or not we like or agree with the individual or group presenting the information.  And its lifespan is far longer than whatever the current mood or preoccupation of an audience might be.  It’s more persistent than any news story has ever been (except for our Good Newsstory, the Gospel). Our word “truth” comes from an Old English word meaning constancy, faithfulness.  And there is nothing more constant or faithful than God, the Source and sole arbiter of all truth, as well as any truths.

So, when the world around us is swirling with falsehoods and fabrications; when we get sick of the political manipulations and deceits by those who are invested in the power structures of this world; and especially when we feel tempted to act in similar, spiritually impoverished ways because it seems there’s no other way to survive, then we need to root ourselves solidly in more eternal truths—in time-tested realities that human beings have affirmed for more than just a few decades or centuries.  We need to sink ourselves deep into God’s truth, as it’s revealed in the pages of Scripture and through our Christian tradition.  And we need to practice livingGod’s truth as Jesus did, with the mutual support of our faith community.  Here’s the truth: God’s love is for us.  God—who is Love—came to us, is with us, and will come to us again and again.  And life is only ultimately fulfilling when we’re sharing and reciprocating that love with all the world; that’s when we finally understand the truth, and it sets us free—because then, we are dwelling in the realm of Christ the King.

As we celebrate the eternal Reign of Christ—King of kings and Lord of lords—and as we reset our attention to watching and anticipating Christ’s coming in unexpected ways, may that fundamental truth abide with us.  May we bear witness with our words and our actions to that truth, because in a world bathed in all sorts of falsehoods and untruths, God’s eternal truth is the one truth the world desperately needs to know.

Six hundred years before Jesus walked the dusty roads of Palestine, a man called Daniel was blessed with a vision of God’s glory, and of the Messiah’s power and dominion.  Surely there are still some who occasionally have similar sorts of mystical experiences to this day.  But because God is still speaking in new ways, and forever making use of whatever means available to communicate with us, we can share visions in community. Through the miracle of modern audio-visual technology, we can help each other glimpse divine truths, see visions of God’s eternal truth.  Please watch, listen, and open yourself to God’s truth as this video shares it.

{Video “I Am Present in the Wait”, produced by The Work of the People.)

[1]Daniel 7:13-14

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