I will try to make my words brief, yet meaningful. After our service we have our annual parish meeting, and I hear that there are a couple of football games you may want to watch starting at noon. In order to get you out in a timely manner from these things today, as I said, I will try to keep my words brief.
One thing that we find revealed to us in the story of Jesus reading from the scroll of Isaiah in the synagogue at Nazareth, is that the truth can sometimes be an uncomfortable thing. Unwelcome, even.
In this moment from the life of Christ, the stage is already set, early on in his ministry following his baptism, that he will not be accepted as the messiah by the people. Here, in the fourth chapter of Luke’s Gospel, not much has happened at this point and already the people have rejected Jesus and his message to the point of wanting to kill him. The narrative moves fairly quickly from baptism, to temptation in the wilderness, to rejection at Nazareth. In Luke’s Gospel, it’s really the first interaction that he has with anyone after he goes to the wilderness for the temptation.
And that quickly, Jesus is already rejected, and in his hometown nonetheless.
Though that should not be a surprise. Imagine being in their spot. This Jesus, whom you saw growing up and maybe even played with him as a child or watched your children together, and who now reads from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah about the hope of the healing and restoration that the Messiah will bring, and he says that these Scriptures are fulfilled here and now through himself, Jesus. That would be a hard pill to swallow. It’s not surprising then that the people cannot accept this.
Sometimes the truth can be an uncomfortable thing. Unwelcome, even.
But truth is an important thing, as we see in the Gospels. To his disciples, he cautioned them to listen to the truth of his message, because then they will know the truth, and the truth will set them free. At his last meal with his disciples, he tells them that he is the way, the truth, and the life. And when he stands before Pilate, and tells Pilate that he came into the world to testify to the truth, and that everyone on the side of truth listens to him.
But as we see, in the actions of the people with Jesus in the synagogue and by Pilate’s retort to Jesus, “What is Truth,” that it’s not always easy to recognize the truth, nor is it always what we expect it to be.
Some of Jesus’ listeners couldn’t accept that he was the Messiah. Some couldn’t accept what it meant to be a messiah and what the goal was, wanting the messiah to free them from Roman rule and restore the Kingdom of Israel again. And some listened whole-heartedly and became his disciples.
One thing that we find is that the truth remains just as important of a virtue today as it was then, as is telling the truth to one another, and standing up for the truth whenever it is not being heard. Unfortunately, it seems that it’s easy for that which is true to become lost in the mixture of messages that we hear, and the ease with which claims can be made and spread doesn’t help the situation in which we find ourselves.
I recognize that I’m being vague here and a bit nebulous. In today’s day and age, we could get specific here about the role of truth in things such as political discourse, our response to COVID, and other national affairs. But to do so would potentially alienate one another, and in a way that wouldn’t be helpful to this moment together. That is not something I wish to do at this moment in front of you now.
But above all other things, let us not be afraid of the truth, but welcome it and seek it out, and commit ourselves to it wherever it may be and wherever it may lead us. As followers of Christ, as members of this parish, and as citizens of the world we live in, may we have open hearts, open minds, open eyes, and open ears to the truth, in all its forms and all its places, not being deceived by falsehood and misinformation, but receiving it as children of the light.
And in doing so, may we be a light to the world!