St. Andrew Presbyterian Church
Zoom Recording and SermonSERVICE FOR THE LORD’S DAY
EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
October 4, 2020
10:00 AM Elder Dale Green, Worship Leader
To View the Zoom Recording Click Here
| Sermon given by Elder, Dale Green, Worship Leader|
October 4 , 2020
What is Truth?
I took the title of the sermon today from the book of John – chapter 18. There, Jesus is being interrogated by Pilot, the proconsul of Judea. Jesus’ life is being weighed in the balance.
Starting at verse 36: Jesus answered Pilot and said, “My kingdom is not from this world. 37 Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate asked him, “What is truth?”
Our readings from Exodus and Matthew will focus us on that question: What is truth?
Based on the title of this sermon, I’ll bet you thought I was going to talk about politics today. Not so. Well, not exactly, at least not our politics.
In our first reading from Exodus, we need to set the scene – Israel the nation and people have been out of 430 years of bondage in Egypt, for exactly 3 months. They have camped at the foot of Mt. Sinai and God has told them to consecrate themselves, get washed up and cleaned and ready and leave their camp to assemble at the foot of the mountain.
Back in Chapter 19 God had said: “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.
This was amazing! The people really hardly knew anything of God. Yes, they were descended from the line of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph and considered themselves “the servants of the God of their father” (Genesis 50:17). But they didn’t have books and music and churches and worship leaders. They had a simple belief that there was one single God who had promised their ancestors favor. God had told Jacob: I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. (Genesis 46:4).
(And now that Egypt is behind them God said to His people) Although the whole earth is mine, 6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. And the people agreed to God’s covenant terms.
So, this is the Lord’s plan; when God speaks to Moses and Aaron on the mountain, God will also be speaking so that all the people will hear; All 2.4 million of them gathered together at the foot of Mt Sinai.
Starting at verse 1:
20:1 Then God spoke all these words:
20:2 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery;
20:3 you shall have no other gods before me.
20:4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
You see, God is God or God is not. Only one of these possibilities is true. And here, the Lord is making it clear to the people – I’m the only one – this is absolute truth.
And to drive that point home, the Hebrew people were now away from Egypt where there were many gods (small G), each an idol of man’s making.
God’s prophets often speak about idols in this book. Covered in the books of Habakkuk, Isaiah and the Psalms:
“The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see; they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths.” (Psalm 135:15-17 (Psalm 115: 4-8 similar))
The most famous idol? Probably the golden calf that Aaron makes later in Genesis.
But there are a lot of things we could call idols!
Picture in your mind a scale, like the famous “scales of justice” like this.
One way that we can come up with an idol is to put life on a scale measuring truth against untruth and choose to untruth as our milepost, as our idol.
This is our most frequent challenge in life; seeking truth.
If we’re unsure of truth then we weigh the evidence.
Sometimes when we weigh evidence, we do it fairly, taking only facts into account.
But, sometimes we put our thoughts and desires above truth and fact and unfairly tip the scales; we unfairly weigh the evidence.
This tends to produce for us something we believe or that we choose to act on that isn’t really true. We choose the idol, we choose our own path, instead of the truth.
During Jesus’ ministry, the Pharisees were the real pros when it came to putting evidence in the balance and choosing wrong. Our second reading today, the parable of the landowner, pits power against truth.
I’ll summarize again:
Jesus said “Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country.
So, when the harvest time had come, he sent his servants to collect his produce.
But the tenants seized, harmed, and killed the servants. So, he sent others and they too were killed. So, he sent his son and the tenants killed him as well.
When Jesus asks the Pharisees “what will the landowner do to those tenants?”
21:41 They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.”
You see, they understand the significance of the wrong being done here but when they weigh their wants against the truth, they intentionally tip the scales their own way because as it says in verse 45: when the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. So, they plot to arrest and kill Jesus.
You may have noticed that this parable is very detailed. It’s also a long parable and is 1 of only 4 that appear in all 3 gospels. These facts speak to the significance of the story because this was the story of the Hebrew leaders throughout all time and it was also Jesus’ own story. He’s the son of the vineyard owner, who will soon face death.
The Apostle Peter reflected back to this parable in his speech in Acts 2, at Pentecost, when he said: “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” and the people weighed the truth against their lives and responded to Peter by saying: “what should we do?”
The disciple and Deacon Stephen spoke of this parable when he said: “Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him.” and the people weighed the truth against their lives and responded to Stephen by stoning him to death.
So, when Jesus was with Pilot, the Roman ruler simply failed to put the evidence before him in the balance at all. The ultimate idol stood before him; Jesus, and he blew it.
The king of Judea met the king of the world and rejected him out of hand; didn’t even consider his argument, didn’t consider the evidence laid out before him.
“For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
There are a lot of really practical ways that we put truth into the balance in our lives. Take for example a day when I was recently working with meet the need ministries finishing a deck and set of stairs.
I was working where nothing is really level, nothing is really square. A carpenter’s nightmare.
I was trying to get the flat stairs to attach to the vertical end of the railing but neither of them was on flat ground. To make it work out I had to use a small gift from God. A level with a bubble in it. Like a scale, you can’t fool a bubble. When God’s gift of the bubble is in the middle, the project is level. No sense placing your finger on the scale tipping the result. No sense forcing the wood to be anything other than level.
Just like with Jesus, truth is truth. It cannot be fudged, it is a perfect measure of my acceptance of the way things actually are, of the truth.
Jesus said to Pilate: you say that I am a king…
Do we actually say that He is a king or do we see Jesus as just another influence in a sea of influencers in our lives?
The saddest thing in the world would be for us to attend to God’s word today and walk away unchanged. It’s important to see who we are – that we willingly worship idols of our own making – and that we stop allowing that to be a part of our lives.
The parable of the vineyard haunts us all, crystalizes the Pharisee in us all, where we weigh what we want against what God expects and we choose poorly.
We can’t love our neighbors and still hate them for who they are or how they live.
We can’t spread God’s love when we respond to an unkind comment with a snappy retort and another unkind comment.
We can’t be people of Grace and harbor our own personal hatreds.
We can’t be true to God while tipping the scales of truth in favor of our own falsehoods.
21:42 Jesus said to the Pharisees, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;
21:43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom.
Is there any other than Jesus who constantly says to each of us: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and loaded down with burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Mat 11:28, ISV)
So, don’t be a Pharisee –
Produce fruit by choosing truth. Because choosing the truth of Jesus means choosing a path to new life, where our past choices mean nothing in God’s eyes, but our future choices are held in the bright light of truth.