|First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C||January 13, 2019||First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C||Isaiah 43:1-7, Luke 3:15-17, 21-22|
|The Epiphany||January 6, 2019||The Epiphany, Year C||Matthew 2:1-12|
|Christmas Eve, Year C||December 24, 2018||Christmas Eve, Year C||Luke 2:1-20|
|Advent 3, Year C||December 16, 2018||Third Sunday of Advent, Year C||Luke 3:7-18|
|Advent 2, Year C||December 9, 2018||Advent 2, Year C||Baruch 5:1-9, Luke 3:1-6|
|Advent 1, Year C||December 2, 2018||The First Sunday in Advent, Year C 2018||Jeremiah 33:14-16, 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13, Psalm 25:1-9, Luke 21:25-36|
|Christ the King Sunday, Year B||November 25, 2018||Christ the King, Last Pentecost||John 18:33-37, Revelation 1:4b-8|
|Pentecost 26, Year B||November 18, 2018||Proper 28, Year B||Daniel 12:1-3, Psalm 16, Hebrews 10:11-25, Mark 13: 1-8|
|Pentecost 25, Year B||November 11, 2018||Proper 27, Year B||1 Kings 17:8-16, Psalm 146, Hebrews 9:24-28, Mark 12:38-44|
|All Saints, Year B||November 4, 2018||All Saints’ Day, Year B||Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9; Psalm 24; Revelation 21:1-a; John 11:32-44|
|Pentecost 23, Year B||October 28, 2018||Proper 25, Year B||Mark 10:46-52|
|Pentecost 22, Holy Eucharist II, Year B||October 21, 2018||Proper 24, Year B||Psalm 91:9-16, Hebrews 5:1-10, Mark 10:35-45|
|Pentecost 21, Year B||October 14, 2018||21st Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 23, Year B||Mark 10:17-31|
|Pentecost 20, Holy Eucharist II, Year B||October 7, 2018||Proper 22, Year B||Genesis 2:18-24, Hebrews 1:1-4,2:5-12, Mark 10:2-16|
|Season of Creation 5, Year B||September 30, 2018||The Season of Creation, Week 5, Year B||Isaiah 40:21-31, Psalm 24, Revelation 21:1-7, Mark 16:1-8|
Pentecost 16, Holy Eucharist II, Year B
Sermon Date:August 26, 2018
Scripture: Ephesians 6:10-20, John 6:56-69
Liturgy Calendar: Proper 16, Year B
“Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist.”
Truth is a matter of life or death.
Truth is essential if we want to relate to ourselves, to God, and to one another in life giving ways, rather than death dealing ways.
Sisella Bok, in in her book Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life, states that “truthfulness has always been seen as essential to human society…a society, then, whose members were unable to distinguish truthful messages from deceptive ones, would collapse. But even before such a general collapse, individual choice and survival would be imperiled.”
She goes on to say that “Trust is a social good to be protected just as much as the air we breathe or the water we drink. When it is damaged, the community as a whole suffers; and when trust is destroyed, societies falter and collapse.”
An example of the collapse brought on by a lack of truth, leading to a lack of trust, is the continuing decline of the Catholic Church as more and more truth comes to light over the scandal of priests abusing children and the careful coverup by the superiors of the priests. Many lifelong, faithful Catholics are having trouble trusting the Church now because of the damage that has been done. So many they had respected betrayed their trust, and thousands suffered.
We would probably all agree that the current disregard for truth floating around today is causing our whole society to falter in multiple ways—we can see feel the earth shaking under our feet as the truth is blurred in government as our government leaders blatantly lie over and over. The truth is blurred or ignored in social media, advertising, and the list goes on.
I will say though, that government struggling with truth is nothing new. Pilate asks Jesus, a man about to be condemned to death, this question.
“What is truth?”
Pilate, having heard a multitude of accusations against Jesus by the Jewish authorities, and yet himself finding no case against Jesus, still ended up handing Jesus over to be crucified.
We have difficulty being honest with God, with one another and even with ourselves because our understanding of what is truth has become such a muddled mess.
But here’s hope!
Jesus said of himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” in that long conversation he had with his disciples before he was arrested and sent to his death.
The word “truth” is at the center of this statement. Jesus, the truth in our lives, will never fail to point us in a life giving direction in the way that we should follow if we listen to his voice.
In today’s gospel, Jesus is blunt about this need for Jesus in our lives if we are to be his disciples. Not only are we to strap him on as the way, the truth and the life, be we also are to abide in him, to take him in to ourselves.
Jesus, never one to gloss over the difficulty of discipleship, told his disciples that “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them…whoever eats me will live because of me.”
In other words, Jesus is our true nourishment.
We all have heard that cliché—“You are what you eat.”
Jesus was serious that in just such an earthy, intimate way as eating food, we must take him in to ourselves, digest him, and be nourished and shaped by him if we expect to follow his way and live the lives that he intends for us.
And that idea is hard to swallow. It’s so intimately biological!
But we do take Jesus in here at church every Sunday during the Eucharist as we share the broken bread, his body given for us, his blood spilled for us.
And then we leave here determined to live the life that Jesus would have us live until we can get back here again for more heavenly food.
But the bread broken for us and the wine spilled for us is not the only way to take Jesus in.
We are also nourished by Jesus when we walk in love with one another, when we treat others with dignity and respect, and when we share in Jesus’ name.
We are also nourished when we study scripture, and when we take the time to spend with Jesus in prayer.
Discipleship requires commitment, devotion, time, energy and discipline.
No wonder many of his disciples said, “This teaching is difficult, who can accept it?”
That’s why I like the image of fastening the belt of truth around my waist, because it’s a simple way to start this life of discipleship—a simple, life giving and life saving act.
“Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist.”
Being intentional—standing still, picking up the belt, putting it on. Making a proactive choice.
Roman soldiers put on their belts and then hung their swords from their belts. The belt provided a means of protection and also gave them freedom of movement, as William Barclay points out in his commentary on Ephesians.
In Guatemala, I wore a belt under my blouse every time I went out—it was my protection because in it I carried the essential things I needed—my ID, my passport, the cards that gave me access to the money that I needed for food and other essentials. I could move quickly and easily over the cobblestone streets.
I never went out without my ID, because if I had gotten hurt or needed help and for some reason could not identify myself, what I carried in my belt would provide the needed identification. I had my passport—which I guarded with my life during the trip, because I needed it to get back home at the end of the trip.
I also carried a map of Antigua with me, so that if I got lost, I could refer to that map and figure out the way I ought to be going to get home.
And because the belt was strapped around my waist, I was reminded, every time I wore it, about what I had eaten that day—what had I taken into myself? Healthy life giving food, or something else that wasn’t so good for me? The belt was an instant reminder of how many times I stopped at that great bakery that I walked past going to and from town.
So this belt I used in Guatemala is in many ways like the belt of truth that we Christians choose to put on—
Because the belt of truth gives us our identification in Jesus, our means of life, our direction, a reminder of what we have eaten—hopefully healthy, life giving food for our bodies and spirits, and the way home to new life in God at the end of the journey.
Last Sunday, August 19th, The Washington Post published on the front page an article with this headline “The Uncelebrity President.” The article was about President Jimmy Carter, the one term president who served as our president from 1977 to 1981.
Jimmy Carter is a man who wears the belt of truth strapped around his waist. His Christian identification is obvious. And Jimmy Carter has tried his best to let Jesus live in and through him and to follow the way of his Lord throughout his life.
Many photos accompanied the article, but check this one stood out!
It’s a photo of the belt Jimmy Carter wears—not hidden under his shirt but fully visible.
And on it are Jimmy Carter’s initials—JC.
How beautiful—also the initials of the way, the truth and the life, Jesus Christ, openly worn by a man whose identification and direction have been determined by Jesus himself.
Today, take the bread of life and eat it!
And then choose, every day, to strap on the belt of truth around your waist– your way, your truth, and your very life, your protection and your strength.
That’s God’s promise to each one of us.
Bok, Sissela. Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life. New York: Vintage Books, a division of Random House, Inc.. 1999.
Barclay, William. The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians. Revised Edition. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1976.