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December 12, 2003
Friday's eMo is always a meditation on one or more of the lectionary texts for the upcoming Sunday's worship. As with all the eMos, preachers and treachers are welcome to borrow, with the usual attribution. No further permission is neccessary.


The Truth is A Living Thing: Handle With Care

The lessons are fine this week, until we get to You-Know-Who, who begins his speech with his customary tact: "You brood of vipers!" and goes downhill from there.

Somehow, though, it works for John the Baptist: the people don't leave in disgust. They listen. He scares them, I guess. People ask serious questions about how they should conduct their lives, given the circumstances in which they find themselves, and John gives serious, sane answers.

And he also steers them toward Someone Else. This is a little unusual, in a public figure: we've got a raft of them here just now, elbowing each other out of the way in the hopes that one of them might become a candidate for the presidency. But John is not a candidate. He has no interest in making people like him. In this, his nature and his calling seem in harmony; John is the right man for the job he has.

We must be careful with John, though; we might misunderstand something important about him. Focussed on his weirdness and his rudeness, we might conclude that the way you can tell someone is holy is if he looks awful and behaves strangely. But no. While it is true that a person of integrity may sometimes have to stand against the status quo, it is not true that being unable to conform ever, to anything, is in itself a sign of grace. It may just be a case of arrested adolescence. And while it is true that the truth is from God, it is also true that the truth can be used injuriously. It is full of power, and must be handled carefully. We all know people who habitually hurt others with too-frank assessments of them and who, when called on this aggressiveness, turn to us in wounded innocence and say "Well, all I told her was the truth!" Some truths are best unspoken, and some truths must wait until their proper time to come to light.

It is not hard to think of a time in your life when somebody used an undeniable truth against you, or against someone else, with the sole motive of doing harm. That was the moment when you realized that truth is alive. That it is part of the aliveness of God. That this living thing resists being manipulated by human beings for their own ends. Truth has a birth and a life, and it expresses itself in its own time.
Frifay's eMo is always a dmediationo one of more of the texts for worship the folling Suinday. As wiht all the eMos, preachers adn teahers adnwelcome to borornw, with the suual attribution. NO further permission is niecessary.the texts

Do you know a truth about someone? A potentially hurtful one? Are you torn about what to do with your truth? Remember that it is not yours alone, that it is a living thing, with ideas of its own about how it will live in our world. Do you have a protest to lodge against the status quo? There is no shortage of situations about which an unpalatable truth needs to be spoke. Which one is yours? When will you speak? How, and to whom?

Don't waste your truth and your protest by becoming the person who always says something negative and never gets along with anybody. That's not a prophet. That's not John the Baptist. When soldiers came to him and asked serious questions about how to live their lives, he didn't chase them away with the commandment against killing, even though he knew there was one. When rich people asked him what they should do, he didn't scold them for being rich, even though he knew that the fortunes of the rich are always built upon the backs of the poor.

He attracted their attention with ugly truth -- colorfully expressed. He held it, though, with something that can only be called love.
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