Category Archives: hope

We who are blind can be told Truth

Many in our society are skeptical when someone or some group makes a claim to know Truth. And rightly so. Even scientific observation is never fully objective. Science again and again needs to adjust its conclusions (is salt or cream or eggs bad for us—or good?!) because researchers’ blind spots and biases can skewer their results.

Some persons go much farther and deny even the possibility of us knowing Truth. They say that each of us can only know our own “lived experience” but never be sure of objective or universal values.

An old poem by John Godfrey Saxe seems to have anticipated our postmodern skepticism. It describes the

…six men of Indostan

To learning much inclined,

Who went to see the Elephant

(Though all of them were blind).

empty tombDepending on which part of the elephant they touch, they conclude the elephant is like a wall, a spear, a rope, or other things. So they

Disputed loud and long,

Each in his own opinion

Exceeding stiff and strong,

Though each was partly in the right

And all were in the wrong.

Yes, our experience and knowledge is limited, like those blind men. We can never take in the whole picture.

So it seems inescapable that Truth is forever beyond our reach. Except for one thing. In the poem, who saw the incident? How can the story be told unless there’s someone who saw it happen—saw the elephant and each blind man touching a part of it?

Indeed, in the first version of the story, told by Buddha, the raja or king looks on empty tombas one man thinks the elephant is like a wall, one like a rope, and so on. That’s how we have the story: the king saw what went on. His understanding was not limited like the blind men.

Is it possible that some King sees all of reality and life, sees this group grabbing onto this aspect of life and that group latching onto that? And can tell the full story of what’s happening? Such a One would be able to fit the various parts of understanding into a complete whole, would know how life fits together. Such a One could—and does—give us Truth.

Can Coke heal the world?!

All of us could quickly start a list of things that are wrong in our world: mornings that are cold and damp, flu viruses, entertainment that is increasingly sexualized and violent, reckless driving that snuffs out a young life. And we can add to the list by looking into our own hearts and actions.

Coca-Cola had an ad during the 2015 Super Bowl that started with a bunch of clips of people using technology in cruel and hateful ways, like nasty online comments and bullying text messages. Then comes a fortuitous accident. bottle of Coke spilling on internet wires We see one of those rooms that “runs” the internet with a worker in it who is drinking a Coke … that spills onto some of the wires. You can picture what happens next (or watch it on YouTube!)—an exuberant (Coke-red) surge of energy flows through the world’s connections, replacing the blue (suspiciously Pepsi-colored) instances of hatred, cruelty, and just-plain-meanness with instances of love, encouragement, and affirmation. Drink Coke and all the world will be renewed and restored!

The idea is laughable, of course. But I love that image of something that can heal the world. What if there is something or someone truly able to set the world to right?!

Indeed we believe there is. And that the process of healing the things that are wrong in us and in the world has already begun. A son was born; and he was named “He saves” (Matt. 1:21). “Let all creation rejoice before the Lord,” the psalmist declares, “for he comes, he comes to judge the earth” (Psalm 96:11-13; also 98:7-9). When something is badly out of kilter, we rejoice to have it fixed, for someone to come and sort things out, put things to right.

God has entered our world and is working to redeem and heal its suffering, greed, and violence slowly but surely—three steps forward, two steps backwards (sometimes it can seem like four steps backwards).

God sent Moses and the Prophets to instruct us in what is right. And ultimately came as God the Son to confront the powers of darkness that fracture our world. They killed him on the cross. He did not retaliate but absorbed the pain and violence of human evil. Three days later he triumphed over death and all darkness!

God forgives us and gives us a new beginning when we confess our share in the wrong in the world. And the Spirit of God enables us to follow Jesus and push back the powers of darkness in all of life. All of us have a story to tell: “Something I’m doing differently (than I did in the past, or than secular culture around me) as part of God putting things to right.” (That is our monthly sharing during our year of “What’s our story?” at Trissels.)

And one Day Jesus will return (1 Thes. 4:15-17) and heaven will come to earth (Rev. 21:1-4) and all things will be decisively renewed and restored!

I’ll end this post with a comment that will unsettle—even rattle—most persons in my generation who grew up in the church. At least, it did me when I first learned it. Those last two events—Jesus coming again and heaven coming to earth—probably describe the same event.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 (NIV) reads:

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

For several generations we typically took this to mean that when Jesus comes again, we will meet him in the air and then continue on with him to heaven. But we now know that when the Apostle Paul penned these words he probably had in mind us joining Jesus as he continues his coming to earth. We have learned that the Greek term “to meet” was often used to describe the inhabitants of a city journeying out to welcome an important visitor. They then would celebrate the honored guest’s arrival by trouping into the city with him. Note: after they “meet” they do not return to the place the dignitary came from but to the place the people had just left. In other words, Jesus’ return is apparently not speaking of the church being caught up to heaven but is another reference to heaven coming to earth. When he comes, according to 1 Cor. 15:24-25, Jesus will destroy “all dominion, authority and power” and “put all his enemies under his feet.” Sounds like heaven indeed will have come.

Not in Coke, but in Jesus all the world will be renewed and restored!

Speak hope—even when we’re troubled

I had something ready to post here about the number of congregations and conferences choosing to leave our denomination. I was going to analyze the issue (the root is not differing stances on same-sex marriage; the root is that the groups leaving are unsure that the denomination is committed to trust and submit to Scripture). And then try to say some wise words on the difficulty of maintaining both unity and the beliefs we feel are essential.

But why dwell on something that makes us troubled and anxious before its day comes (Matt. 6:34)? Our conference seems poised to do deliberate Bible study on same-sex relations. So the time has not yet arrived when my congregation needs to choose between upholding unity or upholding faithfulness to Scripture. Hopefully in that Bible study we will see that all of us do trust and honor Scripture.

So rather than dwell on what makes the church uncertain and anxious, I  decided to share a much loved poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox. I also had fun adding a fourth stanza that brings in our faith, feasting on the hope in it!

Talk happiness. The world is sad enough
Without your woes. No path is wholly rough;
Look for the places that are smooth and clear,
And speak of those, to rest the weary ear
Of Earth, so hurt by one continuous strain
Of human discontent and grief and pain.

Talk faith. The world is better off without
Your uttered ignorance and morbid doubt.
If you have faith in God, or man, or self,
Say so. If not, push back upon the shelf
Of silence all your thoughts, till faith shall come;
No one will grieve because your lips are dumb.

Talk health. The dreary, never-changing tale
Of mortal maladies is worn and stale.
You cannot charm, or interest, or please
By harping on that minor chord, disease.
Say you are well, or all is well with you,
And God shall hear your words and make them true.

Talk hope. Life fills with things unsolvable
for us but not for our wise God whose rule
in heaven will come down one Day to earth.
The sign of Winter’s white and Spring’s rebirth
says it will come! God’s Spirit dwells and draws
the church this day. And grace and goodness call.