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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Truth and Meaning

A famous book sits on my shelf from a German philosopher entitled "Truth and Method." My teacher, Pat Keifert, teaches a course called "Truth and Meaning" these days...Whether method or meaning, truth still presides over the day...as the Gospel of John says it, "You shall know the truth, and the truth will make you free." (8.32)

For many "truth" is a thing, a statistic, or a fact. That 2+2=4 is a "truth" for some people. For others it is a "truth" that the USA was designed by Christians of the 18th Century (and who happen, so it appears, to agree with Christians of the 21st Century--what luck!!!) However, for others "truth" is a bogey, a ghost, a pipe-dream, at best, and what we only can hope for is to have something "true" for me, and people like me...

"Truth" in the Gospel of John is nothing of the sort from the examples above. "Truth" is not a fact; nor, an hypothesis generated by wishful thinking. Nor is truth a dream or a ghost or phantasm of some kind...no, for the Gospel of John truth is a guy whom John calls "Jesus." And somehow, John argues in his story, if you know this guy you know the truth, and the truth then "makes you free." So, how to know this guy named Jesus? (This is the "meaning" part.)

You can read his story, and that is a start...but do you really know someone if you only read their story? Because I read a book about Thomas Jefferson does that mean I know Jefferson? Do I know him in the way John Adams or George Washington knew Thomas Jefferson? Not really, and so reading a story about Jesus is not knowing Jesus. In fact, in order to "know" someone in the way you know your parents or your spouse or your friends there is really only one way--you have to live with them, work with them, play with them, be with them, trust them, and hopefully they trust you. It is in the living where we perceive the knowing.

In order to "know" Jesus you have to live with him, and since he's alive (that's the purpose of the resurrection) in the Spirit we actually CAN live with him. But do we? Do we consult Jesus about anything in our lives? (Usually we call this prayer, but I often just ask him, as if he's sitting in the chair across from my desk...but I am a theologian, and I am weird.) It's not a question of asking What Would Jesus Do?, one of the most insipid slogans of all time from popular Christianity, but rather, what will you do with the advice or encouragement Jesus brings to you?

To know the truth in this sense is to know--that is "live with"--Jesus of Nazareth in your life. To invite him to your dinner, your sleeping, your parties, your griefs, your slightly sketchy business deals, or even your grossly in flagrante delicto (While the "crime is a-blazin'") situations. Truth in Christianity is not a fact, or an idea, or a morality or even an ethic: truth is living with a person, who, has the power...and the desire...to make us free. What more is there to know?

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