Listening For Truth

The way we listen determines what, if anything, we learn.  

That truth nugget is fleshed out beautifully by this story.

“When I was young my father said to me: “Knowledge is Power….Francis Bacon”

I understood it as “Knowledge is power, France is Bacon”.

For more than a decade I wondered over the meaning of the second part and what was the surreal linkage between the two? If I said the quote to someone, “Knowledge is power, France is Bacon” they nodded knowingly. Or someone might say, “Knowledge is power” and I’d finish the quote “France is Bacon” and they wouldn’t look at me like I’d said something very odd but thoughtfully agree.

I did ask a teacher what did “Knowledge is power, France is bacon” mean and got a full 10 minute explanation of the Knowledge is power bit but nothing on “France is bacon”. When I prompted further explanation by saying “France is Bacon?” in a questioning tone I just got a “yes”. at 12 I didn’t have the confidence to press it further. I just accepted it as something I’d never understand. It wasn’t until years later I saw it written down that the penny dropped.” (- Lard_Baron of Reddit)

I really admire that kid. Mostly, for sharing that story. But also, for keeping at it.

He was pretty sure that something wasn’t right, so he kept trying to find out what it was. Now, if he had just come out and asked somebody, he would have saved himself some trouble. But then we wouldn’t have that story. And I’m glad we do. 

It reminds me of this teaching from Jesus.

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Truth and Who You Are

Several years ago when we were living in Ohio, I was driving back to the church after lunch, and traffic came to a quick stop. The person in front of me stopped. The person in front of them stopped. I came to a complete stop. Then the person in back of me stopped too. By driving into the back of my car at 40 mph.

I climbed out of my car and I stood in the small center median looking at the damage. My car was pretty banged up. Her car appeared to be totaled. We were both basically ok. But I could already feel that I had hit my neck and head.

That day I learned something about myself. That apparently when things are not at all fine, I decide to tell myself that I am fine, and I become what Dave would lovingly call “a little stubborn.” So as I stood there in the median next to my wrecked car as they tried to put a neck brace on me, Dave received the following phone call. “Hi! It’s me. I got in a little car accident but everything is fine and I am definitely fine so no need to come. Love you!”  Click.

This was the phone call I made about 20 seconds before they helped me into the ambulance to go get checked out, just before the tow truck arrived to take my car.

Truth: I wasn’t fine.

My own perception: Nothing to worry about here. It’s just a regular day.

Lucky for me, I have a wonderful husband who knows that the more I say I am fine, the less likely that is to be true, and he was there in a minute standing next to me.  What did I learn that day, besides what it feels like to get whiplash?

Even I am not the best judge of who I am or how I am really doing.

It would seem like the best source of information about myself would be me, but it turns out that even I can’t always be trusted. Even I don’t always know what’s true, even when it’s about me.

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Disagreements and the 3 Kinds of Truth

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Do you remember this dress?

What colors do you see here? Some people see white and gold. Others see blue and black. That’s crazy to me.

 

How about this sound?

What did you hear? I hear Yanny.

Some of our disagreements just come down to the way we see things, or hear things.  And there are things like the dress and the audio clip, that just don’t really matter, and it’s funny, and we can just appreciate how different we are. 

But there are some things we disagree about with people that we can’t just dismiss as a difference of opinion. They matter far more than what color a dress is.

But at the same time, the way that we have been talking about these important matters just isn’t working. 

So how are we supposed to disagree when it’s about morality, or science or religion?

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Testimony Is Evidence

Several years ago, when we lived in Ohio, I opened the mailbox and found . . . a jury summons.

Ugh. I had never been on a jury before.  It was a super busy month at the church where I was serving, and with my family, so the timing wasn’t great. But I wasn’t too worried . I had heard from several pastor friends that no one wants a pastor on a jury.  The day of the summons came and after just a few minutes of waiting they called my number to come to the jury box to answer a few questions.

What is your name? Megan.

Is it correct that you are a pastor? Why yes, yes it is.

Can you state the name of the church where you serve?  Sure.  No problem.

At this point I started gathering up my things, thinking about what was next on my schedule, now that I was almost done at the courthouse. 

But then they asked one more question: Is there anything about your role as pastor that would keep you from being a fair member of a jury? 

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Truth and Being Social

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I remember the first time I disobeyed a posted sign. I felt like such a rebel.

I felt like this guy right here.

Signs are really powerful for us. But the signs I want to talk about today aren’t the flat signs with words and warnings printed on them.

I want to talk about the kinds of signs we look for, and listen for, that let us know if someone else is a part of our tribe, or not.

Like the way people dress.

Look at this picture. You instantly know if you can, or want to, hang out with these guys, right? You don’t need to think about it. You just know.

There are all kinds of signs that are indicators, that create an in-group and an out-group. There are all kinds of signs that say, “You’re either with us, or you’re against us. And they’re not always physical signs.

The way we dress, or talk, what we talk about, who we listen to, who we hate…all of these things are signs that say what group we belong to. All of these things are signs that tell us who we are.

Signs and the belonging they signify are powerful, so powerful that they short-circuit our ability to reason and they short circuit our faith.  Signs pre-determine what we believe to be true.

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Looking for Truth

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Today we will be talking about truth, and especially how we can find truth that affects our lives.

But this is new for us.

Because we aren’t on the look out for truth nearly as much as we are on our guard against things that are not true.

We tend to be pretty skeptical.  No one wants to be made the fool, or tricked, or come across as looking gullible. This may have started when we were kids.  Many of us were lucky enough to have amazing, loving, attentive parents.

Who also happened to be liars.

Think about a few lies almost all parents tell.  Let’s say parents are on a walk or on a car trip with kids.

Child: How much longer?  

Parent: We are almost there.

Are we really almost there? If by almost, you mean another two miles on foot, or another 3 hours in the car. Potato, Potahto.

Child: Where is the dog? 

Parent: The dog went to live on a farm.

Oh yeah? What farm? Can we go visit? I didn’t think so.

Child: Can I go to the party?  

Parent: We’ll see.

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Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit

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Some families have some weird rules about what is forgivable and what is unforgivable. 

  • Like whether the toilet paper goes over or under on the roll.
Correct Answer: Over
  • Or whether the toothpaste tube should be squeezed in the middle (like it is by the barbarian I live and work with) or flattened up from the end, like a polite person should do. 
  • I once overheard a woman scream at her child from across a park, “You put that down! We are a Pepsi family!”

Knowing what’s forgivable and what’s not is how we stay in a family, or a group of friends, or a community. And usually, no one comes right out and says what’s unforgivable.

Usually we find that out that key piece of information right after we did whatever it happens to be.

But Jesus comes right out and tells us what the only thing is that we can’t do.

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The Holy Spirit (and Mother’s Day)

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I’m going to be honest with you all.

Mother’s Day is a tricky day for the church.

For some of you,  it is pretty straightforward. On Mother’s Day you celebrate your mom with lunch together, or you are celebrated by your children, some cards, some flowers.  To you all, I wish you a wonderful Mothers Day celebrating together. Being a mom isn’t easy, and a lot of you aren’t just moms, you are great, hard working (and probably exhausted) moms, and you are pouring into your children everyday, or supporting your children as they raise up their own. Make sure your family appreciates you. Or at least grab a nap.

For some, Mother’s Day is great.   And for some it’s really, really hard.

Some of you have had to say goodbye to your mom.

Some of you have battled with infertility, maybe for a really long time, wanting to be a mom.

Some of you are moms who have lost children.

Some of you might not want to be a mom and  people get really judgey about that.

Some of you have a mom who is sick, or who the relationship there is….not what you’d like to it to be.

Some of you are finding a role change in your life, where now you are taking care of the mom who took care of you.

So for Mother’s Day, we could  focus on the mothering side of God .Or one year I preached about how God is like a mother hippo. But that didn’t go over so well.  Or we could have gone the way of one pastor I knew, who totally forgot it was mother’s day at all….and preached on hell.

But this year we are focusing on everything Jesus taught. Looking back to January, we have looked at how Jesus’ teachings can help us live our lives to the fullest. We have studied forgiveness.  But what does Jesus say about mothers?

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Forgiveness and Resentments

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I have a notoriously bad memory. I can’t remember anything. Which is funny because at least half of Megan’s and my conversations involve reminiscing. and I really love them because for me it’s like storytime! Megan tell me great stories about when the kids were little, or things we did in New York and she assures me that I was there! And I’m sure I was. But I sure can’t remember. At least not the details.

I do however have perfect recall of every time I’ve been hurt! And especially for every time someone hurt or was less than kind and considerate to someone in my family. There are 12-14 year olds in Ohio who I would probably recognize right now because they wouldn’t share with Mac or Andrew 10 years ago. They’re still on my list and they’d better watch their backs. No, not really. I forgive all of them, if they even did anything wrong.

It’s just funny how memories work. At least how mine works, or doesn’t. Beautiful perfect days all fade into each other and eventually away. But anything unpleasant? 4K HD resolution forever.
Our memories are like that with resentments.

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Unfair

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The Jesus teaching that we are going to look at today takes us into a story of family dynamics. He talks about two brothers, and their father. And if you have a brother or sister or even a cousin or friend that hung around a lot, this story will strike a chord with you.

Earlier this week was national sibling day, and people all over social media were posting pictures of with their brothers and sister, saying how much they love them. And we do love them… for the most part.

On the other hand, we also know that having a sibling means feeling the deep and real sting of things being unfair.

Think back to when you were a kid. Even when our parents tried their hardest to keep things equal, we are always alert, as kids, to any slight, any favoritism…anything that might be unfair.

I have one sister, a few years older than me. And I can still remember a moment when I was 8, and she was 13. 8 for me was an especially annoying year, and as soon as my mom left the room, I unleashed all of my 8 year old obnoxious powers on my teenage sister. She retaliated by yelling at me to stop.

Well, I had two choices.

I could stop.

Or I could flick her.

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