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Let me reiterate my appreciation for why we have Q&A (I’ve missed it!) following service. Preaching on a single Commandment, as we did on the 9th Commandment last Sunday, would seem to be a fairly simple, straightforward endeavor. How hard can it be to explain God’s priority for truth for the sake of one’s neighbor, right?
But the ensuing effusive conversation that sought to wrestle with the precise demands of truth-telling drove home how even straightforward principles have nuances that must be reckoned with. And sometimes the best way to draw out those nuances is to put the passage before several eyes simultaneously.
In an unfinished essay entitled, “What is meant by ‘telling the truth’?” (which you can download here) Dietrich Bonhoeffer explains that one cannot isolate the Command to speak the truth from the context in which that truth might be spoken. Honesty must be coupled to wisdom its application. “Telling the truth, therefore, is not solely a matter of moral character,” the German martyr writes, “it is also a matter of correct appreciation of real situations and of serious reflection upon them.”
Bonhoeffer points to the parent-child relationship as one context in which the demands of truth-telling differ according to the individual. The level of disclosure from child to parent is to a higher degree than what is expected of a parent to his offspring. For a child not to be totally transparent before his parent is to, in most cases, endanger himself. Whereas parents would cause dismay for, or even damage, their child if they are not selective in what truths they share. The child’s capacity to make sense of what they hear determines in large part what the parent is wise to disclose.
So while truth is an abstract concept, its demands can’t be abstracted from the realities on the ground. As several of you were wise to remind us, the Commandment has in view the good of one’s neighbor as a controlling principle for one’s handling of the truth. That doesn’t mean we insist on telling people only what they want to hear. It does require that we ask if telling this truth serves them.
And if we might take it a step further, we must ask if what we say serves God’s ultimate interests in truth. It may be a debatable affirmation (as it was for us in Q&A), but some have argued that denying the truth from those who wish to persist in distorting the truth is actually a thing the bible may commend. Both the Hebrew midwives and Rahab kept the full truth from those bent on thwarting the purposes of God–which is why neither were condemned for their actions. And yet if our hearts are as Jeremiah casts them, “deceitful beyond all measure” (17:9), wisdom would call for a healthy self-suspicion of our instinct to play the Rahab card to justify speaking that which misleads.
All to say, I commend Bonhoeffer’s essay to you for your ongoing consideration about what it means to speak the truth in love. And I furthermore heartily encourage your comments here in response to what you read, or what we discussed.
We’re concluding our series on the Ten Commandments this Sunday, which ends not far from where it began: at the level of human desire. The 1st Commandment exhorts our greatest desire (worship) to be for God alone. The 10th Commandment enumerates several objects upon which inordinate desire must not be placed. We are all too familiar for desires for things which either consume, ensnare, or otherwise leave us unsatisfied. This final Commandment bids us look not to our hands which may dishonor, murder, seduce, steal, or deceive, but to the heart whose desire is the necessary precondition for all those sins.
The implicit analogue to coveting is living contentedly. So we’ll let Paul’s closing words to the church at Philippi unpack what’s enjoined by the 10th Commandment. There Paul identifies joy as both the ground for and the expression of contentment. Without joy there can be no contentment–nor appreciation for the simplest gifts, which is itself evidence of contentment. Just ask our 2nd President, John Adams. If you haven’t seen the HBO series of his life, run, don’t walk to your nearest authorized source (remember the 8th commandment) of digital content and spend some evenings being bewitched by the astonishing clarity and courage of this Massachusetts farmer. The following scene, from late in his life, is actually an adaptation of a letter he wrote to his son (and future President), John Quincy Adams. Listen to his own epiphany on what Paul speaks of in this Sunday’s textual analogue to the 10th Commandment.
I think I’d be content (ha) to let Paul Giamatti’s portrayal here stand as the full substance of this Sunday’s sermon. But his dramatic words will sustain our inspiration to rejoice only so long.
By now you should’ve received a short email written on behalf of the Nursery Committee asking for your help in serving our youngest children–a growing population to be sure! (If you didn’t receive the email, click here.) We can’t overstate (because that would be lying) the need for additional volunteers, as we’ve had many nursery workers move out of state in recent months. Serving in the nursery is only what a family does, and it’s one more example of what faithful presence to one another looks like. As the email mentioned, you may be receiving a phone call in the next few days asking how you might be able to serve our youngest children. Please consider giving at a minimum two Sundays a year to delighting in those who need the nurture of the whole church family.
Several weeks ago we surveyed you for your interest in forming Community Groups. Since then we’ve been in discussions with those who’ve expressed curiosity about either facilitating or hosting groups. We as a Session are now reviewing the applications of willing facilitators and compiling a list of available hosts. We’re hopeful that a modest number of groups will form beginning this August and into the fall, and that it will pave the way for more groups to form into 2015. So don’t be discouraged if, with this first generation of groups, one isn’t forming in your area or doesn’t fit with your schedule.
While we’re finalizing who will facilitate and where and when groups will meet, we want to keep you in the loop and invite you to consider joining a group. So to provide you all some additional clarity on the nature, purpose, and practice of these CG’s we’ve composed a Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) page that we think will answer most of your questions. You’ll see how we believe these groups are integrally related to our vision of Faithful Presence, and how these groups will have a multi-faceted character. Feel free to contact us if you have further questions after you read the FAQs. For now be on the lookout for more details about the what, when, and where for these groups. Next week we begin a short sermon series entitled Marks of Christian Community. It’s designed to provide a bit more biblical warrant for why we’re going to all this trouble of bringing us together in mini-parishes. More on that next week.
This Sunday, July 13th, 6-8p we’ll reconvene back at the McAndrew’s home at 1215 Rita Ln for our monthly time of corporate prayer. We’re “counting to eight” again, asking God to add to our efforts what only He can in order to meet the needs He’s put before us. We’ll let the prayer Jesus taught His disciples as the structure for our time. If you’d like a preview of the order for our prayer time, click here.
Would you take time to pray
- for Bill Harris as he assumes the role of interim Dean for the Graduate School of Applied Linguistics
- for prospective facilitators and hosts of soon-to-form Community Groups
- that our time of corporate prayer will bear fruit as it binds us together
- for Jared and Sarah Pogoloff as they welcome their newest, Elizabeth Grace, born July 4th
See you Sunday at 9:30,