Our worship theme for this month of May is “grace.” These days, when I think of grace, I find myself thinking of you, and this place. Feeling so grateful to be your pastor, so grateful that we are in this together. Even when things are hard, or challenging, I know, deep down, this is where I’m meant to be. And I think this is at least partly due to the fact that we have been together for a while now. Some of you have been here longer, for decades, and there’s something graceful and grace-filled about that kind of constancy, isn’t there? Especially in a society that is constantly changing, that is so often telling us to keep our options open and to leave when things get hard; that the grass is always greener somewhere else. So staying put is an act of faith, that is counter-cultural these days.
For the world we raise our voices, for the home that gives us birth; in our joy we sing returning home to our bluegreen hills of earth.
I so love this season of slowly unfolding warmth and growth, the invitation to be in touch again with this good earth. Earlier this week, I was driving down the highway, and a little patch of grass caught my eye. Because it was green! Which it hasn’t been for a while! And the thought came to mind: “Just this, right now, is enough.”
Several of us were gathered in my office last Sunday afternoon and I mentioned that Palm Sunday and Holy Week were coming up, and this month’s theme, which is “truth.” Neal Ferreira spoke up and said, “Didn’t Pontius Pilate have something to say about truth?” And then he opened up a bible and found it, there in the gospel according to John!
None of the four gospels are accurate history; they are different versions of the Jesus story, with differing sources, all written down decades after Jesus died. John is the latest, and the most mystical. In the reading we heard this morning, Pilate and Jesus are talking, and Jesus says that his kingdom is not of this world. Jesus is speaking mystically, but Pilate takes him literally and asks, “So you are a king?” And Jesus answers, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” And then Pilate asks, “What is truth?” (see John 18:36-38)
When I was a kid, there was a young assistant minister at our church; he’d immigrated from Cuba, and he seemed kind of radical, at least for North Carolina in those days. He would begin his sermon with this prayer: “God grant us the courage to seek the truth, come when it may, cost what it will.”
If you found yourself in my mom’s kitchen these days, you’d see a full page ad she’s taped up on the side of her refrigerator. From the New York Times, it’s an ad for truth. It’s just a bunch of short sentences, 19 in all. Here are a few of them:
The truth is hard. The truth is hidden. The truth must be pursued. The truth is rarely simple. The truth isn’t red or blue. The truth is worth defending. The truth is more important now than ever.