What is truth?
In the campaign for the European Referendum, every means was used to back up the rival campaigns, except for Scripture. I didn’t hear any politician using the words of St Paul or Jesus to back up their argument. How was this opportunity missed? Surely St Paul was behind the Brexiteers, and against the tyranny of Brussels: ‘stand firm and do not submit to the yoke of slavery'. Hang on the Remainers would have replied, St Paul was against Brexit: ‘be careful this liberty will provide an opening for self-indulgence.’
Surely St Paul actually has a warning to both camps, ‘If you go snapping at each other and tearing each other to pieces you had better watch or you will destroy the whole community.’
The hand is indeed to the plough, we cannot look back. We now have to follow through what the country has voted for and face the consequences of our actions, the extent of which are now being revealed.
One disturbing aspect of the campaign has been the sacrifice of the truth. Facts and statistics have been manipulated, massaged, fabricated and even falsified. I heard one cynical journalist on the radio saying that this was justifiable, because people expect to be lied to. Do we really have such low expectations?
What is truth? Pontius Pilate asked Jesus. Jesus said that he 'came into the world to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me'. The truth is part of what he is: the way, the truth and the life.
After Jesus called men to follow him, did they tell the truth? 'I can’t follow you yet', one said, 'my father has just died and I’ve got to bury him'. The man had been challenged to follow Jesus immediately. Perhaps he didn’t have the nerve but thought he needed to give Jesus a good reason why not and so came up with that extreme justification, prompting Jesus’ rebuke: 'let the dead bury their own dead'. When people come to the church asking for money there is often a great tale about why they need it, and I generally find that the longer the tale, the less likely it is to be true. Furthermore to be a good liar, you need to have a very good memory. Lies can often unravel with repetition.
It can be hard work to get at the truth, easier to swallow a lie. What a contrast there is in the demeanour of our MP’s: in the Commons Chamber jeering and braying at one another and in Select Committees, doggedly trying to get to the truth of the matter, and hold important people to account.
Lies and false promises are akin to one another. Again the bigger the promise, the less likely it is to be delivered. Look at the first man, who says to Jesus that he will follow him wherever he goes. That is a big promise, no disciple fulfilled that: nobody was with Jesus in his agony in the Gethsemane, nobody was with him in the cell or the pit in the High Priest's House, or when he was put on trial and condemned. The unkept promise can be as damaging as a lie. How can you trust someone who does not keep their promises? What basis is that for a relationship? Better to say nothing than to promise what we cannot deliver. However do we challenge false promises or do we prefer to hear what we want to hear and shut out reality?
And what of the third man whom Jesus calls? He just wants to say goodbye to his parents, not an unreasonable request, surely. Or is this man the eternal prevaricator, the one who knows what he has to do, but can always find a reason why he shouldn’t do it, yet?
Procrastination is the thief of time. Are there things that you plan to do, when you have more time? When will that be? It is a sobering thought that we will never have more time than we have right now. Jesus had set his face towards Jerusalem, he was on the move, had that man gone back to his parents, by the time he returned Jesus might well have gone. The call from Jesus is immediate, follow me, now.
The Bishop of Norwich has described the referendum campaign as shrill, bruising and alienating. He has warned about the danger of divisions in this country that the campaign has opened up and what the response of the church should be:
In our local communities and in our churches we should be the agents of unity, always hospitable and not hostile and committed to the pursuit of the common good. There is a common Christian conviction that unity is better than division, hope better than despair and that we are always in partnership with Jesus Christ when proclaiming the good news.
Rarely have we had more gospel work to do.
Galatians 5.13-18 Luke 9.51-62