?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Sermon: The "Voice of Truth"

A Sermon preached at St. Paul’s, Baileys Crossroads in Falls Church, VA on June 24, 2018
5 Pentecost, Year B (RCL): 1 Samuel 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23) 32-49; Ps. 9:9-20; 2 Corinthians 6:1-13; Mark 4:35-41

I speak to you in the Name of God: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

One of my favorite Christian bands is a group named Casting Crowns.  Seeing the lessons for today and knowing that I'd be preaching, I've been playing Casting Crown’s "Voice of Truth" repeatedly this week, often singing along.  The song, written by Mark Hall of Casting Crowns and Steven Curtis Chapman, relates the account of David and Goliath and today’s Gospel as Peter walks on the water to Jesus.

In First Samuel, the soldier Goliath vividly depicts the superiority of Philistine military might.  He mocks Israel’s God.  “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?”  And he curses David.  In contrast, young David is armed with a slingshot and a deep reliance on God.  "You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This very day the lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down …”  David’s victory witnesses to the whole earth that “there is a God in Israel.”

In today's Gospel from Mark is another life-threatening moment.  The disciples who accompany Jesus fear the winds will shred their sails and that waves will sink their boat.  As Jesus sleeps, they panic, and waking him, they ask, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?"  After rebuking the wind and calming the sea with the words, "Peace! Be still!", Jesus challenges his disciples with "Why are you afraid?  Have you still no faith?"  I sometimes imagine what would happen if Jesus were to ask them, "Don’t you know you have God with you?"

I wonder that because these same followers of Jesus have been with him.  He had recently rebuked demons through the power of his word.  Jesus has been revealing himself through his teachings and signs to be the Son of God.  And yet, the disciples still wonder who Jesus is.  Who or what do they imagine Jesus is?  How do we see and know Jesus?  Do we imagine God with Us?  Can we acknowledge God with US?  Do we see this?

I’ve since learned that "Voice of Truth" relates to Mark Hall's struggles with dyslexia and his learning issues as a child.  Co-written by Steven Curtis Chapman, the track is a pop rock ballad that encourages listeners to face their giants, tackle their personal fears, and to step out in faith.  “Voice of Truth” was on the debut album of Casting Crowns released in 2003.  Let me read you the chorus:

But the voice of truth tells me a different story
And the voice of truth says, "Do not be afraid!"
And the voice of truth says, "This is for My glory"
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth
[The entire lyrics of “Voice of Truth” follow the remainder of the sermon.]

Friends, threats are all about us and the “Voice of Truth” is more important now than ever!  Some are personal, others are communal, and then there’s those on the national, if not global, scene.  They are giants we must stand up to and try to put down, even while storms rage all around us that could swamp our boats, sink our intentions, and even kill us.  Sometimes it feels like our nation is caught up in an unending line of giant issues or menacing storms, and each comes with its own “Voice of Truth.”

Let’s recount:
An international activist movement originated in 2013 in the African-American community campaigns against violence and systemic racism toward black people.  The movement began using the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter on social media after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of African-American teen Trayvon Martin.  NFL players who knee during the National Anthem were standing up to protest racial injustice, police brutality and an unfair criminal system.  The “Voice of Truth” was on the march!

The #MeToo Movement began to confront and address the issue of sexual harassment and assault.  Previously, responsibility for the abuse was often placed on the victim, not the perpetrator.  Many survivors of harassment and assault felt the need to remain silent and were left to deal with their feelings of shame and guilt privately.  The #MeToo Movement provides a platform for survivors to share their stories and to realize they are not alone.  It has become a movement of empowerment that is bringing about social change throughout the entertainment industry as well as around halls and offices of government in our land.  There is the “Voice of Truth.”

The March for our Lives Movement began as a student-led demonstration in Washington, D.C. with hundreds of parallel events in cities across the country following the deadly school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL on February 14th.  Now the #RoadToChange national summer tour is traveling to more than 20 states and every district in Florida to continue their efforts to promote change for common sense gun reforms by urging people to register to vote.  These students have called B.S. on lackluster attempts to keep children safe in school, so their “Voice of Truth” shouts out to our politicians that they refuse to accept gun violence as an unsolvable issue.

There are countless other storms still brewing like continuing hurricane relief for Puerto Rico, and other giants that need to be faced down like the Opioid Epidemic in this country.  And just this week, we saw a raging storm around our government’s heartless policy of separating children from their parents who brought them to our country without proper papers. Sometimes the “Voice of Truth” finds minds that are open, eyes that can see, and ear that hear, but not always.  So, these challenges remain with each of us and call all of us to do what we can to help.

Sadly, some storms are too often characterized as being us against them, maybe black on white, or maybe more honestly, White on Black.  These storms, these sometimes-violent events are not isolated, nor are they unrelated incidents.  Racism is a long-standing affliction in this country, and I fear this virus affects us all.  But I remain grateful that our Bishop, Shannon Johnston, called this Episcopal Diocese of Virginia to actively engage in dialogue towards racial reconciliation.

A few years ago, the Bishop wrote in the Virginia Episcopalian about the Hand-in-Hand Listening Sessions initiated around the diocese.  He knew that focusing on racial tensions would not be easy work and that it would require time and effort.  As we've seen, there are enough incidents constantly flooding the news to confirm that, despite decades of efforts to bridge racial divisions in our nation, estrangement remains very real and emotions are still raw.  So, the Bishop regularly reminds us that "reconciliation" is a core value of our Christian faith.

I still remember my own amazement days after nine people died in a shooting massacre carried out by a 21-year old during a prayer service in the historic "Mother Emanuel" African Methodist Episcopal Church in June 2015.  Charleston, SC showed us another way.  People gathered together to pray.  Family members of those killed faced the shooter to acknowledge their hurt and loss while also offering him their forgiveness.  St. Paul continuously proclaims that God has not rejected us but is graciously working for our salvation.  I believe Jesus wept tears of sorrow when death visited "Mother Emanuel," but I hope that our Lord might be weeping now tears of joy, rejoicing just a little in the response this hurting community continues to show.  The people of “Mother Emmanuel” most definitely know the “Voice of Truth” that guides and sustains them!

How do we stand up against giants that promote oppression or injustice?  How can we praise God in our storms?  When people die, or are killed because they're different, in skin color, orientation, or ideology; when relationships break down and diagnoses come, do we look for, try to listen for, or even speak ourselves the “Voice of Truth?”
I don't have the answers to address these problems.  But I know something must start with me, how I see myself in relationship to and with those who look differently from me.  I believe that work in me has begun, but there is so much more to be done.

In Mark's account, Jesus is in the boat with the disciples.  "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?"  When Jesus issues his rebuke, I wonder if it was intended for the wind and waves, or if it was directed to the hearts, minds and spirit of the disciples.  Perhaps both.  The elements listened and obeyed.  The disciples heard and wondered. "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"  It was the “Voice of Truth!”

I don't know about you, but I believe we are amid racial and social storms.  People have tried to deflect what happened on our borders, in Charleston, SC and Parkland, FL, with any number of reasons.  I told you I don’t have the answers, but to listen for the “Voice of Truth” that calls me to not be afraid and to have faith.

Let me close with something that Sam Faeth, a dear friend of mine and past rector of the parish I had served, posted to Facebook shortly after the shooting in Charleston, SC:

"There is a dear young woman who has been assisting at the pharmacy I use for several years.  She greets almost everyone by name.  She asks about family, vacations, health like a friend would.  When I was very, very ill a year ago, she put a "be right back" sign at the pick-up window and carried my bag of medicines to the car lest I over-exert myself.  I often think that she could teach a seminary workshop on the fundamentals of pastoral care.

This morning, she saw me coming to pick up a prescription.  She came around the counter, threw her arms around me, put her head on my shoulder and sobbed, "How could this happen in a church?  Church is where I go to learn and connect, to heal and be strengthened.  How could he sit through a prayer service and then get up and kill nine people?"  We clung together, my pale arms and her beautiful mahogany arms entwined while I crooned, "I don't know, darlin'.  Your questions are the same as mine."  The top layers of our skin were a study on contrasts, but our hurting hearts and our falling tears were the same color."

We can choose to NOT listen to the voice of discouragement and drown out the static in our lives.  Like a bad radio station, we can change the station and choose to listen only to the “Voice of Truth” from God.  Meditate on God’s words and God’s truth and you will be fortified and strengthen.  What we graze on matters!  Choose to be nourished and strengthen, not depleted and dwell in despair.  Remember, whatever you face today, you do not face it alone, the Lord God Almighty is right there with you.

People, it’s time for Reconciliation. This is our work.  The “Voice of Truth” compels us!

In the name of God, who created us, loves us, and sustains us.  Amen.


Voice of Truth" ~ Casting Crowns

Oh, what I would do to have
The kind of faith it takes to climb out of this boat I'm in
Onto the crashing waves

To step out of my comfort zone
To the realm of the unknown where Jesus is
And He's holding out his hand

But the waves are calling out my name and they laugh at me
Reminding me of all the times I've tried before and failed
The waves they keep on telling me
Time and time again, "Boy, you'll never win!"
"You'll never win"

But the voice of truth tells me a different story
And the voice of truth says, "Do not be afraid!"
And the voice of truth says, "This is for My glory"
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

Oh, what I would do to have
The kind of strength it takes to stand before a giant
With just a Sling and a stone
Surrounded by the sound of a thousand warriors
Shaking in their armor
Wishing they'd have had the strength to stand

But the giant's calling out my name and he laughs at me
Reminding me of all the times I've tried before and failed
The giant keeps on telling me
Time and time again, "Boy, you'll never win!"
"You'll never win"

But the voice of truth tells me a different story
And the voice of truth says, "Do not be afraid!"
And the voice of truth says, "This is for My glory"
Out of all the voices calling out to me (Calling out to me)
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

But the stone was just the right size
To put the giant on the ground
And the waves they don't seem so high
From on top of them looking down
I will soar with the wings of eagles
When I stop and listen to the sound of Jesus
Singing over me
But the voice of truth tells me a different story
And the voice of truth says, "Do not be afraid!"
And the voice of truth says, "This is for My glory"
Out of all the voices calling out to me

I will choose to listen and believe
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth
I will listen and believe
I will listen and believe the voice of truth
I will listen and believe

Because Jesus you are the voice of truth
And I will listen to you
You are...