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Sunday, December 2, 2018

First Sunday of Advent 2018: Truth - Part One

First Sunday of Advent 2018 This is part one of a message I preached to the members of the 55+ community I visit each week. Because of its length, I have here divided it into three parts. Here is part one: ------------- Sunday, December 2, is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent, as many of you know, begins the Church’s liturgical year. It’s also the time when we have an opportunity to pay a little closer attention to the New Covenant God promised the world – and to where that promise began: in an animal feeding trough, in a stable. God did not send His Son to be born in a palace, surrounded by the comfort and warmth available to the wealthy. No, God’s Son was born in a stable surrounded by rotting straw, and manure, and the pungent odor of stale animal urine. A place where mice scurried in and around the straw on the dirt floor. A place where flies buzzed around the young mother, her husband, and the newborn Baby. It was a place not too unlike the places most of humanity is born into in 2018. Think of the billions of people born in what we call Third-World nations such as parts of Asia, Africa, and South America. I mentioned a moment ago the New Covenant that God promised the world. The term is synonymous with a perhaps more familiar term: The New Testament. God promised such a thing as early as chapter three of Genesis, but Jeremiah makes the promise more clear: “Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”  (Jeremiah 31:31-34) For this essay, my text comes from the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel: "Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught." (Luke 1:1-4) Let me draw attention specifically to the reason Luke wrote this letter. You’ll find it in verse 4: “So that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.” TRUTH is the essential element of all good and productive relationships. No meaningful bond can last long when founded on fabrication, deceit, and falsehood. That includes a relationship with our Creator, who has been revealed to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Truth is what every writer of Scripture proclaimed. Why? So we might know EXACTLY what our God wants us to know, so we might live safely and fruitfully in relationship with each other – and live eternally with Him in heaven. What is truth? You might remember the verbal exchange between Pilate and Jesus. You’ll find it in John 18:37-38: Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate *said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and *said to them, “I find no guilt in Him." How many today are just like Pilate?  They ask, “What is truth?” And then walk away without so much as hesitating a moment for an answer. So, here is truth. No wishy-washy opinions. No obfuscations – just God’s timeless and transcultural truth straight from the book we call the Holy Bible. But before we get too far along, simply saying the Bible is God’s timeless and transcultural truth begs the question: How do we know it is the fully inspired, fully inerrant, and fully infallible word of God? I will not use circular reasoning by quoting to you passages from Scripture that attest to those things. Instead, I’ll appeal to logic. I call it Logic 101. First, we know God is love. If He were not love itself, He would not have sent His only begotten Son to die for us. We also know from our own life experience that love, by its very nature, longs to communicate with the beloved. Next, God is omnipotent . That means He does what He wants when He wants and in the way He wants, and nothing in all of creation, seen or unseen, visible or invisible, nothing can thwart His plan. If that were not true – if God is not omnipotent, then He would not be God. Therefore, since He is omnipotent -- and in love with humanity -- it is quite logical to believe He is able to ensure His communication with us through the writers of Scripture to be exactly what He wants His beloved – you and me – to know. What does He want us to know?  A Baccalaureate degree program in the subject would hardly scratch the surface of that question, so I will focus brief attention over the next few essays on only a few truths.

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