Lead Me in Your Truth 1st Lent Feb. 21, 2021
Psalm 25:1-10 1 Peter 3:18-22 Mark 1:9-15
I have been thinking this week about TRUTH, and (as always) it has reminded me of a movie—one that focuses on how important it is to tell the truth. It’s called “Liar, Liar” and it stars Jim Carrey as a lawyer who uses lies in every aspect of his life, both his professional life and his personal life. He is suddenly no longer able to lie, and it turns his world upside-down! But, of course, it is gradually revealed that his inability to lie sets his life right-side-up! His character even says, “And the TRUTH will make you FREE!” Amen.
You and I know that personal relationships that are built on truth are solid and happy. Life built on truth is solid and happy. But the problem is that you and I are swimming around in an environment of half-truths and out-and-out lies! These lies are used for many things: to get us to buy things we don’t need; to vote a certain way; to trust someone with something important…the list goes on and on. It is quickly apparent that each of us has a responsibility to ask tough questions and to develop the skill of discerning the TRUTH. But how?
Our Scriptures for today give us some pretty specific guidance and hints of where to look for truth. The Psalmist prays, “Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me.” And, after his baptism, Jesus chooses to go “into the wilderness” for a time of fasting and reflection and DISCERNMENT as he prepares to begin his public ministry.
We will look at other characters who spent time “in the desert” as they sought both God’s guidance and God’s strength. And we will compare God’s truth with some things that often pass for truth in our contemporary world. Let’s take a look.
An Inconvenient Truth
I believe that it is a fine thing to look on the sunny side of life—to see the silver lining. Or, as one person says, “If you choose not to enjoy the snow, you will have less joy in your life, but the same amount of snow!” I believe that optimism has the power to lift us up, to see the possibilities in every circumstance. And I believe that God has a way of working ALL things for good. This is not a denial of the darkness, but a refusal to consider difficult news as a DISASTER.
But there is a dark truth that each of us has to face, and Peter addresses this in his letter: “For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God.”
You see, the bad news is that WE SIN. It is tragic that our sin caused Christ to suffer a horrible death. But Peter says that the good news is that the Righteous One suffered for the sins of the unrighteous (that’s you and me, of course) in order to bring us to God! The Biblical imagery says that his blood washes us clean, and makes us whiter than snow.
The Psalmist reminds us that it’s God’s Truth that we are in need of. “Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation.” You see, the prayer asks for God’s Truth—as opposed to the truth that the world tries to sell us. And the prayer asks “Teach me.” I have to ask myself, “Am I teachable? Or am I so deeply ‘in denial’ that the truth cannot reach me? Will I trust God to choose the best way to teach me, and that I will be happiest when I learn God’s way?”
Let me make my own experience an example: For much of my life, I have been stupid about money. I based most of my financial decisions on “I want it!” instead of “Does this purchase reflect my core values?”
God’s way of reaching me and breaking through my deep denial was to humble me, and I found out the meaning of “broke.” Fortunately, some good friends knew about Dave Ramsey’s study program called “Financial Peace University,” and several of us went through the study. It was amazing. Getting spending under control, and eliminating debt, showed me how to live large without spending large. God was teaching me!
Is there a way to seek God’s truth without the pain and humiliation? I don’t know. But you and I can intentionally seek out God’s paths and God’s truth—in fact, that is what Lent can be for us! An opportunity to separate ourselves from our normal life-styles: perhaps through fasting; perhaps by giving something up for these short weeks; perhaps intentionally focusing on looking deeply at ourselves, taking stock of our lives and praying, “Teach me your paths, O Lord.”
Into the Desert
When we seek the Lord’s TRUTH, asking God to teach us, we can learn from several Biblical models. When the Hebrews made their escape from Egypt, they wandered 40 years in the wilderness. They had to learn to stop being slaves, to stop depending on their masters for their daily bread; and they had to learn to follow God, to depend on God for their direction, their sustenance, their very lives. In Deuteronomy 8, it says “God led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, //:to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you.:\\”
Of course, there were others who chose the desert retreat: John the Baptizer was quite at home in the wilderness; Jesus, in our reading today, was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness; and Paul (after his encounter with the Risen Christ and spending some time with the Christian community in Damascus) went into the desert for a time of reflection and discernment.
Maybe Lent is a time when you and I can go “into the desert” so that God can teach us.
Well, I want to finish today with a story about a woman who drove into Joshua Tree National Park. Kate Walker had not intended this trip to be a learning experience, but it became one! When she wanted to pull into a parking lot at a viewpoint, it was full…full of motorcycles. She didn’t like the noise of the bikes, and she didn’t care for the types of people who rode them. To her, they were obnoxious, maybe even scary.
So she headed home. Before long, she heard a worrisome sound coming from underneath her car—and there was no place to pull over. “Where’s an angel when you need one?” she thought.
A motorcycle roared up beside her, pointing at her car. She thought, “What does he want—my purse?! I might be 70, but I’m no pushover!”
“Your tire’s bad,” he yelled. “Follow me.” Four other motorcycles followed them as they made their way to a camping area. The first biker said, “Hi, name’s Rock. It’s a good thing we came upon you when we did. You’ve got a bulge in your left front tire that’s not safe to be driving on. Why don’t you sit on that bench in the shade while we switch it out for you?”
Two of the bikers were women, and they joined her on the bench. One of them introduced herself as “Debbie, a Navy nurse.” She explained that, after her husband came back from Iraq, he couldn’t be in confined places—like a car–so they took up motorcycling. “My worries just disappear on the open road.”
Kate had never imagined bikers as people she would want to spend even a minute with, but her tension was falling away. And her judgmental attitude was evaporating. One of the guys handed her a bottle of cold water, and told her they would be escorting her to the tire shop. Kate felt cared for, watched over, and sensed that these folks were the angels she had prayed for! To top it all off, she was surprised that the roar of their engines was the sweetest sound she could imagine.