Entries with tag truth .

Sowing Kernels of Truth

"I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. 

This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant."

-Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Noble Peace Prize Acceptance Speech

 

During his great life, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a multitude of sermons and speeches, both prepared and spontaneous, to audiences as small as a few dozen and as large as a few hundred thousand. Words were his most influential instrument in the struggle for equal civil rights against the systematic segregation imposed by a country claiming “liberty and justice for all.” As he spoke, his words were both Biblical and prophetic, and he was never shy at projecting God’s truth in the face of evil.

Truth is held tightly by the Orthodox Church. Since Christ’s crucifixion and glorious resurrection, the Church has maintained the fullness of the truth of His message, which is, as it relates to human relationships, the genuine communication of love. Such is an innate intention of all the world’s major faiths and traditions. Some might argue this contradicts the claim of Orthodoxy or dilutes the richness and diversity of world religions. However, from the Orthodox perspective, this is completely compatible through the anthropological element of creation. In creating man in His image and likeness, God breathed life into dirt and we became more than just beings, we became temples of the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of Truth. Therefore, Truth dwells within all mankind, to the degree at which we allow it, and all people are capable of expounding “unarmed truth and unconditional love.”

If every person possesses the kernel of truth and love, how then does man allow himself to turn against his fellow man? The Orthodox Church attributes the actions against love to the Fall of Adam and Eve, the moment when humanity thought itself better than to need an authentic relationship with God. With the Fall came the birth of sin, which distorts the treasures of love and truth into desire and injustice. Sin is a heavy veil that proceeds to blind the needs of those around us. Contemplating on the antithesis of love, Archbishop Anastasios of Albania offers the notion that it is not hate that severs relationships but rather the ego. Often interpreted as the opposite of love, hate is merely one of the many ramifications of when the ego within becomes too strong to tame. Jealousy, greed, and lust are also among the consequences. These negative traits are therefore unnatural to the human person in that they draw us away from attaining God’s likeness and keep us away from each other.

Dr. King and other civil rights leaders of his time were acutely aware that the fight for equality began countless generations before them, even before the discovery of the New World. For too long, the ego has sought to manipulate the hearts and minds of those with an advantageous position over another. The ego has infiltrated every society and institution in which man takes part, which is how the government of “one Nation under God, indivisible,” justified the indoctrination of divisibility. King recognized the ego’s puppeteering presence behind segregation, writing, “It not only harms one physically but injures one spiritually. It scars the soul and degrades the personality. It inflicts the segregated with a false sense of inferiority, while confirming the segregator in a false estimate of his own superiority.” The United States, challenged by cumulative egos of apprehensive or racist whites, could not accept the tremendous racial and economic divide to which it had grown accustom.

Thrust into the international spotlight during the tumultuous decade of the 1960s, the endeavor for equality of all people catalyzed like never before. King led the crusade against the unjust power of one man over another with his championed combat method of dialogue and rhetoric. Instead of turning to the violent uses of force and defamation which evil invites, King opted for the purity of Christ’s message by “speaking the truth in love.”

Despite the obstacles of prison, physical assault, and death threats, Dr. King remained steadfast in his promotion of love. Like a gardener tending to his rosebuds, King patiently appealed to that kernel of truth within every person, nurturing its growth with every opportune speech, sermon, and interview. That truth, through the power of its natural purity, unravels ego’s veil, and invigorates the Spirit that dwells within. King sought a change in public policy by means of a change in the hearts of the public. He understood that beyond the unjust governmental regulations and discriminatory laws was a dark force obstructing the intrinsic compassion of the opposition: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” The illumination of King’s words motivated love, ultimately changing the way racial segregation and inequality is viewed in our country.

April 4, 1968 was a day when darkness overcame one man’s heart so much so that he acted on the desire to take Dr. King’s life. King foreshadowed his death the night before while offering his final sermon in Memphis: “I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.” The shock of his assassination was not enough to stifle his message nor stir hate among his followers. His words were powerful, moving, and germinated the kernels of truth of even those strewn on rocks and among thorns. To this day and for generations more, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s God-inspired message lives on despite his untimely death, proving that indeed “unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.”

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Andrew Calivas is the Coordinator of Ecumenical Programs for the Department of Inter-Orthodox, Ecumenical & Interfaith Relations.

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Blinded by the Light - Sunday of the Samaritan Woman

Lately, my wife and I have been trying to teach our four-year-old daughter the value of picking up after herself.

It has been a struggle.

One of us will tell our little girl, “I see shoes in front of your door. I see a doll next to mommy and daddy’s bed. I see a headband under the kitchen table.” Usually, thank God, our little one responds quickly, running to pick up her belongings to put them away.

But it isn’t always that easy. Especially on my feet.

Why, oh why is toy food made out of DIAMONDS?

Yes, of course, we want the munchkin to learn the importance of taking care of her possessions and treating her belongings with more respect and how we can’t get new things if we don’t clean up our old things and how we need to be responsible with what we have and blah blah blah. But we also just have gotten tired of stepping on her stuff in her room. Especially in the dark.

For what seemed like an endless 6-month period, my daughter would wake up in the middle of the night, crying because she was scared, lonely, or even simply cold. Every night at around 1:30AM, like clockwork, I’d hear the same cry: ““Daaaaaaaaaaaaddy!”

And so, like the doting (grumbling) dad that I am, I would roll out of bed, stumble down the hallway into my daughter’s room to graciously (groggily) ask her what was wrong. But before I could reach her with love (fatigue), I would accidentally stomp on the surprisingly sharp face of Elsa (or maybe it was Anna?). Instead of whispering words of comfort to my daughter, as intended, I’d mumble words of exasperation that sentenced her Elsa (Anna?) doll to a lonely night in the closet.

Over that 6-month period, it was an almost nightly routine. I would stumble into my daughter’s room, impaling my foot as I tried to feel my way through the dark.

Because, you know, I can’t see in the dark. I don’t have sweet night-vision goggles. I don’t even have a cool, primitive sonar capacity that would allow for even cooler echolocation navigation. Needless to say, my ability to make my way through my home without sight would embarrass Matt Murdock.

So why not just turn on the lights?

At 1:30AM, even the softest light feels blinding to my sleepy eyes. My retinas prefer the comfort of darkness to the blinding flash of a light bulb. Yet that choice always comes with a cost, as it leaves me unaware of the mess in front of me. My eyes avoid pain in the dark, but my feet usually don’t.

At 1:30AM, darkness is both friend and foe: friend because, in itself, it doesn’t hurt; foe because it keeps me from seeing the truth of the mess around me, and I become far more likely to get hurt.

Turning on the light to see the mess isn’t exactly that enjoyable, but it’s the only way to avoid stomping on sharp toys.

This coming Sunday, we will hear about Christ encountering a woman, Photini (“the enlightened one”), at a well. I am particularly struck by one of her lines in the story: “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” (Jn. 4:29).

When we meet Photini, Christ is sitting near Jacob’s Well. She comes to get some water, and Christ asks her for a drink. This simple conversation starter leads to a great amount of discourse in which Christ shares that this water, while it may slake her thirst now, will cause her to thirst again later.

Christ then offers her living water, telling her that “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (Jn. 4:14). Photini’s response to this is exactly what it should be: “Sir, give me this water” (Jn. 4:15).

But then, what follows is not what she expected.

When Christ tells her to call her husband (Jn. 4:16), she responds that she has no husband (Jn. 4:17). Christ then tells her, “You are right…you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly” (Jn. 4:18).

And just like that, the lights are turned on, and Photini becomes “the enlightened one.”

Her sin is exposed. This encounter with Christ reveals something about her.

And it hurts.

When we stumble around in the dark, it is easy to pretend that we are just “a little clumsy,” but when the lights come on, we begin to see this room is a mess – this room is my mess.

Photini experienced this. And we must experience it, too.

If we are going to come to know Christ as Savior, it can only happen as we come to recognize that He is Savior because we stand in need of being saved. To see this, we must see ourselves clearly.

Fr. John Behr, commenting on this Gospel writes:

Encountering Christ and receiving the spring of living water may not be what we expect it to be. You can’t introduce a stream of running water into a still pool without all the silt and sediment in the pool being stirred up; the immediate result will be that the pool is much more murky and turbulent than it was before…Encountering the truth of God in the person of Christ by receiving his Spirit is at the same time being faced with the truth about ourselves, and we simply fool ourselves if we think that this is going to be easy.[1]

Too often, we find ourselves like the woman at the well, stumbling around in the dark, avoiding the hard truth about God and ourselves. But Christ is inviting us into a true, living, and dynamic relationship in which we may simultaneously know Him to be Savior and ourselves as forgiven sinners.

But we tend to like the dark. We like the sediment settling at the bottom of the pool. We may be resistant to the light coming on in our hearts because we may begin to realize what a mess it is in there. We may hesitate to receive the living water lest it begin to stir up all the stuff we would rather not deal with.

But the call of Christ is one that we are encouraged to undertake bravely as we can know that He is the Savior who has already forgiven us for our multiple infidelities to Him – “You have had five husbands.”

But that doesn’t mean dealing with our mess is going to painless.

We may continue to stumble around for a little bit because turning on the light is disorienting and painful.

As St. Syncletica of Alexandria stated, “Those who would ignite a fire are at first choked by smoke, their eyes stinging with hot tears. Even so, by this effort they obtain what they have sought: The God Who is a consuming fire. Just so, we kindle this divine fire with tears and breath and labor.”[2] The work of opening our hearts to God and looking truly in ourselves is “painful. It is akin to spiritual death, but it is the only way in which the healing process can begin.”[3]

And Christ promises that this healing process will lead us to thirst never again. He leads Photini – He leads us to desire Him and the healing that only He can bring.

The healing involves a stark look in the mirror, to be sure. We will see ourselves as we really are, and we probably won’t like what we see. But we will only see ourselves clearly because the Light of Christ illumines all, making photinis of us all, inviting us to gaze on His face, to see Him as He is.

Then “we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 Jn. 3:2).

So, let us contemplate Christ, the Light of all, that “we may come to know ourselves as sinners, yet also know that we are forgiven in Christ. This reality is inescapable – it is the truth; and it is better that we are broken upon this rock, and then built up upon it, rather than that it falls upon us and grinds us to dust (cf. Matt. 21:44).”[4]

What about you? Does having your heart exposed scare you at all? Or have you ever had such an experience of coming to know Christ and being confronted with your own sinfulness? Comment below and let us know how you responded to what could have otherwise been a difficult and demoralizing time!

 

[1] John Behr, The Cross Stands While the World Turns: Homilies for the Cycles of the Year (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Crestwood: 2014), p. 82-83.

[2] Scott Cairns, Love’s Immensity: Mystics on the Endless Life (Paraclete Press, Brewster: 2007), p. 25.

[3] Joseph J. Allen, Inner Way: Toward a Rebirth of Eastern Christian Spiritual Direction (Holy Cross Orthodox Press, Brookline: 2000), p. 25.

[4] Behr, The Cross Stands While the World Turns, p. 83. 

Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, mover, shaker, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, and CrossFitter. Christian has his MA from Azusa Pacific University in Marriage and Family Therapy and is working toward a second MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.

Photo Credits:

Play Food: Original

Daredevil: OsCataleptic via Compfight cc

Murky Water: Eva the Weaver via Compfight cc

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For more:

For commentary from the fathers on this reading, check out the Gospel Passage at Exegenius

For more on the call to Repentance, check out this episode of Be the Bee:

For more on Exposing the Mess in Confession, check out this episode of Be the Bee:

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