Dennis Sepper, Burnsville, MN
How can you tell if someone is telling you the truth?
Spirit of Truth
Nathan Zohner, a 14-year-old student at Eagle Rock Junior High School won first prize at the Greater Idaho Falls Science Fair with his project on Dihydrogen Monoxide. Nathan urged 50 of his peers to sign a petition demanding strict control or the total elimination of the chemical Dihydrogen Monoxide because:
- It can cause excessive sweating and vomiting.
- It is a major component of acid rain.
- It can cause severe burns in its gaseous state.
- Accidental inhalation can kill you.
- It contributes to the erosion of our natural landscape.
- It decreases the effectiveness of automobile brakes.
43 of his peers said yes and signed the petition. 6 were undecided. And one knew that the so-called dangerous chemical is…water!
It turns out what Nathan was really testing was how gullible we all can be to what we call today “fake news”. 86% of Nathan’s classmates just accepted what Nathan was saying and believed that “water” was a threat to humankind. Following a report on Nathan’s project, an enterprising person set up a “Ban DHMO” website and was evening selling T-shirts for the cause (the website still exists @ DHMO.org)
- Have you ever believed something to be true but later found out it wasn’t? How did you find out? How did it make you feel?
- Going back to the warm-up question, how do you know if something you read or hear is true? What resources can you use to find out the truth of something?
- Is there more to truth than “the cold, hard facts”? Can a story be “true” in regard to what it says about human nature or even God?
Day of Pentecost
Ezekiel 37:1-14 (alternate)
(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings
For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.
On this Pentecost Sunday we remember and celebrate the giving of the Holy Spirit to the disciples, as promised by Jesus. In this section of John’s Gospel, the Holy Spirit is called the “Advocate” and the “Spirit of truth” (see John 15:26 and John 16:13). Jesus makes the promise that the Spirit of truth will guide us into the way of truth. However, as we explored above, we might ask the question “what is truth?”
In the Gospel, John gives us some answers to that question. First, John says that Jesus is the truth (Jesus is full of grace and truth, John 1:14 and Jesus states “I am the way, the truth and the life,” John 14:6.) John also say that the Gospel Jesus proclaims is the truth (John 8:31-32).
What that means for us today is that in baptism we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is the same Spirit of truth that Jesus speaks of in this week’s gospel text. We take Jesus at his word that the Holy Spirit will guide us in the way of truth.
Martin Luther had another way of saying this in his Small Catechism explanation of the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed when he wrote, “I believe that I cannot by my own understanding or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to him, but the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, made me holy and kept me in true faith”
Then Luther goes on to say how the Holy Spirit also calls and gathers the community of faith…the Church. The Spirit of truth is not just present in us as individuals but as a community, as the Church. So while we have the ability to consider the truth of something compared to Jesus and to what Jesus proclaimed and taught, so the community of faith has that ability too.
One final point about this issue of truth…in the Gospel of John, and in the whole New Testament really, truth demands action. The truth of Jesus calls us to be witnesses to Jesus and to the Gospel in the world. Or to put it another way, we do not just know the truth, but the truth sets us free to action, witness, advocacy and service in the world (See John 8:32).
- What are some of the gospel truths you hold dear in your faith journey? How does that truth set you free?
- What truths have your congregation or community of faith claimed as the reason for their ministry and mission; evangelism, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, working with prisons (and there are many more)? How did your congregation come to that decision?
There is an old activity that would work well this week. It is called “Two Truths and a Lie” and it goes like this: each person states two truths and one non-truth about their life and the others in the group must guess which statement is the false one. The purpose of the activity, not unlike Nathan Zohner’s experiment, is to show us how hard it is sometimes to figure out truth from falsehoods.
Spirit of Truth, on this occasion of Jesus giving you as a gift to us and the Church, we ask that you remind us that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. By your power let us clearly hear the truth of the Gospel and Jesus’ teaching. Move us to action as witnesses, disciples, and advocates in our own day. We ask this in name of Jesus, our Savior. Amen