Thought for the Day - Rev Professor David Wilkinson - 15/02/2013

Good morning. Sometimes there’s a part of me that would prefer to remain ignorant. The burgers I enjoyed last summer now have a strange after-taste. And the fact that I know that an asteroid, big enough to completely destroy London, called 2012 DA14 will today pass within 28,000 kilometres of our planet, which is closer than many communication satellites, is somewhat unnerving. There is a temptation to avoid the truth and to stay comfortable in ignorance.

Of course, these things are not that serious. Eating small quantities of horse will not endanger me and even without Bruce Willis’ intervention our close approaching asteroid will easily pass us by. Yet at a much deeper level, stories this week about the deteriorating environment as shown by the retreat of Arctic ice, human rights abuses or allegations against sporting icons, give a sobering antidote to the warm cuddly romance of Valentine’s day. They show the truth of what it means to be human in all its ugliness and moral ambiguity.

When in a defining moment in John’s gospel, Jesus says that the ‘truth will set you free’ it is wrapped around by events which show that truth is a difficult and challenging thing for human beings to encounter. It is not an easy religious promise - that if you believe in me then all your questions will be answered and you will discover that this is a wonderful world. Rather, the truth Jesus brings exposes hypocrisy, human weakness and the pervasiveness of rebellion against God’s purposes. It is hyped and misrepresented by friends and enemies. But it also exposes goodness and beauty in people who are often ignored. It leads to hope and resurrection, but only through controversy and crucifixion.

Christians remember this especially during Lent. More than a time for giving up chocolate biscuits, it is a time of reflection - with the purpose of encountering the truth about yourself. This is symbolized in a peculiar tradition at the beginning of Lent, when after a time of confession, the sign of the cross is made with ash on the forehead. It is a reminder of my frailty as a human being who will one day return to dust but who in that frailty is loved by God.

The lead singer of Paramore, Hayley Williams observes, ‘Sometimes it takes a good fall to really know where you stand’. Perhaps it’s in this kind of way that the truth sets me free. It confronts me with my own vulnerability but in doing so opens up new possibilities.

The truth may not be comfortable, but it is eventually the only way to move on.

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