This Sunday, we kick off a month-long exploration into a discussion that affects all of us. For the next few weeks, we’re going to look into one of the moments in history when church was not at its best. And we need to hear this truth.
The recent Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, published in 2015, details just how much churches participated in the systemic cultural genocide of First Nations people across the country of Canada. And this doesn’t include just particular denominations or particular churches. It largely includes all of us who were doing church in Canada over the last 200-300 years.
But we believe there is hope. Hope both for our First Nations brothers and sisters and for the church. The TRC is a step forward in hope. Now, the next step is for us to listen, learn,and discern how we will respond to the evidence of history.
This Sunday, Tom Neufeld will share with us on some of the history behind the church’s colonialism and exploitation of First Nations peoples, and he will share this within the context of stories within the Bible itself where people of faith decided that it was okay to harm and exclude a particular race or group of people.
To get the conversation started, here’s a video from Mennonite Church Canada connected to the TRC sessions that took place in Montreal in 2013. We think this will be of great value for you to check out before we begin on Sunday
I think you’ve all heard that phrase, “Cross my heart.” Maybe, like me, you said it when you were a kid. When someone wanted to be sure that I was telling the truth, they would ask, “Cross your heart?” and I would respond, “Cross my heart and hope to die!” What’s that all about?
It’s a kid’s version of something that was probably once a lot more solemn, a type of oath that someone would say to call God as a witness to the truth. Crossing your heart was a religious gesture. “Hope to die,” would be another way of saying, “May God strike me dead if I am not telling the truth.”
This Sunday I’m going to be preaching about oaths and swearing, and how that connects to the Anabaptist tradition. How can we tell whether people are telling the truth? It’s one of the most basic questions in life, and it’s something people have struggled with for thousands of years. Calling on God as a witness is one of the ways we have emphasized truth-telling. I still remember Scarlett O’Hara’s impassioned words from the movie Gone with the Wind, “As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again!” (If you haven’t seen the movie that statement is absolutely ridiculous, but of course in the movie it all makes sense!)
In our courtrooms there is still the tradition of calling on God to witness to truth-telling, which is ironic considering lots of people don’t believe in God, and so it makes swearing on a Bible meaningless.
We’ll be looking at Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount where he says, “Don’t swear…let your yes be yes and your no be no.” Be truthful people all the time, not just when pushed to make an oath. God’s servants should have truthful speech (2 Corinthians 6:7). But our culture teaches us it’s OK to be “economical with the truth,” or to “stretch the truth”. How important is truth-telling in your life?
This week’s prayer: Lord, help us to understand the gospel truth. We want to worship you in spirit and in truth!
Most Christians believe that lying is wrong. Do not bear false witness. It’s pretty clear. But even the early Anabaptists struggled about whether it was necessary to always tell the whole truth all the time.
There’s a story told about the early Anabaptist Menno Simons in the Netherlands. He was travelling by stagecoach, sitting up with the driver. Police officers galloped up and asked Menno, “Is Menno Simons in the carriage? We have a warrant for his arrest!” Menno bent over from the top of the coach and called in, “Is Menno Simons in the carriage?” The people said, “No,” so Menno addressed the horsemen, “They say that Menno Simons is not inside the carriage.” The police officers galloped away, and Menno’s life was saved.
Sometimes we think it’s OK to tell just part of the truth. Maybe it will save a life. But most of the time we tell part of the truth to keep ourselves out of trouble, or to help preserve our reputation. Sometimes we are telling only part of the truth in order to mislead someone. Can you think of a time when someone told you part of the truth? They may not have technically spoken lying words, but by not saying the whole truth, you came to the wrong conclusions.
I think one of the conditions that can help forgiveness, is a confession that is full and complete. Is that what happens in the Joseph story? We’ll conclude our series on Joseph this Sunday.
This week’s prayer: Lord, help us this week as we make decisions about whether to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. So help us God!