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Advent & Truth 7 December 2016

Posted by Dr Moose in Life, Theology.
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One of the activities I attempt daily at uni is Morning Prayer. Using an app on my phone to access the Church of England’s website I try to connect not only with the Divine, but also with the wider body of believers from my particular strand of Christianity. There are two set readings for the day, picking up seasonal themes and working through books and letters of the Old and New Testaments. (The NT readings at the moment are coming from 1 Thessalonians, and feel a bit on the gushy and enthusiastic side. Off the top of my head I can’t be sure quite when this one was written, but the tone makes me feel that it’s an early one: an enthusiastic Paul encouraged by and encouraging his converts). Sometimes the psalms set for the day seem over-gloomy, and sometimes paradoxically, over-enthusiastic. Often they certainly carry sentiments that are hard to square with the faith as expounded by Jesus, with very real expectations of the deliverance of Israel by force of arms and victory on the battlefield, lots of stuff about enemies subdued or sent to the darkness of the grave. I have to admit that this is not the salvation I am looking for.

One verse, however, struck me and has stayed with me today. Psalm 63, verse 12: “But the king shall rejoice in God; all those who swear by him shall be glad, for the mouth of those who speak lies shall be stopped”. The first half is fairly normal, the hope of victory and the joy of the victorious, but it was the latter half that caught my attention. “The mouth of those who speak lies shall be stopped”. The Christian and Jewish scriptures have a lot to say about truth, speaking it, walking in it, practising it. For Jesus it is even a personal divine title. As John chapter 14 puts it, as part of his farewell teaching to the apostles, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

We are culturally cautious about claims of absolute truth, even though at the same time we continue to educate our children to tell the truth and that lying is wrong. However, when we reach a state where the word “Post-truth” has been declared word of the year, especially applied to political discourse, am I the only one who is starting to think that we should be getting worried? In a climate that tells us to ignore and belittle experts, science, knowledge, not forgetting the approach that often speaks of a truth, rather than the truth, and even the acceptance of a synonym for lying that somehow seems acceptable as a means to an end, the hope of an end to lies, a wholly appropriate Advent theme, seems rather desirable (even if it does open up a whole can of worms in matters of freedom of expression and choice, of course, and I will wholeheartedly avoid that one for another time!)

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