Truth… the whole truth – Look, See, Pray

Great pic, isn’t it? Eagle Owl, Dartmoor, near Princetown. All my own work: could start a rush of twitchers heading for Devon!

Except this is a way of telling truth to mislead. It is an Eagle Owl, I did take the photo. So far, so good. It is Dartmoor in the snow- I took the photo. All true. So what’s the problem?

I combined the two pictures so the owl had a more “natural-looking” backdrop. I haven’t lied, but I wasn’t 100% accurate.

My intention matters. If I have just melded two photos for a better picture, that’s OK. Were I to present myself as a wildlife whizz, discovering Eagle Owls in Devon, then perhaps selling the image to a news agency in exchange for fame and fortune, that is unethical and dishonest. And WRONG.

“The camera never lies” says the old proverb. But it may mislead, even present corrupted truth (in other words, a LIE). This is a huge problem in journalism, advertising, politics… “Deep fake” pictures are created and used to destroy the victim’s reputation, or as the lever for blackmail. Bits of truth selected deliberately, then mixed into untruth. A complete rejection of integrity.

Unless we are careful to act with integrity, there is even a danger that “picking bits” of the Bible then jamming them together will mislead or misdirect people who are seeking God. This coming Sunday, I’m preaching at our church. I have a heavy responsibility to tell the truth truthfully: or I risk putting words into God’s mouth, or persuading people into misunderstanding. A stern warning from the New Testament: “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. – James 3 v1

James points out the risk that teachers and preachers take on. Matthew’s Gospel records words from Jesus about the required heart-attitude, the integrity, of those called to serve through leadership and preaching. It must be real, and honest, and true- not a crafty construction of bits of truth. If I cannot preach out of humility and integrity, I should not preach at all.

“Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels. And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honour in the synagogues. They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi.’ Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters. And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your Father. And don’t let anyone call you ‘Teacher,’ for you have only one teacher, the Messiah. The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” – Matthew 23 v5-12

Please pray for me- and any other preachers and teachers you know.

Shared Wisdom- Look, See, Pray

Seeking wisdom in the Tree Cathedral, near Whipsnade.

The Tree Cathedral is a wonderful place to visit, pray, and think. I used to live fairly close, and always found it a sympathetic destination! When there, I could walk among the trees and it seemed as if God were easier to reach. Did you know that trees are mentioned in the Bible more than any living thing other than God and people? There’s a tree on the first page of Genesis, the first Psalm, the first page of the New Testament, and the last page of Revelation. 

In the Wisdom literature of the Old Testament, a collection of proverbs describe wisdom as a character, as if wisdom is really a person rather just “knowing stuff.” Encyclopaedias are stuffed with facts, but until facts are learned and put into practice the book isn’t much use to anyone.

“Wisdom is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed” Proverbs 3:18

“Do you lack wisdom? Ask for it!” said James (see James 1 v5). If our natural inclination is to “go it alone” there is no-one to check with- “Am I right or wrong?” Gaining wisdom is best done as a shared quest, life done as a rhythm of personal thinking and shared conversation. Part of my calling as a pastor and theologian has been to explore, learn, and develop in both knowledge and wisdom: and it has always been a journey with companions (and done in the context of including God and the scriptures along the way).

Then my vocation is to share what I have discovered, and try to do so in words that make things clearer and easier to grasp for other people.

This morning I came across a blog post that succeeds in that aim: so I’m sharing a snippet of wisdom! Question: how well do you understand the Holy Trinity? “Father, Son and Holy Spirit” is the form of words we use to describe God. But what does that mean?

Mike Higton, theologian at the University of Durham, set himself the challenge of explaining the Holy Trinity in words of one syllable:

“So there is God, the one to whom we pray, the one to whom we look, to whom we call out, the one who made the world and who loves all that has been made. And then there is God by our side, God once more the one with whom we pray; God in the life of this man who shares our life, this man who lives the life of God by our side, and who pours out his life in love for us. And then there is God in our hearts, God in our guts, God one more time, the stream in which we dip our toes, the stream in which we long to swim, the stream which filled the Son and can fill us too, and bear us in love back to our source.

Link to the full blog post: click here: The Trinity explained in words of one syllable | Psephizo

God: the to whom, and with whom, who is also within. You may or may not feel qualified to write a book of theology now, but I suspect you have a better appreciation of the Holy Trinity- and you have gained wisdom as a result. Wisdom shared by Mike Higton, me, and now you. And next time someone asks us “What about the Trinity, then?” we may feel wise enough to pass on what we have discovered.

Wisdom is for sharing! Here’s a prayer you may like to use:

O Lord our God,
help us to know you when we pray.
Help us to know you as the one to whom we pray;
help us to know you as the one with whom we pray;
help us to know you as the one in whom we pray.
Help us to know you, and to love you,
and to live our lives for you,
one God in three,
Holy Trinity. Amen.