The truth to tell

Sermon by Rev Stuart Simpson on 10 December 2017

Readings were Isaiah 40:1-11 and Mark 1:1-8

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Steven Spielberg Recalls Coming To Blows With E.T. On Film Set

LOS ANGELES—Saying it was by far the most unpleasant directing experience of his career, Steven Spielberg recalled Monday coming to blows with E.T. on the set of the 1982 film E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.

“I know a lot of people love the movie and love E.T., but working with him almost killed me,” said Spielberg, adding that the film’s star was “an absolute nightmare” from the first day of production, refusing to take direction, changing lines at random, and driving several of the movie’s child actors to tears with his unpredictable and often cruel outbursts.

“We only mixed it up physically once or twice, but having to deal with his megalomania is the whole reason I’ve only worked with CGI aliens since then. Seriously, the day he finally got back on his spaceship and left Hollywood forever was the happiest of my life.”

Spielberg went on to say that, in contrast to his experiences with E.T., he jumped at the chance to film a sequel with the Jurassic Park dinosaurs, with whom he remains close to this day.

This story was taken from the website the Onion – America’s Finest News Source

Now we only need to read it once that we see that it’s fake news, and yet there are stories out there that are written in such a way that many believe the news even though it is fake. Fake news has become something of a problem. How do we know what is true and what is not?

We need truth tellers – people whom we can trust. John the Baptiser, proclaimed by Mark a prophet, was a truth teller.

That’s what prophets did, they told the truth. And the truth John proclaimed was the Good News, or as the very first words of the Gospel of Mark state – the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

To know what this might mean for us, I believe we need to understand Mark’s world and the fake news his people were often influenced by. The overall message of Mark – with a hint of subversion – is news stating that God’s Kingdom, being brought in by Jesus, is far, far superior than any other kingdom, including that of Rome.

So for Mark, as much as the call to repent of individual sins was important, the greater call that John proclaimed was a turning away from the worship of powers other than God.

Repent and know that God is God and Caesar Augustus is only a man, created by God.

But there was more to Mark’s world than politics. Mark’s understanding of the Good News is informed by a conflict model. For Mark, to proclaim the Kingdom of God was to announce victory over evil, in particular, evil spirits. Liberating those whom they held captive through illness and possession, but ultimately liberating all from oppressive demonic powers.

So Mark’s Good News is voiced within a world that believed in demons and their evil influence in people’s lives.

Fake news: This report just coming in, a man known to be possessed by evil spirits, due to sin, and kept in chains has escaped his jailers. Nothing has worked to keep him under control and the authorities are at a loss as what to do.  He is extremely dangerous so if seen do not approach. 

God’s Kingdom, in Jesus overcomes these powerful beings and brings freedom, new life, and is ruled by compassion and love. 

Good news: This just coming in, man, possessed, tortured, scared and alone, completely set free from evil influence. Furthermore, he has been reunited with him family, community and his humanity – he has been given a new life.

Now whether you believe in evil spirits or not, or recognise that our understandings of illness, including mental illness, are vastly different to Mark’s world, the Good News is the same. The same God, the same Spirit, brings us the same liberation form the powers that bind us within ourselves and enables us to engage in what God is doing to bring liberation to the world.

So getting back to the truth of the Good News, our task is to filter, with the help of God’s Spirit and our faith community, what the false news is in our lives and how the Good news transforms such falsity into life giving truth.

What are the powers that bind us today? What are the false stories we have come to believe and live by? And what is the truth that sets us free?

I’ve lived in all the major cities in New Zealand and one of the things I’ve noticed is that each city has a particular culture. But even more so, I’ve notice that each place has distinctive attitudes. Some of these attitudes are healthy, but some are quite destructive.

For example, my family experienced more racism in one place than all the other places combined – now whether this was a combination of the particular people who lived in that city and possible hurt that has led to anger, I’m not sure. But there was vcertainly a palpable sense that a power was driving this attitude – a power that wouldn’t allow forgiveness to take place or the softening of hearts and the opening of minds.

The Good News to this attitude is of course, that in Jesus, there is forgiveness, that we have been forgiven and are given the strength to forgive. That in Jesus, we are all one. That in Jesus, the power to hate someone different than ourselves is defeated – we no longer need to protect who we are, because we are God’s.

Again I ask – what are the powers that bind us today? What are the false stories we have come to believe and live by? And what is the truth that sets us free?

Take a couple of minutes to reflect on these questions.

When we know what the truth is, we are called, like John to proclaim it. We won’t know everything – just as John didn’t know everything, but we do know that God is with us, supporting us, encouraging us, empowering us, when we proclaim the Good News.

Knowing the truth, let’s be truth tellers.

Maybe one way to begin is by telling the truth about Christmas – telling people that Christmas is about the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.


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