Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"Is your faith more like guessing the number of beans in a jar or choosing your favorite song?" A Lenten lesson on handling the truth that gives the keys to the Kingdom to a thief.

I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.

STORY as shared by Tim Stafford:
A pastor I know, Stephey Belynskyj, starts each confirmation class with a jar full of beans. He asks his students to guess how many beans are in the jar, and on a big pad of paper writes down their estimates. Then, next to those estimates, he helps them make another list: their favorite songs. When the lists are complete, he reveals the actual number of beans in the jar. The whole class looks over their guesses, to see which estimate was closest to being right. Belynskyj then turns to the list of favorite songs. "And which one of these is closest to being right?" he asks. The students protest that there is no "right answer"; a person's favorite song is purely a matter of taste.

Belynskyj, who holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from Notre Dame asks, "When you decide what to believe in terms of your faith, is that more like guessing the number of beans, or more like choosing your favorite song?" Always, Belynskyj says, from old as well as young, he gets the same answer: Choosing one's faith is more like choosing a favorite song.

When Belynskyj told me this, it took my breath away. "After they say that, do you confirm them?" I asked him.

"Well," smiled Belynskyj, "First I try to argue them out of it."

“You cannot handle the truth!” a line from “A Few Good Men” delivered by Jack Nicholson’s character, Colonel Nathan R. Jessup. It is a good line and it is a reality that invades the walls of every church in the world.

George Barna in his book, “What America Believes,” discovered that the people that fall within any very defined lines of a beliefs very greatly in what they perceive the truth to be on any subject of faith and/or the Bible. Dr. Barna discovered that the "truth" is all over the place ... cannot "handle" the truth if one doesn't understand just what the "truth" is.

Overheard recently, “I don’t wish to know your opinion I just want for us to study the Bible.” The thought did cross my mind … “You cannot handle the truth,” but I’m glad that my “filter” did kick in … for once. Maybe most of us can’t handle the truth if we fully understood what God was trying to convey to us through any particular scriptural lesson. If we did it would mean forgiving the individual who we just know is unforgivable. If we did it would mean going that second mile, giving the coat or shirt off our back, feeding the hungry, caring for the sick and dying and visiting those in jail. It would mean welcoming with open arms those who smell and sleep in the streets. It would mean following the call to show radical hospitality to those who speak a different language and follow a different religious or sexual lifestyle. It would mean taking in those who think differently than we do. It would mean change … a lot of change.

“You cannot handle the truth” … maybe we can’t, but we should … especially when the truth of which Jesus spoke gave the keys to the Kingdom to a thief or murderer who hung there on the cross with Jesus.

This Lenten journey can take you down some interesting paths.

Reveal your truth to us. We say we can handle it, but in reality we can’t … but we can with your help. In the name of Truth himself. Amen.

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