Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Truth Does Not Belong to Me at All

8:49 PM

John’s gospel shares something that looks like a politically charged, menacing tennis match between two enemies with Jesus standing in the middle.  As I read this passage that bounces back and forth between Rome and the Jewish leaders, I like to approach this story as being about two "villains" rather than seeing that it is about Jesus standing there, as Barbara Brown Taylor says, “like a mirror for all to see, including me, the true reflection of ourselves”. [1] 

Have you ever been in conversation with someone and thought, "We are in the same room, using some of the same words, speaking to each other, but we are NOT talking about the same thing?" Obviously that’s what is happening here.  Pilate keeps asking questions to which Jesus answers sometimes with questions, sometimes with statements, but they’re just not talking about the same thing.

35 “You know I’m not a Jew!” Pilate said. “Your own people and the chief priests brought you to me. What have you done?”
36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom doesn’t belong to this world. If it did, my followers would have fought to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. No, my kingdom doesn’t belong to this world.”
37 “So you are a king,” Pilate replied.
“You are saying that I am a king,” Jesus told him. “I was born into this world to tell about the truth. And everyone who belongs to the truth knows my voice.”
38 Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?”

And Pilate seems to throw his hands up at this point and leaves the room.

Jesus is talking about this kingdom that does not belong to this world, and then he says this thing about belonging to truth. 

And everyone who belongs to the truth knows my voice. (other translations may say, on the side of truth). 

Belonging to truth.  What does it mean to belong to something?  We belong to families, we belong to social networks, we belong to faith communities, neighborhood associations, professions.  That to which we belong shapes our identities.

Sometimes we have to find where we belong to know who we are.  In the fall I was a part of a small group whose members for the most part didn’t know each other very well at the beginning, and as we discussed our lives and faith and understanding of God, over and over again I heard several members say in regards to our group “These are my people”--meaning they’d found a place to belong.  

Hopefully we’ve all had some experience of feeling a great sense of belonging whether it’s after a great conversation with people who share our same careers or passions or a great experience with others who share our same interests.

We discover a truer sense of self when we feel a sense of belonging. We see ourselves more clearly.

But what does it mean to belong to truth?

“Belonging to” is not the typical relationship we have with truth. Truth is all to often something we create for ourselves relative to our own individual preferences.  Or in religious circles, truth is often something we believe we possess. But truth is rarely something to which we belong.  No, it does not belong to me, but I belong to Truth.  And here Jesus is not talking about truth as some place, group, idea or theological or philosophical term, but Jesus is talking about Truth as a person, as himself. This truth born into this world, breathing the air of this planet, living a life on this earth, and facing an agonizing death to bring resurrected life to all.

This truth shines light into the darkness to expose who we really are and invites us to belong. As long as I refuse to look into this mirror, I can create my truth of who I am, I’m not as bad as some or I’m not as good a most. But take a look, and I realize this Jesus is not something I possess, but one to whom I belong. Belonging to this King of a kingdom that is not of this world, yet as Natalie Bolz Webber says “shares space with all the kingdoms of this world.” [2]

About a week ago, I took a look into this mirror, and I did not like the reflection I saw of myself.  A couple of years ago I had heard about a 14 year old Pakistani school girl who was shot in the head and neck by the Taliban for boldly speaking out in support of education for girls.  But I had not heard her story from her lips until I watched, the place where one views all relevant news, the Daily Show on Comedy Central with John Stewart. The now 16 year old, Malala, shared her story of how she began to speak as loudly as she could to as many as she could about what was happening in her small village. She wanted the world to know that the Taliban wanted to take education away from girls.  As she did this, a friend came to her family and said if you Google Malala’s name you will find she is on the Taliban hit list.  They were shocked because she was just a child.  As she realized this was true, she began to think about what she would do when faced with her assassin.  She said at first she thought, I will take off my shoe and hit him! But then she said this: (Malala)

“If you hit a Talib, then there would be no difference between you and the Talib,” she said. “You must not treat others with cruelty… You must fight others through peace and through dialogue and through education.
“I would tell him how important education is and that I would even want education for your children as well. That’s what I want to tell you, now do what you want.” [3] 

I thought "Whoa, there’s Jesus…showing up on the Daily Show on Comedy Central via a Muslim teenager." And here’s where I didn’t like what I saw: there was truth, and I saw myself, and I thought, I would not respond that way. My response to someone coming to kill me for standing up for the rights of others would be a lot worse than just taking off my shoe to hit them. I did not like that reflection I saw of myself. 

And a few days ago as I prepared to share today Malala’s story came to mind.  Catching a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror of Christ, once again I did not like what I saw.  I thought, I cannot share this example that has been so convicting for me and is so relevant to this message.  Surely I can Google and find a fine, current Christian example of someone who said something just like this young Muslim girl. And I could, but there was Truth reflecting an image back at me that I did not like to see. Because like the Jewish leaders in John’s gospel, much of my religious heritage has taught me that truth is something that we possess…not something to which I belong…but it belongs to “me and my kind”.

We have some choices to make as we look at ourselves in this reflection of Jesus standing there like a mirror.  We might decide like the Jewish leaders that we are so disgusted by what we see, we crush the mirror so we can go on possessing what we believe is truth.  Or like Pilate, we can just walk away and go on creating our own truth. But maybe we’ll take a painful look and decide to belong to truth and allow it to transform us.

That’s what this season of Lent really is, isn’t it?  It’s a look in the mirror of Jesus.  We’ve taken this season to look at the reflection and resist the cravings that consume us, the vices that entangle us and clear space in the wilderness that surrounds us.  May we be a people who Belong to Truth in this new Kingdom.

John 18:28-38 (UBC Holy Week 2014)

[1] Brown Taylor, Barbara. (1998, March). The Perfect Mirror (John 18:1-19:27). Retrieved from: http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=642
[2] Bolz Weber, Natalie, (2012, November 27). Sermon on Thanksgiving at Pontius Pilate’s Mom’s House and Where We Belong.  Retreived from: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nadiabolzweber/2012/11/sermon-on-thanksgiving-at-pontius-pilates-moms-house-and-where-we-belong/
[3] The Daily Show. (2013 October 8).  Retrieved from: http://thedailyshow.cc.com/videos/a335nz/malala-yousafzai

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