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Be Your Truth

Updated: Jan 29


a message by Dr. Bruce Havens

Coral Isles Church, U.C.C.

July 9, 2023

Romans 8:14-28 NRSV

14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. 

18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.  19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

My “Health Care Insurance” provider, or as I think of it, my illness partial payment profiteer, sent me an email recently that got me thinking about my health, my age, and even my spirituality. The email proclaimed that, “Each of us has the power to change the behaviors and habits that no longer serve us, and to become the best version of ourselves.” I thought, hm, that’s optimistic.

It went on to report that “Research shows that our mindsets shape our reality, and our mindset is under our control. It’s like a superpower. [ Who knew – we’re all superheroes! ]. When you change your mindset, you can change everything.” It suggested that I could do things like: Manage my stress triggers, feel more motivated and change-ready, think more clearly and solve problems faster, enhance my support system. I thought, sounds great! I suppose to some degree that is all in my power, and maybe in your power. What I got to thinking about is the idea that even at “my age,” change is possible.

I mean, let’s be honest here, most of us have pretty distant memories of our young adulthood. Key word – “distant.” Those were the times when we maybe thought we could change and become something new, something special, something “better.” By the time we hit our 50’s or 60’s don’t most of us believe we are pretty much stuck with who we are? But maybe there is the key to all this, and this is where Paul’s words come in. How well do we really know ourselves? At “our” ages perhaps we should know ourselves pretty well. We probably know our strengths and weaknesses, the things we like and don’t like about ourselves. But are we looking at our lives and our selves as having an essential truth about ourselves? What is that truth? What do you believe defines you?

I’m not so much talking New Age psycho-mumbo-jumbo. I want to ask it from the perspective of being a follower of the Christ I know. We get pretty focused on our sexuality, our income levels, our relationships or lack thereof, but are these what defines our essential truth? As we think about these things I want to turn back to the question of “spirituality.” How does our spirituality define our truth? How does our relationship with our own spirit and whatever we may define the “spirit” of however we may define “God” help us know and understand and live what I am calling “our truth.” This morning I want to invite you to listen to what I hear Paul saying about what it means to “be your truth.”

One of the hardest things we may face when we seek to “be our truth,” to live true to our real selves, is all the ways others want to define us. They tend to do that according to their falsehoods about us. Whether we are doctor, lawyer, Indian chief, or sanitation engineer, stay-at-home mom, or boat bum don’t we often live our lives responding to what we think are people’s stereotypes about us? We either try to live down whatever reputation we may think we have or live up to whatever reputation we may think others have of us. People want to dismiss our value because of our occupation, our gender-orientation, our education or whatever other standard they value most or least. They only have the power to do that so far as we buy in to it. If we are trying to live up to or down from such attitudes we are not living OUR truth, we are living their truths.

Here’s what Paul says to you and to me: we are children of God. That means we have an infinite worth and a value beyond any human measure. In chapter 8 Paul says:

“all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”

Anyone who wants to deny you are a child of God does not get that right. Paul puts no qualifications on it other than whether you and I live our lives seeking to be “led by the Spirit of God.” And no one else gets to decide how well or how poorly you and I do that. That judgment does not belong to human opinion. Paul tells us we qualify simply by our desire to be part of the God-family. The reality is we are part of the God-family whether we want to be or not. When we realize that and when we decide we want to live that truth then we are really beginning to “be our own truth.”

The way we choose to live reveals our faith. There may always be some level of difference between our highest ideals and our actual behavior. Most of us live hoping that we can overcome our lower selves. Faith is the force that drives us. What we truly have faith shows in our actions regardless of the words we may say about our faith.

Let me try to illustrate this. I try to use positive illustrations as I believe they are more inspiring. You’ll have to decide if this is a positive illustration or not. We may say we believe in God’s love but if we spend our time, energy and actions hating others, and trying to exclude others from God’s love then we are showing our truth. If we say we believe in loving our neighbor as ourselves – one of Jesus’ central teachings, remember? – but we strive to pass laws to take away the human rights and freedoms of our neighbors, then we reveal our real faith and our real truth. At the same time, I cannot live the love of God either, if I hate those who do such things. I am no better than they are if hate drives my attitudes and actions even when it is against those who fight for injustice and demand others who are different from them not get equal rights. I cannot let their destructive false truth deconstruct my truth: I know they are children of God, as am I. I know I am called to love them even as I expect them to love me, so how am I going to act? I must look forward to being in relationship with them in a positive way as family. My vision of heaven is that exact image. We will all be there. It will be up to us to decide if it is heaven or hell. Maybe I should work for that now, because that is the truth right now.

In the movie, “Two Guns,” Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg start out as antagonists against each other. As they come to realize they are battling common, much larger enemies than each other, they have an ongoing banter, Wahlberg saying to Washington, “we are people, we have to watch out for each other,” and Washington denying that they are “people.” One is white, the other is black, one is working with the Navy, the other is working for the Drug Enforcement Agency, and it would seem that they are not on the same side, working for the same outcome. Like them we have to decide if we are “people” with others who do not want to admit we are their “people.”

Paul reminds us that we, too are part of something larger than ourselves. We are part of the redemption of Creation itself. He says “creation” itself is groaning in labor, awaiting the birth of a new reality. That new reality is one where we as humans and creation itself will be “redeemed” or “transformed.” For Paul that transformation will take away the forces that cause decay and destruction. In one level that speaks to everlasting life. At another level it points to living now in hope which brings us to another truth.

Hope is not a hopeless activity or a powerless one. It is not the same as daydreaming. Hope is having faith that reality can be transformed and will be. Hope then empowers us to share in whatever work we can to bring this new reality to life. Sure, some of this is utterly up to a God-power way beyond us. But the wonderful nature of faith is that it invites us to share in the God-work of transformation. When we do our part to participate in the transformation of creation, to protect creation, to resist the destruction of nature, we become part of a God-driven, universal reality. God is revealing the new heaven and the new earth. When we work to share in this transformation we live a truth that is beyond an individual “self-help” project. We are part of that “transformation” of creation and our bodies, the physical side of creation. We are “people” with one another and with Creation itself.

The hope Paul speaks of brings us to the last part of Paul wrote that we read today. “All things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to God’s purpose.” Theologians debate the meaning of this sentence, but it was THE truth Paul believed and lived. Rev. Joe Evans, [“It’s Coming,”, July 17, 2011], put this more powerfully than I can. He said, “We are resurrection people, and so we look out into the world, not as disappointed judges of the failings of society, but as the hopeful, trusting people of the God whose plans will not be thwarted. We are resurrection people who, like an expectant mother, know that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us, because we are a people with a reason to hope.”

By the end of the movie “Two Guns,” Denzel Washington affirms to Mark Wahlberg that they aren’t just “people,” they are “family.” They have realized that they are in it together whether they thought so at first or not. This is a truth they come to realize. You and I and all those who hate whatever we believe are family. That means some things need to change, at least for me.

Heck, my “health insurance” provider believes, “Each of us has the power to change the behaviors and habits that no longer serve us, and to become the best version of ourselves.” If they believe that can I believe any less of a truth?

Here’s what I believe is true: You are resurrection people. I am resurrection people. And God’s plan will not be thwarted! This is the truth. It is the truth I want to be. This is the reality I must never lose sight of. And I invite you to see and hold on to it and make it part of how you too can “Be Your Truth.” AMEN.

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