Sermon manuscript for Green Lake Church of Seventh-day Adventists for Sabbath, August 5, 2017
Texts: Malachi 3:5-10, Matthew 5:33-37.
Tell the truth.
That’s what we do, right?
We do what we promise. We acknowledge when we have made a mistake.
We tell the truth.
That’s what we do.
That’s the way it is in the kingdom of heaven.
To quote Jesus:
You have also heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not break your vows; you must carry out the vows you make to the LORD.’ But I say, do not make any vows! Do not say, ‘By heaven!’ because heaven is God’s throne. And do not say, ‘By the earth!’ because the earth is his footstool. And do not say, ‘By Jerusalem!’ for Jerusalem is the city of the great King. Do not even say, ‘By my head!’ for you can’t turn one hair white or black. Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one. Matthew 5:33-37.
No need to get all fancy and emphatic. Just say what you mean. And mean what you say.
Tell the truth.
We can easily imagine complicated situations.
When the cashier at the grocery story asks, “How are you?” do I have to explain that my dog just died or my child was just diagnosed with a learning disability or that my car just cost me $853 and I had other plans for that money? Or can I just say, “Fine, thank you.”
A story I read again this week in preparation for today’s sermon:
Roddie Edmonds was shipped to Germany near the end of WWII. He and his unit were caught up almost immediately in the Battle of the Bulge and captured. They were shipped to a POW camp. Edmonds was the senior officer among 1275 prisoners. Toward the end of the first day in camp, the camp announced that the next day only Jewish soldiers were to line in the morning after roll call.
Edmonds who was a Christian told his men they were not going to comply with the order. The Geneva Convention said the only identification the Germans could require was name, rank, and serial number. So the next morning all 1275 Americans stood at attention.
The German officer was furious. He hollered at Edmonds, you can’t all be Jewish.
“We are all Jews here.” Edmonds insisted.
The officer pulled his pistol and pointed it at Edmonds forehead. You will order your Jewish soldiers to step forward. Edmonds reminded the officer of the Geneva Convention, then said. “If you shoot, you’ll have to kill all of us, and you will have to stand for war crimes after we win this war.”
The German officer put his gun away and Edmonds Jewish soldiers were saved. It is not known how many of Edmonds soldiers were actually Jewish. Perhaps as many as 200 were.
Was that telling the truth?
These are interesting diversions. Do we have to tell the truth when someone asks, “How are you?” Do we have to tell the truth when doing so will get someone killed? These kinds of questions are most just distractions. The challenge Jesus issues is: tell the truth.
Keep it simple and pure. Tell the truth.
Among citizens of the kingdom of heaven, the purpose of a contract is simply to help us remember our promises. We do not use words as clever devices to trick people. Rather we use words to communicate clearly our intentions, our convictions, our decisions.
“Yes.” That’s what we say when we mean, yes.
“No.” That’s what we say when we mean, no.
“I don’t know.” That’s what we say when we don’t know.
We tell the truth.
When it’s to our advantage, we tell the truth.
When it’s to our disadvantage, we still tell the truth.
Sometimes, in the complicated pressure of a moment, we might distort the truth. If that happens, later when our conscience wakes up and we realize we have departed from the truth, we confess our error. We make amends. We apologize. We return to the truth. When we have confidently and honestly said something that was incorrect, we own it. We acknowledge our error and return to the truth. At the heart of our theology is an ineradicable conviction that God tells the truth. Since we are children of God, truth telling is what we do. It is what we return to every time we slip.
Truth is our native tongue.
It is the indispensable homage we pay to God.
So, let’s tell the truth.