The Truth Shall Set You Free
You may have heard of Kenny Shields. He was the manager of Kilmarnock Football Club. He won the League Cup with them in 2012. He kept getting into trouble for making controversial comments after football matches and at press conferences before games. He argued publicly with the Celtic manager on more than one occasion. He is a Protestant Northern Irishman and he has a recognisable accent. His brother was killed by the IRA while doing his work repairing roads. Kenny is a great talker – some might say he is a kind of homespun philosopher. He is articulate and interesting and good value and the press loved him because he always gave them something to write about. But he got himself into bother with the football bosses and was frequently suspended. In 2013 he was sacked by Kilmarnock although he loved his job there. He applied for other vacant football management jobs but was always turned down. He then said that if a football manager had not played for Rangers or Celtic he could not get a job in Scottish football. Finally, a few weeks ago he was made manager of Greenock Morton, languishing at the foot of the Championship. He then told the media that he would not be conducting press conferences as he used to do because his doctor had advised him not to do so. The doctor said to Kenny, 'You have a particular psychological condition that makes you want to tell the truth'. Kenny has 'truth telling disorder'.
We have learned in recent years of many new disorders. I heard of another during the week. A man was told he had 'acceptance disorder'. This, apparently, is a disorder in which the body gives tell-tale signs of stress. What is new about that? How about the great beads of sweat on the brow of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane? We are familiar with adhd – attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. There is also Night Eating Disorder for people who go for a Gino at 12 o’ clock at night. There is bipolar describing a condition of mood swings from elation to depression. I would have thought that many Hibernian supporters may suffer from that - at least – on Saturdays from 3 00 – 5 00pm. Antisocial personality disorder is another addition to the lists of modern disorders. How about ACBBTOTD syndrome which some members of this congregation suffer from at Holy Communion time. 'Ah cannae be bothered tae open the door' syndrome – a recognised psychological condition.
Since the development of psychology in the 20th century, human behaviour is categorised by syndromes and disorders. We could add some more. ILGTTB – 'I like going to the bookies syndrome'. SOAD – 'Soap opera addiction disorder'. IOLAPAC – 'I occasionally like a pie and chips syndrome'. ILMUS – 'I like making up syndromes disorder'. I do not wish to belittle anyone who suffers from real problems but it seems to me that complicating and theorising and professionalising the way we behave is not necessarily the way to help one another. We can’t either just offer a response such as Jesus is the answer. He can be – but we need to show how if we can. The least quoted categories you hear these days are ‘sin’, ‘confession’, ‘forgiveness’ and ‘responsibility’. These presuppose a relationship with God and that for most people is missing. Pity.
Jesus said 'The truth will make you free'. It is true that living a lie is a kind of prison. Most people carry burdens within that they would never share with anyone else. One of the therapeutic aspects of worship that it can be time of unloading, of psychological and spiritual; and emotional liberation. People who become Christians through conversion testify to a feeling of lightening and of enlightenment at the moment they accept Jesus as their personal Saviour. But what is 'the truth' that He is talking about? It is simply the truth about Jesus Himself. Earlier he had been teaching 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life'. His Jewish objectors argued that according to the Law, Jesus was just witnessing for Himself and that was not sufficient to convince. But Jesus responded by saying that His Father was His witness. Verses 27-30 of John 8 read, 'They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father'. 28 So Jesus said, 'When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him. Even as he spoke, many believed in him'. So then Jesus challenged his hearers by connecting simple belief in Him to keeping – that is – putting his teaching into practice – that is – being true followers and disciples.
In John 15 this theme is continued. Jesus says, 'If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them'.
It was not until the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost that those who had followed Jesus were fully and truly made free by the truth that Jesus was indeed the son of God, the expected Messiah and that He had risen from the dead. The truth is that there is indeed a Creator who loves us human beings on earth and has established reconciliation with us and offers us life eternal in His higher company when our days on earth are over. This is the truth that sets us free. We handle, share and receive the physical proofs of this truth when we take the bread and wine at Communion. We are connected directly with the historical Jesus and in worship with his truth which sets us free.
There are many relationships which lead to tyranny. There are many relationships which lead to restrictions of freedom. But our relationship with Jesus Christ does not limit us. It does the opposite. It enlarges our horizons, our perspectives, our visions, our hopes, our expectations. We have the company of many great men and women of Christian history – some of the highest achievers in all human history. We have the company of many humble people, saints who have lived good lives and shown a spiritual radiance even if they are never famous. There are some like that present here this morning. We have the company of the saints and apostles in heaven. In our tradition we do not pray to them but – they are there for us also.
Our daily routines and interests may comfort us but they may not liberate us. Let us rejoice in the power of Jesus to free us by His truth, the truth of Himself, the Living Lord and Saviour of all.
I tried the broken cisterns, Lord,
But, ah, the waters failed!
E’en as I stooped to drink they fled,
And mocked me as I wailed.
O Christ, in Thee my soul hath found,
And found in Thee alone,
The peace, the joy I sought so long,
The bliss till now unknown.
Now none but Christ can satisfy,
None other name for me;
There’s love and life and lasting joy,
Lord Jesus, found in Thee.