Be Not Afraid: Truth-telling

This past  Monday evening, my husband and I attended a meeting hosted by BOLD Nebraska, which is an organization supporting farmers, ranchers, and others who are opposed to the Keystone pipeline.  The meeting reminded me of a pre-game pep talk.  BOLD members are getting ready for a public hearing that will be held in Grand Island on Thursday, April 18th.

The State Department is coming to Nebraska and BOLD wants to be ready.  This is their one and only chance to speak to representatives from the Federal agency that has the responsibility to weigh out what is in the best interest of the nation.

The other side will also be at the public hearing, people who are in favor of the pipeline--  the TransCanada corporation, unions, and business leaders.  It will be a classic big guy vs little guy moment.

The other side will bring in busloads of pro-pipeline speakers to Grand Island.  BOLD is organizing car pools.  

The other side will put up their speakers in hotels.  BOLD is asking volunteers to open up their homes to strangers.

The other side will pay lobbyists to go to DC to meet with politicians and explain their position on the issue.  BOLD handed out t-shirts at Monday’s meeting, t-shirts that have BOLD’s position printed on the back.

It’s going to be the amateurs versus the professionals, hence the need for a pep talk, a chance for BOLD members to remind themselves why they are doing this, what all of this effort is about.

Jesus gets a pep talk from none other than Moses and Elijah.  Moses who went up against Pharaoh.  Elijah who went up against King Ahab and Queen Jezebel.  Jesus needs a pep talk from these Jewish heros, little guys who took on big guys, because Jesus is heading to Jerusalem and will have to go up against the temple corporation, the religious unions, and the Roman leaders.  

BOLD expects the other side to engage in dirty tricks, it’s happened before at other public hearings.  Things like line jumping and making false claims.  That expectation is another reason why they were reviewing their game plan at Monday night’s meeting.

Jesus also expected dirty tricks from the side that opposed him.  The temple corporation will send lobbyists to the government to argue their position.  They will make false claims against Jesus.

Jesus’ plan to deal with the tactics of his opponents is to tell the truth, knowing full well that his listeners will not be persuaded by the truth.  Will not believe that he is the Son of God.  Will not be convinced that he is their Savior.

The Gospels do not tell us what Moses and Elijah say to Jesus, just that they talk about what will happen to him in Jerusalem and what will be fulfilled by his going.  I imagine that they say things that reassure Jesus that he is doing the right thing, even though it will look like the big guys have crushed the little guy once again.

Jesus took Peter, James and John with him to this meeting with Moses and Elijah.  The disciples don’t offer him much comfort.  They are overcome with fear.  Fear makes them do foolish things, like Peter making the outlandish proposal to set up three tents, a kind of shrine for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah.  Peter didn’t know what he was talking about.  Fear can do that to a person.

Contrasting Jesus’s behavior with that of the disciples convinces me that Christians have a lot to learn from Jesus about how to face fear.  So that’s what this month’s sermon series will focus on-- the fearful situations we face today and what our faith teaches us about how to behave in the face of fear.

People are so full of fear right now.  It seems to me that as Christian we need to respond to that fear, our own and others, with compassion.  Here’s one of the forms that compassion takes-- BOLD Nebraska is countering TransCanada’s fearful exaggerations with facts.  

Fears about Nebraska’s economic future have got people making outlandish proposals.  Like the proposal to build a pipeline that will cross the Ogallala Aquifer, “the Niobrara river, the Platte river and the Verdigre creek watershed--as well as countless family wells and areas [where] cattle drink directly from the Aquifer.”

A pipeline leak along this route would affect hundreds of thousands of people.  Here are the facts from the BOLD website--

Fears about Nebraska’s unemployment rate have got people making foolish claims.  Like the claim that the pipeline will employ 9,000 construction [workers] and 7,000 manufacturing workers.  when in fact only 35 permanent jobs will be created and of the temporary construction jobs, only an estimated 250 positions will go to Nebraskans.

The State Department may not listen to BOLD Nebraska at next week’s public hearing.  The truth doesn’t always win out over fear.  Jesus’ truth did not win over his adversaries.  

When fear has gotten a hold on us and we are tempted to embellish the facts in order to win people over, we should admit the temptation to Christ and ask him to give us the courage to face the truth.

Try this prayer when you are feeling afraid--  I’m afraid. (Hands cover face)  Help me to face the truth. (Open hands up and away from face.)  I’m afraid.  (Hands cover face)  Help me to speak the truth.  (Open hands up and away from face.)  I’m afraid.  (Hands cover face)  Help me to side with the truth.  (Open hands up and away from face.)