Lee Bates

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“Open my eyes that I may see glimpses of truth Thou hast for me…” these words open the hymn; Open My Eyes, That I May See, lyrics and tune written by Clara H. Scott in 1895.

A lifelong church musician, I’ve played, sung and conducted choirs for decades. Leading congregational hymns from the organ bench is an uplifting experience. Clara Scott’s hymn concludes with the lyric, “Open my heart illumine me, Spirit divine.”

A hymn of petition, the lyric is asking the Spirit of God to Open our eyes, ears, mouths, and hearts to the Spirit of the Divine. I find it meaningful that the word “truth” is highlighted in the opening phrase, especially poignant in today’s world and most notably during the current political climate and virus pandemic.

“I tell you the truth…” is the preface Jesus used in about 70 of his messages. In John 14:6 Jesus states, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me.” It is clear that truth matters. I often wondered why Jesus found it necessary to preface his words by stating what he had to say was true. I should think the Son of God wouldn’t need to convince listeners of the truth of His message. Yet Jesus made it clear that being a purveyor of truth required a definitive statement regarding the truth he was to reveal. Jesus apparently thought it necessary that his followers believed the content of his messages and that the concept of truth was paramount for its own merits, not only in the spiritual realm but in the worldly realm as well.

We are inundated with information in our culture. In the time Jesus walked on earth, information was largely conveyed via oral tradition. Written words were manually transcribed in a primitive fashion and absorbed by those who had the ability to read. Assigned messengers delivered important notices regarding political and current news relative to life at the time. Hence the adage, “Don’t shoot the messenger!” Deliveries of messages could take days, weeks or longer to wend their way to the recipient.

In 2020 we are bombarded with news 24/7 whether we like it or not. Network news, cable news channel programs of all colors and stripes, smart phones and laptops are all vehicles that provide us with what is going on or has gone on in the world. It’s ubiquitous and so ever present we often have the ability to tune it out. As some say, we are “plugged in” to life.

Regardless of the vehicle used for information, truth in the message is important. Truth is not a relative concept. By its definition, truth is a quality or state of being accurate and factual. Human beings may have a belief about a truth but the belief about the truth cannot change the reality or facts that comprise the basic truth itself.

It’s common to want to believe what we think. It’s comfortable for us to adhere to the “truths” that match our personal truths, beliefs, values and experiences. We may desire something to be true but the simple reality of verifiable information cannot be made undone or exchanged for a competing truth. “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ’Truly I tell you, It is difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God…” Matt 19:23,24 “I tell you the truth. Unless you turn around and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven!” Matt 18:3; “Then He will answer them, ‘I tell you the truth, just as you did not do it for one of the least of these, you did not do it for me.” Matt 25:45. These verses convey teachings that require thought, theological insight, and a spiritual understanding.

Did Jesus literally mean that the wealthy cannot enter the kingdom of God? And how did he mean we must “become like little children’? Why did Jesus compare denying charity toward those in need to how he was viewed by His followers? We often desire to understand from our own reference point what Jesus meant by what suits our understanding or our belief system. It is important that we comprehend and believe the message of truth whether we like it or not. As people of faith we are asked to open our eyes, ears and hearts as written in Clara Scott’s hymn.

How are we individually and collectively demonstrating we believe the truths Jesus delivered, especially those he labeled accordingly? What child like qualities must we nurture that demonstrate the truths Jesus taught us?

How do we do for the “least of these” in our lives? How do we, whether wealthy or impoverished, enter the kingdom of God? Rituals, ceremony, recitations, and liturgical practices bring people together for a common purpose in worship and that is important. But those things alone do not address the truths Jesus made clear for us. We are obligated to not only repeat but more important, demonstrate that we believe the truths conveyed by the Son of God.

James tells us, “You do not even know what will happen tomorrow! What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (NIV) James: 4:14. In the long arch of history, we are seemingly insignificant as individuals. Yet, each single person has a purpose and an obligation to impart truths and actions that honor all of God’s creation.

Lee R. Bates is a retired educator and lifelong church musician. He is the founder and director of Ellensburg’s Valley Voices Community Choir. He serves as a part time organist at the First United Methodist Church. Lee shares his home with his wife and two dachshunds, Wally, and Harry.

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