Monday, 10 April 2017

Telling the Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth

Telling the Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth

I was recently doing some grading work with my headphones on and listening to a 1980s playlist and the song “We are the World” came on. When this song was first released it was a thrill for me that my pop idols were doing something to aid in the horrific struggles to end world hunger. However, as I listened to it again I realised there were some issues with this stirring song with its overt humanistic lyrics. One particularly. Remember when Willie Nelson gets his moment at the microphone and with his signature warble he says:  “As God has shown us…  by turning stone to bread…”
As God has shown us by turning Stone to Bread….. hang on NO he didn’t… what is he saying?
I couldn’t believe it.  Had Willie Nelson just said that God had at one time “turned stone to bread”?  Had I really heard that?  Who’d written this lyric — and why had Willie sung it?  It was obvious that they mistakenly thought Jesus had at some point in his ministry performed this miracle…   But even me as a non-Grammy-winning high schooler knew (when the song was originally released), Jesus didn’t turn stone to bread — he refused to turn stone to bread.  That’s an important difference.

Sometimes we can write things .......and they kind of look good, sound good, but in fact they, sincerely, are wrong.

Sometimes things sound right but when we revisit it they are 'sinisterly' wrong. Sometimes we can write things and they sort of just roll off our pen nib, pencil, quill or keyboard, and they kind of look good, sound good, but in fact they…. sincerely, are wrong, confusing, or convey a message we didn't intend. For example we might write something like  …….
“Luke said that he had gone to lay on the couch, so he lied.”
This is a tricky phrase because the meanings of those words change the understanding significantly.
To lie (intransitive: lies, lay, has lain) means to recline; to lay (transitive: lays, laid, has laid) means to set down; to lie (intransitive: lies, lied, has lied) means to fib. Correct: "He lies on the couch all day." / "He lays a book upon the table." / "He lies about what he does."

And I’m not lion  😊

There are so many words that we can misuse in English. Some of the examples are homonyms or pairs of similarly spelled words that are often confused. Do a google search and you quickly find many lists that convey how words are frequently used in ways that major English dictionaries do not condone in any definition. Some words are used in ways that are deprecated by some usage writers, but are condoned by some dictionaries. Some words are not seen as incorrect in particular contexts and may be correct in a particular area once they have gained widespread acceptance.

Using the word “Easter” to encapsulate the meaning and significance of the weekend just ahead.... has become problematic.

For our family, it is a bit like using the word “Easter” to encapsulate the meaning and significance of the weekend just ahead. As a family, we take special cognition in the reality of what Jesus death and resurrection means. This means we solemnly take time to reflect and remember His sacrificial death and also celebrate the fact that He is alive. We are thankful for the price He paid for our salvation. But, to call it Easter in my mind has become problematic. As an inquiring believer, I simply questioned where the old naming came from, and of course I discovered that the word origin and meaning of the word “Easter” and the ancient rites attached to it were far less honouring of our Saviour and what He represents for what I am comfortable with. Sure, I recognise some redeeming of the word and even actions attended to that aimed at communicating elements of the Christ story through cultural iconography, even so, it all looks very syncretic. So, what to call it? I want this name calling of a pivotal time in our devotional calendar to encapsulate the Truth and Love of Jesus, more than bunnies, and eggs, chocolate and partying.

I want my naming of things and words that I use around this theme to be God honouring, glorifying of Jesus and at the same time culturally accessible and relevant. I want my writing to remain the same. I don’t have an answer to renaming Easter (except to reframe it simply as “Resurrection Weekend” or less simply “The Weekend We Remember Jesus Death and Resurrection”). But I do have an answer to making sure I tell Truth’s and be Truth telling. I will acknowledge my own propensity to mistakes. Miss-spellings, incorrect grammar, learning that’s on a continual growth curve. I will aim to stay authentic to being on a journey, while having others help me on this journey by their caring, equipping and helping me with the needful adjustments. I will consciously and conscientiously aim at being more a reflection of Christ than the influences the world tries to colour me with.  

Anyway, I am listening to that old song again and thinking “didn’t someone actually suggest turning stone to bread?"  Whose idea was that? (Cue 80’s-era power cord with appropriate reverb): Satan’s?? That’s right, it was the devil’s idea.  Remember the scene from Scripture where Jesus is tempted in the wilderness. He is hungry, having fasted for forty days, and the devil suggests that he use his miraculous powers to turn “these stones into bread.”  And Jesus refuses, saying: “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”  Lionel and Michael and Cyndi and Willie and everyone else in the USA for Africa studio seems to have missed this.  And for a while I did too. It wasn’t until I stopped, looked, listened and asked some questions of this bit of lyric that I got a bit of the real story behind this song.

Perhaps it is worth doing this again as we consider this “Easter” weekend ….. or whatever you want to call it. Let’s remember again the Truth in this time, and get beyond how our culture seems to have literally bought in on a marketable idea with all its product, images, icons and word usage. Let’s somehow get back to the very real message and cause that Jesus laid His life down for….. and that is no lie.

God loved the world so much that Jesus gave His life to save us. As 1 Peter 2:21-25 says:

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”  For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Sorry I couldn’t help finishing with this (somewhat tacky) Truth filled Parody of the song mentioned...

“We are in the world, we are His children
He is the one who makes a brighter day
By the life He’s giving
There's a choice He’s making
He’s saving all our lives
It's true He’ll make a better day
for you and me

Showing God’s heart so they'll know that someone cares
And our lives will be stronger and free
As Christ has shown us by rising from the dead

So, may we all must accept His helping hand"

May the TRUTH and LOVE of Jesus' life, sacrificial death,  and resurrection be a power in your reality for you every day. God bless.   

Shane Brigg. Jerusalem 2013. 


  1. Thank you Shane. That was an interesting post. I'm ashamed to say that I didn't realise the name 'Easter' wasn't an accurate description of the Resurrection Weekend. I googled it to find out. I love the word Easter because what comes to my mind in association with it is all that's right and true - Jesus rising from the dead! That's of course after years of associating the word 'Easter' with His resurrection. In Sri Lanka where I grew up there was no talk of Easter bunnies and though a Buddhist country the word wasn't tainted with the world's festivities of a Christian event.

    I do realise now that the word Easter sprang not from God's story but from the Saxon word denoting the goddess of Saxons in honour of the sacrifices made during the time of the passover. I find that this word (Eostre) was used in the early English translations of the Bible as a translation of the Greek word for 'Passover', pascha. I like to think that Jesus who makes all things new breathes new life into old traditions and old ideas. Perhaps 'Easter' is not such a bad word after all. Jesus did come to turn everything over on its head including sin and death!

    Many thanks for a thought-provoking post Shane. Some good ideas to reflect on. Have a very blessed Resurrection weekend and God bless you and your family.

  2. Hi Shane - Thanks for your post. Some interesting thoughts there. Often God through the Old Testament prophets uses word play or puns, though of course Jesus is the Word - the way, the truth, the life. I agree, truth and clarity of words are important - though fiction and poetry also require the use of word play, metaphor, allusion.

    Great reminder of the meaning of Easter. I often think our secular world exxagerates the pagan origins of Christian festivals - in order to downplay Christianity's claim on the culture. The word Easter may be a derivation of Anglo-Saxon Eostre or in the fact the name for Spring (which this goddess represented). On the other hand, there is a strong argument that it is derived from Paschal (or passover) - and this is what it is called in many European countries. But in the end, it's not the name but the meaning and how we celebrate it that counts.

    1. Thanks for your insight here. I agree with not attributing evil to something that may have an innocent origin. I also agree with the tenet that God redeems within culture and may even sanctify cultural icons. My intention here is not to accuse a word, but highlight it's troublesome meaning. Within my own context growing up it was always linked with some notion of Jesus, even though I wasn't completely aware of what this meant. But it was also linked with the popular notions of the eggs and bunnies. In my anthropological and Archaeological studies, along with engagement missionally with New Age thinkers I was confronted with the Astrological potential of its meaning. Contextually now in the community I live and work, few have a Christ Centred perspective on the meaning of Easter. So in wanting to communicate effectively within this missional context (and this includes questions our own children asked as they were confronted with less than Christian popular notions of Easter) we have been on a journey of redeeming the word, it's meaning, and reframing this time of year in more overt terminology to reflect more appropriately what we mean when we are celebrating Easter..... neither as a New Age festival or a party weekend and more as the Passover, crucifixion, resurrection acknowledgement. And this is a continually developing , grace filled, interesting journey . God bless.

    2. Hi Shane - yes, a secular Easter has a how different meaning which I think is more about commercialism and materialism. We do need to be intentional in how we celebrate these festivals - and it an opportunity to share Biblical story of redemption. Thanks for your stimulating post & God bless :)