Three Truths....and Three Lies
I am sure that you have always been told to tell the truth, right?
Well, today, I’m going to tell you three truths that the graduates here have learned.
I’m also going to tell you three lies... not so that you believe them but so that you can reject them when you hear them. (Think of it as Dr. Klaassen teaching you fallacies so that you can avoid them.)
Let’s start with the truths.
The first truth: God is the only solid ground on which we can stand.
Ottawa is in an earthquake zone. We’re on a fault line, and from time to time there are earthquakes here. I was in a building during an earthquake here and the whole building started moving like a wave on the sea. This ground under our feet, right here, is not solid. Just ask the LRT engineers!
But God is a solid foundation. There are no fault lines in God. In fact, God is the only solid ground there is. And since our faith in God brings us into a relationship with God that makes us one with Him, our faith in God puts us on solid ground, too, the only solid ground there is.
The second truth: God has always made Himself known.
You can see the floor here, but it’s not solid, as I just said. But God is solid ground, and God is here even if you can’t see Him. That’s right: even in this shaky world in which we live, this “low world” as Elizabeth Barrett Browning called it, God is here and makes Himself known to us. How?
The graduates know this poem by Christina Rossetti:
Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you.
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I.
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.
Does anyone doubt that wind is real? Of course not, especially after a storm like the one we had in Ottawa! But, who here in Ottawa has seen the wind? Like the wind, God may not make Himself known directly to us, but God does make Himself known to us...
- In the Bible.
- In the experiences of men and women recorded in the great literature you read.
- In the mysteries of mathematical beauty that we explore not only in mathematics but also in great art and great music and great poetry, all of which tell of an amazing world created by God we can’t see.
- In the love of parents, good friends, and perhaps one day a marriage partner, with whom you will laugh or weep as one person, just as God makes us one with Him through faith.
The third truth: God has given us the minds by which to know Him.
God hasn’t made Himself known to rocks, or to trees, or to dogs, even though He made them all. God the Maker has made Himself known uniquely to us who were made in His image. We’re the ones to whom He gave minds to know Him and to love Him. You couldn’t read the Scriptures and great literature or explore the mysteries of mathematical beauty in the world if God hadn’t gifted you with minds to do so. You couldn’t appreciate great art, great music, or great poetry if you hadn’t been given a spirit that was able to enjoy them. You couldn’t imagine the way things could be if God hadn’t given you a mind to think in new ways.
Following sunset, especially if you are on the prairie, we can turn toward the heavens and see what the ancients also saw: the majestic hand of the Creator in the beauty of the stars and perhaps we can even hear the music of the spheres as they whirl beautifully through the universe.
Or on a beautiful October morning this coming Fall, maybe you’ll go out for a walk among the stillness of the trees and listen and hear God walking beside you. When you do, you will be beguiled by what you hear.
Yes, be beguiled by God, but don’t be beguiled by lies. And so here, let me conclude by telling you about three lies that you must reject.
First lie: The belief that it’s always going to be easy to know and understand God.
That’s a lie. Yes, it’s true, as I just said, that God makes Himself known to us even in this “low world”. But this world around us doesn’t always go the way that we think it should go. And so sometimes we think that God isn’t here anymore. Friends disappoint us. We make mistakes, even very bad mistakes. People around us get sick and die. Like a young boy in a prairie town who tried to see God and found it difficult, there are times when we will find it hard to know that God is there.
But, in those times, when it is not easy to find God and to understand what God is doing, those are the times when it is especially important to remember the truth: God, the solid ground, is still there, and God is the only solid ground we have to stand on.
Second lie: Once our problems are over, everything will go back to being normal.
That’s a lie, too. Lots of people say: Once Covid is over, everything will go back to normal. No, it won’t. People in Ukraine aren’t saying: Once the war is over, everything will go back to normal. They know that it won’t. The fact is: You can never go back in time to the way things once were. In this world, time moves forward, not backwards. The belief that once problems are over we can go backwards to the way things used to be is a lie.
Why? Well, happily it’s because God is making all things new. God is not going to give us back our old life from the past, a life that we once had. God is going to give us a better life, in fact the best life. God is making a path before us, not behind us.
And finally, the third lie. This is one that I want the graduates of Saint Timothy’s to be very alert to, because it’s a lie that you hear a lot this time of year when young people graduate.
The third lie is this: You can be anything you want to be and do anything you want to do.
No, you can’t. You can’t become a stalk of corn, or a cat, even if you want to. Yes, you can do miracles by the power of God, but you can’t become a super-hero. Yes, you can become a great leader, but you can’t become a god, someone with power to do anything you want. The dream of becoming whatever you want to become is one of those “idle dreams of things that cannot be” because it will actually become a nightmare for anyone who believes it.
Why? Well think what it leads people to do: stupid things like racing cars on the Queensway, or jumping off a bridge at your cottage without knowing what’s in the water. Thinking you can be anything you want to be is what leads people to become dictators in thinking that they can be like gods. This lie is not just stupid. It kills.
There are lots of people who think that science will let me be anything I want to be. They think that science can make everything OK again, even turn back time and keep us from dying. No it can’t. That’s a lie, and it gives people a false hope.
You’ve studied science. You know what good science is supposed to do. Science is a gift from God so that we can explore the world, so that we can question, think, and explore, because there’s always so much more that we don’t know than what we do know. Science is a means to see what God has done. Science isn’t God, and if you make it into a god it will kill you. Science, like our minds, was given to us to help us understand what God created us to be.
And that’s what you should be and do: be all that God created you to be; do all that God puts into your hands to do. And be that and do that with all your heart, all your mind, all your strength, and all your soul.
Let me sum this all up for you in the easiest way that I can.
The truths that you learn here are the truths that are going to set you free to be all that God created you to be and to do all that God puts into your hands to do.
But this school has also prepared you to reject the lies that you will hear as you grow up, lies that you must reject if you want to stay free. Because lies will always make you slaves... slaves of things and people that will always let you down.
Remember: our God only ever says “no” to lies, but He always — always! — says “yes” to truth.
Commencement Address to St Timothy's Graduates 2022 given by Professor Greg Bloomquist
Professor Bloomquist has worked in the Faculty of Theology, Saint Paul University, since 1987, being appointed Full Professor in 2009. In 2021, he was appointed Emeritus Professor of the Faculty.