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  • Dr. Bruce Havens

Seeing a new Truth

a message by Dr. Bruce Havens

based on the theme: “2020 Vision”

Arlington Congregational Church, U.C.C.

January 12, 2020

Psalm 96

O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations,     his marvelous works among all the peoples. For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;     he is to be revered above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. Honor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.
Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts. Worship the Lord in holy splendor; tremble before him, all the earth.
10 Say among the nations, “The Lord is king!     The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved.     He will judge the peoples with equity.” 11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;     let the sea roar, and all that fills it; 12 let the field exult, and everything in it. Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy 13 before the Lord; for he is coming,     for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with his truth.


I have a couple of sermon writing rules. The first was, I used to be absolutely averse to talking about myself in a sermon, my preaching professors told me it was verboten! I have loosened up in later years because the experts now say it makes the preacher more relatable. So generally I try only to use myself as a bad example, not the one with it all together, because it’s true, not just a sermonic ploy. I hope I have never been one to overshare or do this too much.

In addition to rarely wanting to use myself as an example, I am always looking for new truth in the Scripture. I know a lot of preachers use the same texts over and over to say the same things over and over to affirm that the Gospel is unchanging and God is unchanging and you have to remember these things to qualify for God’s love. You and I are sinners, saved by grace, through the blood of Jesus, etc. etc. But I can’t get up here and say the same things about the same Scriptures over and over [ although I know I do – even if it isn’t the same things other preachers say ], I would get too bored and so would you.

So I am always looking for new truth, to learn something that I didn’t know about God or had not thought about God in each Scripture no matter how often I have read it. I know I don’t always do this, and I know after 20 years those of you who have been here that long probably believe you could preach what I am going to say before I say it. I don’t know. I suspect I am that much of a broken record. I confess this to you and ask your forgiveness. All that said, I am trying to keep it fresh each week for your sake and for mine.

Now the challenging thing is my personal health has been an issue the past month. I have not been sleeping more than a couple of hours at night because I have been so uncomfortable with a burning pain in my right leg so severe I could not relieve it with over the counter medicines. I went to my chiropractor and that would give me a few hours of relief. Finally, by virtue of an MRI I learned I have “multi-level degenerative arthritis in 3 lumbar vertebrae and one disk bulging one side pinching a nerve and one on another side with some sort of minor tear. Now at least we know what is causing my pain. None of this is to invite extra sympathy –many of you are in similar or worse situations with some health issue. I only tell you this to explain they have finally given me medicines that have stopped the burning sensations enough to get some sleep but the do make me a bit woozy, a bit fuzzy-headed. So I have had a harder than usual time writing this message and I hope you will hear it given this caveat about my brain function. Some of you might say it improved my message, I will leave the wise-cracks to you! On top of that – as married couples do, my lovely wife has shared with me – this week it was her cold that she has been fighting for three weeks before finally getting some medicines to help. So now with sinusitis on top of my pinched nerves in my back I really am rather doped up. So let’s get on with my addled assessment of our Scripture, good luck to you in finding it enlightening or beneficial!

I want to talk about seeing a new truth. Why? My hope is that you, like me, when you find a new truth about something develop a greater understanding. Perhaps when you learn a new truth about a family member you understand why they behave that way. When you learn a new truth about a scientific reality you see the world differently. When we do this we might say we can see better, perhaps like the theme of these messages we will more fully attain 2020 vision whether that is spiritually, or otherwise.

The problem I see is that we live in a time when the loudest voices are rejecting any new knowledge. Information has become so weaponized that some people suspect anything that they don’t already agree with. So we have those who deny climate change is real, those that say vaccinating children causes autism, those that say that education is a bad thing. That to me is a frightening way to look at the world.

I learned a concept in high school that I have always remembered. It was the concept of “cognitive dissonance.” My teacher said that the things we learn the best are those that create cognitive dissonance for us. That is when we come in contact with an idea, a truth, that we cannot deny, that runs counter to what we have always “known,” or “believed.” I think we must look for opportunities to experience cognitive dissonance and then ask why we find it opposing what we thought we know and whether this new information should change our thinking. Maybe it doesn’t come up to that standard, but if we don’t examine ideas and ways of thinking that make us uncomfortable we will never grow spiritually, mentally, or emotionally.

The news reports that a high school student doing an internship at NASA discovered a new planet on his third day of work. There’s a new reality for you! The Christian Church was founded on a new reality – a man named Jesus, a poor peasant who some say taught as a rabbi, was proclaimed God’s Messiah for the Jewish people. This was a difficult truth for many. The Christian Church once officially believed the earth was the center of the universe and the sun revolved around it. It persecuted people for saying otherwise. The church and its people have always struggled with looking for a new truth but it was founded on the vision of those who were looking for a new truth and along came Jesus. Here’s another example of how difficult it can be to see something if you aren’t looking for it.

Watch video

If you were like me, the first time you saw the video you didn’t see the “moonwalking monkey.” The second time you saw it because you were looking for it. It was there, we just didn’t see it. So those who would say new truths are wrong because they are new, may misunderstand. A new truth isn’t new because it was made up just now. It has always been there just like that planet the high school student found. We just didn’t see it. When we see it, we better believe it.

So the Psalm writer proclaims “Sing, sing, sing a new song.” How do you do that when you have come back from exile and the whole world is in chaos and you don’t know what is going to happen from day to day. When everything is in chaos and going wrong – or at least seems to be – it is hard to proclaim God rules. We might be tempted to say, “Oh really? What God?” The Psalmist is firm, clear, unwavering. YHWH the God of the Hebrew people and of Jesus by the way, rules. No other god can. They may try, their believers may proclaim their power, but the Psalm writer calls for us, as God’s people to:

Worship YHWH in holy splendor; tremble before him, all the earth.
10 Say among the nations, “YHWH is king!     The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved.     He will judge the peoples with equity.”
11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;     let the sea roar, and all that fills it; 12 let the field exult, and everything in it. Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
13 before the Lord; for he is coming, for he is coming to judge the earth.

So I don’t know if this is a new truth but here is what I take from this. We must decide. What God will we worship. There are those Christians who would proclaim God has anointed the current President to be the new Messiah and they believe that God wants to bring the world to a cataclysmic end and they see a war in the middle east as God’s will. Others of us would call this nothing but blasphemy and heresy and a danger to being and doing what God actually called us to be as followers of Christ. We must decide what God we are going to trust and serve.

So sing a new song, even those who suffer now, for God will make things right. Sing a new song, join in the chorus to glorify God not just with voice but with your whole self, body, mind, and spirit. DO what God calls you to do and be who God calls you to be and always be looking for the new truth that you did not see before to help you move forward into a new year with 2020 vision, clear, eyes open, and hearts burning with love for God and service to humankind. That’s the truth I believe in! AMEN.

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