My thoughts today reflect on two anniversaries – the anniversary of the martyrdom of John Hus 601 years ago, and the anniversary of the independence of our country 240 years ago. These two anniversaries are not related to each other either in time, place, or in purpose, but they do hold something in common. Both result from a human commitment to truth.
The Declaration of Independence, drafted by Thomas Jefferson and approved by the Continental
Congress July 4, 1776, speaks eloquently of “self-evident” truths. Jefferson wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness….”
For John Hus, the spiritual forebear of our church, it was his commitment to revealed truth in the face of threat of death that led him to martyrdom on July 6, 1415.
While the truth that Jefferson said was “self-evident” and the truth that Hus proclaimed was revealed truth which is understood by faith, these two understandings of truth nonetheless have something in common. Whether self-evident or revealed, the truth they were committed to was a larger and more sweeping truth than either envisioned at the time.
When Jefferson wrote about his notion of self-evident truths, grand and inspiring as they were, they were limited by race and by gender. Only generations later would the self-evident nature of those truths be understood to include women as well as men, all races, indeed all people. In other words, Jefferson’s truth was greater than even his mind could envision at the time he wrote about them.
And, the revealed truth for which Hus gave his life, and which he said would ultimately conquer all, is also greater than any human mind can fully grasp. Hus’s truth was not an idea or a set of principles, but a person – Jesus Christ – who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And that Truth (capital “T”) is still being revealed and taught, even as Jesus himself promised. Remember the promise of Jesus to his followers:
“If you love me you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive….You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.” (John 14:15-17) And again Jesus said, “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you….When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth….” (John 14:26 and 15:13)
So Jefferson wrote of self-evident truths far greater than he understood, and so did Hus, as he died for a revealed Truth who is none other than Jesus Christ who by his Holy Spirit is still teaching, still guiding and still revealing the fullness of his will for his followers.
Today we celebrate Holy Communion as we call to mind again the martyrdom of John Hus so long ago. And, on this Independence Day weekend, we continue to recognize self-evident truths that are the fabric of our nation.
Let us rejoice today and give thanks for our nation. Moreover, let us give eternal thanks for our Savior, Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, and who continues through his Holy Spirit to teach us, to comfort us, to reveal to us, and at last to guide us into all the truth. Amen.
The Rt. Rev. Wayne Burkette, Unity Moravian Church, July 3, 2016