Stop, Look, Listen…
STOP, LOOK, LISTEN . . . FOR THE VIA, VERITAS, VITA
By Dr. Ben S. Malayang III, President, Silliman University
(Sermon delivered duirng the Founders Day Opening Sunday, August 14, 2016, Silliman University Church)
TEXTS Exodus 3: 6-10
He said also, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. The Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings. So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite. Now, behold, the cry of the sons of Israel has come to me; furthermore, I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians are oppressing them. Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring my people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.”
John 14: 5-6
Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going, how do we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me.”
Today, we open our 2016 Founders Day celebrations by first gathering in prayer and worship. This is the right thing to do.
Let us please pray:
Our God, we pray that you be with us this moment of meditation. We pray this in Christ’s name, Amen.
This year’s Founders Day theme is “Via, Veritas, Vita: Now and Always”.
It affirms our University’s commitment to an education that transforms persons, an education that inspires people to ready themselves with the best competencies and utmost integrity in order to become – as a willing choice – to be God’s hands, and God’s heart and God’s human face to a world in search of God, a world constantly crying out for God’s justice, mercy and love.
But sadly, our world today is mostly a world that in many ways oppresses the mind, body and soul. It is a world that shreds into ugly tatters the fabrics of our humanity with its many evils:
- The evil of widespread poverty, of so many human beings living in cardboard boxes and hovels of old tin scraps;
- The evil of indiscriminate assaults on human life, of so many killed every day, everywhere, by terrorism, hoodlums & vigilantes, and even forces of the state.
- The evil of greed in our relationships seeking to satisfy our desires and avarice at the expense of friends, family & colleagues, and
- The evil of pervasive prostitution of the values and virtues we hold dear.
It is a world described in Genesis 6:5, “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
Everywhere, as in the time of God’s people in Egypt, we hear today the loud wailings of an oppressed humanity, crying out loud for deliverance and freedom from the evils that plague our daily existence.
Our text from the Old Testament tells us that in Egypt, God asked Moses to show the people of God the way out of their oppression; to proclaim to them the truth of God’s justice and mercy; and to lead them to a life in a land flowing with milk and honey. God asked Moses to show the people of God the via, veritas, vita that liberate them from bondage.
But where can we find a Moses in our world today when most everyone is preoccupied with only tending their own sheep, busy earning a living, focused only on comforting their families, and who, when confronted with a burning bush of hard choices to make for God, would rather tell God to have someone else do the job?
Where can we find a Moses today when most everyone would rather tell God what to do instead of listen to what God tells them to do? Where’s Moses in a world where leaders would rather lead God than let God lead them? Where’s Moses in a world where most everyone do things more out of the compulsion of their emotions and passions, instead of by the urgings of God’s Word and by the quiet power of God-inspired reason?
Where’s God’s way now and always, where there is chaos and confusion of many ways we seek our freedoms and solve our problems?
Where’s God’s truth now and always, when we would rather proffer and prefer the truths that we find comfortable and comforting, and not the disturbing truth that God tells us in a burning bush?
Where’s God’s life now and always, when we’d rather live as to what matter to us, more than as to what matters to God?
We seek our own ways, our own truths and our own lives in our intellects and politics; in our sciences that stress strength and power to overwhelm others more than to safeguard our humanity; in the arts and letters that comfort more than disturb; and in relationships of convenience that give us advantages rather than build up people.
Today, we can stop, look and listen – anytime, anywhere – but will hardly find the way, truth and life of God. We can stop – anytime, anywhere – and easily see many grand edifices dedicated to worshipping God, but inside are people plotting out ways to destroy others or to satisfy their urges to prove themselves purer and holier than others. We can stop – anytime, anywhere – and hear loud praises of God, but with furtive eyes of suspicion of those not as loudly praising God as they do.
The forms of our ways, our truths and our lives, we say, are of God, but abjectly devoid of the substance of God’s reality in the way we actually think, behave and relate to each other.
An old hymn tells us “this is our Father’s world.” But the ways of the world is not our Father’s. The truths of this world are not of God’s. The lives we live are not like the divine life shown us by Christ.
Disrespect, profanity, intolerance, arrogance, avarice, prejudice, and pretentious moralizing – these are the world’s. We need to stop and really look and listen to the higher ways, and higher truths, and better lives of love, caring, justice, mercy, and generosity, which are God’s. Paul exhorts us in Ephesians 4 to hold each other “with lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love.” This is God’s.
There are many vias, veritas and vitas in our world today. But this Founders Day, amidst the din and festivities, we are urged to stop, look and listen for the via, veritas, vita of Jesus Christ. Our New Testament text is unequivocal about this: It is only the way of Christ that leads to God; only the truth of Christ that is God’s; and only the life with Christ that is with God.
Friends, it is Jesus Christ who we celebrate this Founders Day as the founding way, truth and life of Silliman University. It is the unity of the Via, Veritas, Vita in Christ that serves as the founding and welcoming ethos of Silliman. It is Jesus Christ as Via, Veritas, Vita who is Silliman’s cornerstone that standeth sure, now and always. Founders Day in Silliman is a celebration of Jesus Christ, his reality and his presence in our University.
We had asked earlier where is Moses in our world today? There was Moses in Egypt. But today, this Founders Day, let us stop, look and listen – and see, and behold, that our redemption and liberation are in fact only in Jesus Christ, now and always.
We thank God that this is so. Amen.