Do Your Insides Match Your Outsides?

Sermon delivered by the Reverend Barbara Cawthorne Crafton
at St. James Church in Florence, Italy
on September 28, 2008 — 19 Pentecost, Proper 20

We hear the temple personnel – the chief priests and the elders — engaged in a political conversation, don’t we? They have been asked a question by this fine debater, Jesus, and they’re concerned with their answer. So they huddle to rehearse. They coach each other. Well, if we say this, he will say this and we can’t have that, so how about if we say this. No, but then people will think this, and we can’t have that… How about if we don’t say anything at all?

This is the season of the presidential debates back in America. We watch them later, unless you’re awake at 3:00 in the morning. We watch them the next day. We know that what we are seeing is the highly-rehearsed product of many, many weeks of coaching: the candidates sitting with their handlers, anticipating the questions that might be asked and the response that might come from the other side. They have certain phrases that you can tell their people have told them to say. They’re supposed to stay “on message,” as they say in the political world. They’re supposed to say the things that they want to be sure to get into our consciousness. No matter what you are asked, be sure you say this. Therefore, Senator McCain in the debate several times said to Senator Obama, “Well, you just don’t understand X” You just don’t understand, he wants us to hear, he just doesn’t understand. Senator Obama was clearly told by his people, “Make sure that you’re not too academic. Make sure that you put it into the man in the street, the woman in the street.” So many times in the debate he said things like, Well, just as when you’re having a hard time making ends meet at the grocery store… Just when you’re having a hard time paying at the pump… Just when you’re having a hard time making your paycheck last to end of the month… We can see how both of them were coached. Make sure that no matter what the question is, you stay on message. Make sure you say this: He just doesn’t understand. He just doesn’t understand. What about the guy at the pump? What about the guy at the grocery store? Make sure you don’t sound too academic. Make sure we know about your experience. We hear in the debates between the candidates the voice of the coaches. We hear the handlers. We hear the voice of the people who are trying to package them so that we will buy. Oh, politics! You have to be so careful with what you say, don’t you?

Of course, it is not only electoral politics that are political. An ancient Greek said that humankind is by definition political, that man is a political animal. That all you need are two people to have politics — and it is true, isn’t it? Every discussion between two people is political. There are things I want you to think about me, and some of them are true. And the ones that aren’t? I want you to think them anyway.

And so, I will try to show you my best foot. I will repeat my talking points. Some of them will be true. And the ones that aren’t, I want you to think them anyway.

But as you get to know me, as I get to know you — as we get to know each other — the truth must come out. The truth can be carried by the politics, but so can the lie. Politics will carry water for anybody. Sooner or later, though, the truth has to come out. Sooner or later, I must present myself to you as I truly am. I must become brave enough to let you see me not as I wish I were, not as I hope you think I am, not as I think some other group might like me better. Nno, I must find a way to just stand for what I truly think. I must find a way for my outside to match my inside.

The people to whom others look for moral authority are the people whose outsides match their insides. We have a nose for hypocrisy, and in political affairs we have come to assume it. We no longer put political figures on a pedestal – it may be that we never did. Florence’s history is not a history of people put on pedestals, at least, not for long. They were knocked off regularly, exploded in the market square, and burned there, too. No politics, really, has put people on pedestals for a long time. Politics has suspected cynicism since there was politics.

Do your insides match your outsides? Are you a person to whom others can turn as a moral authority? Who, me? I’m not supposed to be a moral authority! I’m just a person. But are we not all supposed to be moral authorities? Aren’t we supposed to be people whose outsides match their insides? Aren’t we supposed to eventually become brave enough that we don’t have to “package” what we think in the trappings of someone else’s thoughts? Brave enough and confident enough in ourselves that we are willing to pay the cost of telling the truth, even if it might mean that someone might be angry, that someone will cut us off from friendship, that we might be ostracized if we have said what we thought was true? Doesn’t there come a time when we must have what we know as integrity?

As we age, ideally, we have that quality more and more. As we age, we come to understand that things come and go. Human power comes and goes. People are on the top and then they’re on the bottom, and that happens in a cycle. There’s not much you can do to control that. You can hang on to power for a while. Sooner or later, the truth of who you are must come out. And your job in life turns out not to be packaging that truth so it will be more palatable to those who must consume it, but making that truth something that can bear the light of day.

If your insides are to match your outsides, then we’d better be sure that the insides are in good shape. We’d better be sure they’re worth looking at. Because people have a nose, a sense of when they’re being lied to. They have a sense. It was not hard, in the debates, to hear the voice of the coaches. I could hear it. You could hear it. We can tell when we’re being packaged. We can tell when we’re being manipulated. We can tell that – we’re not stupid. Sooner or later, we have to get our insides in good enough shape that we can stand to let people see us as we really are, because sooner or later, they will.

So, it’s not just the case that you shouldn’t lie, or you shouldn’t package – it’s actually the case that you can’t. Not forever. Sooner or later, people see the insides. They shine through whatever you’re trying to project on the outside.

There are three debates among the presidential debates, and one between the vice presidential candidates. We have four chances, then, to see these people. They’re all heavily scripted, they’re all carefully planned and packaged. But we’re not stupid. We have eyes and ears, and we look and listen, we talk among ourselves, we read, we discuss, we argue, and in the end, we come to an opinion. It may or may not be true. It might be right, it might be wrong. If it’s wrong, we pay a price for that. If it’s right, we might pay a price, too – you can pay a heavy price for being right.

But it’s about more than winning, in the end. It’s about living. It’s about being the person whose moral opinion is worth something. It’s about being a person to whom people turn, whose voice has not become irrelevant simply because people already know what you’re going to say. People shouldn’t already know what you’re going to say before they ask you. People who talk to you have a right to your clear, honest thought on the spot—not to your script that someone else wrote.

Do you have a script in life? Do you answer to someone else’s idea of what you ought to be doing? Are you packaged in some way? Do you package yourself as you think you ought be rather than as you are? Do your insides match your outsides, and if they do not, is there still time to work on that so that they can one day bear the light of day? Because sooner or later, people will really know who we are. Because sooner or later, we can not help but shine.

And now, unto God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, who alone is the Way, the Truth and the Light, be ascribed as is most justly due all might, majesty, dominion, and power, from this day forward and forevermore.

Amen.

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