The Hardest Question was an experiment in preaching the Revised Common Lectionary. All posting is finished, but the content will continue to live here in archive form. You can discover new content by former THQ curator Russell Rathbun at Question the Text.


What is Truth?

How do you read?

by Russell Rathbun

Gospel Reading:  John 18:33–37

For Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012—Christ the King Sunday

Read the Bible long enough, over years and years, teaching and preaching and you get what Pilate is going through.

So many voices, so many words. What is truth? Sometimes, they are just words on a page that seem no longer capable of meaning, or they mean the same that they’ve meant for the last hundred times you’ve come across them. What was once insight seems like scratching the surface, assumed interpretations.

I want more

I want more, I want to go deeper.

In his attempt to penetrate the silence of Jesus, Pilate probs the Christ with questions.  Hard questions.  Life or death questions.  Pilate wants more too.  Had he come to a point in his life where is assumptions about power and authority had so jaded his climb up the Roman ladder that this encounter with Jesus was one of those rarer than rare moments of clarity. A moment to be fully in no matter the outcome?

Pilate questions.  Jesus confiounds. Yet the fog of presumed notions about power, even about life itself burns off like mist in the morning until one brilliant question remains, both essential and painful. A question that the Lectionary oddly ignores…verse 38.

What is Truth?

In The Particulars of Rapture, Avivah Gotleib Zorenberg talks about the Biblical conscious and the Biblical unconscious. The Biblical conscious is the narratives that emerge from the depths and are set on dry land where we can see or hear the plain meaning, the unmuddled voice of God, but there are still meanings below the surface of the water.

God reveals God’s self readily at times, but at others there seems to be truths that need to be gone after. One needs to get wet, dive into the chaos of the cosmic waters. It is the tension of the interplay of what is made plain and what is obscured that is necessary to glimpse anything like “the word of God”. Sometimes we sit on the shore with our understanding; sometimes we get pulled under, with the fear that we might never resurface.

Was Pilate about to get pulled in?  Will we?

The Hardest Question

As another Church Year ends we hope that The Hardest Question can continue to serve as a sort of conversation about these expeditions in the Biblical texts assigned by the Lectionary so that we can together through posts and comments on the posts move from above to below the surface and back again.

Perhaps the hardest question of all is this most intensely personal one: How do you read?

Russell Rathbun is a preacher at House of Mercy in St. Paul, Minnesota, the author of Midrash on the Juanitos (Cathedral Hill Press, 2010) and the curator of The Hardest Question.

How do you read?