“We Are the Church: Be of good courage. Hold fast to that which is good” at Westminster Presbyterian Church 

On October 8, 2023, Rev. Dr. Tim Hart-Andersen, Senior Pastor at Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church, delivered the sermon, “We Are the Church: Be of good courage. Hold fast to that which is good,” which was the fourth of his final seven sermons before his retirement at the end of October.

Scripture: Joshua 1: 1-9

“After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide:  ‘Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.  Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.’”

“’Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.  Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.  Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.’”


“The text we just heard recounts the conclusion of the Exodus, the foundational story of identity for Judaism. Moses leads the Israelites out of enslavement in Egypt into the wilderness for forty years, on their way to the Land of Promise. Jews around the world spent the last week remembering the Exodus during the Festival of Sukkot – and yesterday they awakened to the news of an attack on Israel. Let us pray – yet again – for peace for all the peoples in that region of the world.”  

 “In their wilderness sojourn the Hebrew people encountered hunger and thirst, doubt and rebellion, fear and anxiety, but through it all, Moses kept the faith. He followed the pillar of fire by night and the cloud by day. Moses was clearly an early adapter in using the cloud as a navigational system.”  

 “They finally reach the Jordan River, and the Land of Promise – I call it that because it should be a land of promise for all who live there – the Land of Promise is within sight. On Mt. Nebo, on the border between present day Jordan and Israel, Moses looks out over the Jordan Valley and the West Bank, sees the town of Jericho, that Joshua will take in his first conquest, and then up the hills on which the City of David will rise. And then he dies, leaving the people without a leader at a critical point in their journey.”  

 “But God has a succession plan.

 “The Lord  spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying, ‘My servant Moses is dead. Now proceed to cross the Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them.’” (Joshua 1:1-2) 

 “Transition in leadership can be challenging, and when it accompanies a risky new venture, it can be doubly difficult.”

 “Now it’s Joshua’s turn to look out over the coming conquest of the land of other nations. I wonder if he senses that entering that land would be the start of unending geopolitical conflict still present today, much of it rooted in how this text has been understood and implemented. Joshua is overwhelmed by an uncertain and frightening future that lies ahead.”

 “Did you hear how God prepares Joshua to cross the river? Three times God tells him to be ‘be of good courage.’ I will be with you. You are not alone. My word will go with you.  

Be of good courage. Hold fast to that which is good. We’ve heard that line every Sunday in worship in the closing Charge and Benediction since I began serving this congregation. I often think of those words when I find myself facing some river over which I need to cross, knowing it will not be easy.” 

“We are the church. We’re the ones who are of good courage. We’re those who hold fast to that which is good.”  

 “What is ‘good’ courage? It’s the determination to stand for what is right and just and fair even when it’s hard. For Moses, and then Joshua, it meant holding fast to the law of God, not turning away from it. Good courage is the bravery that comes from unwavering commitment to pursuing God’s vision of a world built on kindness and justice and love, a world where all are respected, and hope does not disappear.” 

 “We all need courage like that at times in our lives. Any one of us can find ourselves facing situations that loom large and threatening, moments when we’re not sure we can keep going. In those moments we can look for help beyond ourselves. To get through whatever we face, personally or together, we can remember that it’s not only up to us. That’s one of the gifts of faith: we know we are not alone as we seek courage to get through difficult circumstances beyond our control.” 

 “We hear that theme in our music today. The text for The World Beloved reminds us that God’s love never leaves us. Bluegrass music sings of the strength from a power greater than our own that allows us to live through hard times.”  

 “I’ve made two Civil Rights pilgrimages through the south, and both times I came away astonished at the courage of the young people of that day… Ruby Bridges, a six-year-old Black girl walking alone through angry adults into an all-white school through a crowd of angry adults in New Orleans. …Claudette Colvin, a 15-year-old arrested in Montgomery, Alabama, for refusing to give up her seat on the bus eight months before Rosa Parks did the same thing… The students who faced police dogs and water canon in Kelly Ingram Park in Birmingham as they protested for their parents’ right to vote…That is good courage.

“Courage is evident in large and small ways in our time. The growth in the hospice movement is a sign of courage to face squarely the reality of the end of life. Teenagers seeking help for a mental health crisis – that takes courage. Those standing up to powerful interests to try to stop climate change are demonstrating courage on behalf of the planet. Trans kids and their families who face bullying from school boards and politicians and yet refuse to back down are showing good courage.”  

“As I think about the church and its future – and here I mean not only this church, but the Christian Church, and for that matter, all communities of faith – in coming decades we will need good courage in new ways, to hold fast to that which is good, because of future challenges we cannot yet even fathom – there are many, but I want to focus on one that may surprise my colleagues, knowing my limited knowledge of computers.”  

 “I’m thinking of the coming impact of Artificial Intelligence. I spent the summer reading about this; if you’re not either fascinated by it or fearful of it, then you’re not paying attention. The view from Mt. Nebo today looks out over a landscape that will soon be altered by astonishing new technologies that will affect all of us in significant ways.” 

“Some are comparing the coming of Artificial Intelligence to the discovery of electricity or humanity’s harnessing of fire. After spending months with the developers of AI, Ross Andersen wrote recently in The Atlantic that the goal of artificial general intelligence, which goes far beyond the currently available AI, is ‘to summon a superintelligence into the world, an intellect superior to that of any human.’” (The Atlantic, September 2023, p. 54) 

“If we don’t readily see the implications of this new technology for people of faith, it becomes apparent in listening to those engaged in developing it. One person working on superintelligence refers to it as ‘the final boss of humanity.’” (The Atlantic, September 2023, p. 66)  

 “That sounds like religious language.

“The Internet and our use of it today will seem quaint and naive in merely a few years. Changes in technology only recently predicted to be here around 2050 are now expected by 2026. Economies and social and political systems will face enormous upheaval in coming to terms with the power of AI. It is both hopeful and ominous.”  

 “The technologies that emerge over the next decade represent for people of faith a mid-21st century Jordan over which the human community will soon cross, not knowing where we are going. Will AI be a force that benefits or harms humanity? Will the new technologies help us cure disease and clean up the planet and learn to live together peaceably, or will they serve as new means of control that diminish human meaning and purpose, expand existing inequities, and lead to catastrophic uses?” 

“On Mt. Nebo, God reminds Joshua and the Israelites they have reason to hope in the future because they take good courage with them as they cross into the unknown. This congregation has the chance to do the same – to step into the next chapter of its life with courage and hope, not knowing what lies ahead. I’m not referring to the short-term transition of a retiring senior pastor. I’m pointing to the much larger and more consequential challenge and opportunity to live into an as-yet undetermined future together.” 

“That future will be shaped by technologies only now being developed that will have profound impact on systems that could move humanity in more just, equitable, and sustainable directions – or away from them. The Church and other people of faith and goodwill can and must play a part in determining a new course for the human community.” 

“The word to Joshua and to people of faith everywhere and in every age is a word to which we, too, should listen as we cross a new Jordan into tomorrow, with the song of God’s love in our hearts: Be of good courage. Hold fast to that which is good.

“Thanks be to God.” 



Rev. Alanna Simone Tyler led the congregation in the following Prayer of Adoration and Confession: “God of grace, you brought the Church into being long ago. Across the ages people have loved you and followed you. We join them in praising your name, but we confess the Church needs renewal today. We are confused and afraid. We do not trust your Spirit can still stir the Church. Awaken us, we pray. Give us good courage. Summon from us a response that sings your praise and holds fast to the hope that is ours in Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.”

After the sermon, Rev. Alexandra Jacob offered a Pastoral Prayer and then led the congregation in the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen”


The church choir opened  with a “Bluegrass Hymn Sing” and “The World Beloved: A Bluegrass Mass.” The choir and congregation sang “Prayer of Good Courage” from “Mountain Vespers” by Kent Gustavson and “Lord Jesus, You Shall Be My Song” accompanied by the church organist, who concluded the service with the Postlude “When the Angels Carry Me Home.”


This sermon does a wonderful job of making a profound theological point in simple language that is tied to words in the Old Testament. “Be of good courage. Hold on to that which is good.”

Three times God tells Joshua “Be of good courage.” And God gives Joshua three reasons to “be of good courage. You are not alone. I will be with you. My word will go with you. Hold fast to that which is good.”

What is good courage? “It’s the determination to stand for what is right and just and fair even when it’s hard.” It’s “the bravery that comes from unwavering commitment to pursuing God’s vision of a world built on kindness, and justice and love, a world where all are respected, and hope does not disappear.” (Emphasis added.)

Moreover, Westminster and all other churches (and indeed all communities of faith) ”in coming decades . . . will need good courage in new ways, to hold fast to that which is good, because of future challenges we cannot yet even fathom,” especially Artificial Intelligence. A recent article in The Atlantic magazine said that “the goal of artificial general intelligence,  . . . which goes far beyond the currently available AI is “to summon a superintelligence in the world, an intellect superior to that of any human” or “the final boss of humanity.” (Emphasis added.)

Such future changes “could move humanity in more just, equitable, and sustainable directions—or away from them. The Church and other people of faith and goodwill can and must play a part in determining a new course for the human community.” Thus, all of us need to “Be of good courage. Hold fast to that which is good.” (Emphasis added.)


[1] Rev. Dr. Tim Hart-Andersen, Sermon, “We Are the Church: Be of good courage. Hold fast to that which is good,” Westminster Presbyterian Church (Oct. 8, 2023); Bulletin of the Worship Service, Westminster Presbyterian Church (Oct. 8, 2023).

U.S. Has Long-Term Labor Crisis  

The Wall Street Journal has set forth a detailed analysis of the U.S. long-term labor crisis.[1]

“Work experts have warned for years that the combination of baby boomer retirements, low birthrates, shifting immigration policies and changing worker preferences is leaving U.S. employers with too few workers to fill job openings. While the labor market is softening, none of those factors are expected to change dramatically in the coming years.”

“The U.S. birthrate—the number of births per 1,000 people—has been falling for decades, declining by about half since the 1960s.”

“Labor shortages can be eased by funneling more people into the labor force or making the current workforce more productive. That can be done through immigration; outsourcing more work overseas; tapping underutilized labor pools such as people with disabilities and the formerly incarcerated; and improving productivity through automation, training and refining business and production processes.”

“Offshoring, the scourge of the U.S. manufacturing workforce in the last decades of the 20th century, has lost favor with some business leaders after the pandemic highlighted the vulnerabilities of a global supply chain. Reshoring—bringing manufacturing back to the U.S.—is gathering momentum, backed by billions of dollars in government subsidies.”

Generative AI tools such as ChatGPT could help, but the technology is too new to know exactly where large language models can be reliably applied in business or work settings.”

“That leaves immigration. After falling during the pandemic because of Covid-related policies, immigration has come back strongly. But it remains a divisive issue, and business leaders say the lack of a coherent, stable policy is contributing to the labor problem.”


 This blogger agrees that U.S. should significantly revise its immigration laws to encourage the immigration of people who could be productive workers in our economy.[2] But the U.S. Congress currently is dysfunctional on many issues, including immigration.


[1] Weber & Pipe, Why America Has a Long-Term Labor Crisis, in Six Charts, W.S.J. (Sept. 21, 2023).

[2] See, e.g., the following posts to dwkcommentaries.com:  U.S. Afghan Special Visa Program Still Facing Immense Problems (Sept. 2, 2023); Overwhelmed U.S. Immigration Court System (Sept. 1, 2023):Increasing Migrant Crossings at U.S. Border Call for Legal Change (Aug. 16, 2023);Wall Street Journal Editorial: U.S. Needs More Immigrants (July 25, 2023); Other States Join Iowa in Encouraging Immigration To combat Aging, Declining Population (Feb. 22, 2023);More Details on U.S. and Other Countries’ Worker Shortages (Feb. 9, 2023);Iowa State Government Encouraging Refugee and Migrant Resettlement (Feb. 3, 2023).

Wall Street Journal Editorial: U.S. Needs More Immigrants

The Wall Street Journal on July 24, 2023, published an editorial calling for increased U.S. recruitment and admission of immigrants.[1] Here are its reasons for that conclusion.

“The U.S. has a people problem. The birth rate has been sliding for years, and it’s about to translate into a shrinking labor force. By 2040, according to a study out this week, America could have more than six million fewer working-age people than in 2022. The only way to counter the domestic trend is by attracting workers from abroad.”

According to the editorial, “’The working-age U.S. population has peaked absent additional immigration,’ writes Madeline Zavodny, in a forthcoming paper from the National Foundation for American Policy. ‘New international migrants are the only potential source of growth in the U.S. working-age population over the remainder of the next two decades.’ Ms. Zavodny is an economics professor at the University of North Florida, and her analysis is based on data from the Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

“At a time when some Americans view foreign workers as cheap competition, she offers a prescription for growth and vigor. In particular she notes that, although foreign-born workers accounted for nearly half the gain in U.S. employment from January 2021 through May 2023, ‘employment among prime-aged U.S.-born workers also soared during this period.’”

“Unemployment has been historically low, she adds, and difficulty of finding good workers will increase if the pool of working-age people shrinks.”

“The domestic trend lines aren’t good, for two big reasons. The declining birthrate is one. The other is Baby Boomers are both living longer and aging out of the work force. Anyone who imagines that a shrinking population is pleasant should spend some time in Japan and Italy. As these countries are finding, decline means fewer people to produce goods and services, as well as less innovation. Even China’s Communists now admit that owing to their pursuit of a one- child policy, they now face, as Milton Friedman predicted, a huge worker shortage that will challenge economic growth.”

“So far the U.S. has been able to compensate via immigration, which was ‘the sole source of growth in the U.S. working-age population in 2021 and 2022,’ Ms. Zavodny says. But this isn’t guaranteed. She suggests a future of competition among countries hit by the double whammy of a declining birth rate and aging society. Canada recently rolled out a new work permit to lure away foreigners in the U.S. on high-skill H-1B visas. The target of 10,000 applicants was met in two days.”

“Amid Donald Trump’s talk about a wall and Joe Biden’s chaos at the southern border, it’s hard to imagine any solutions from Congress before 2025. But Ms. Zavodny identifies labor-force trends that will have damaging consequences if they aren’t addressed. Someone needs to make the case that admitting foreign workers is good for Americans.”

In her underlying  paper for the National Foundation for American Policy, Zavodny adds, “Technological change, including ongoing advances in generative AI, is unlikely to eliminate the need for additional workers. In the long run, technological progress raises labor demand by increasing productivity and incomes. In the short to medium run, domestic workers are unlikely to be sufficient to meet labor demand as federally funded infrastructure projects roll out and domestic semiconductor production ramps up. The U.S. will need workers with specialized skills that are in short supply and take years of education and training to acquire. Now and in the future, the U.S. will still need workers, and it risks not having enough of them, particularly those with desired skills, absent additional immigration.”[2]


 This blog agrees with this W.S.J. editorial as evidenced by many blog posts and comments regarding U.S. immigration.[3]


[1] Editorial: America’s Choice: Immigration or Bust, W.S.J. (July 24, 2023).

[2] Zavodny, Why the United States Still Needs Foreign-Born Workers, Nat’l Foundation for American Policy (July 2023).

[3] E.g., Posts and Comments to dwkcommentaries.com: Iowa State Government Encouraging Refugee and Migrant Resettlement (Feb. 3, 2023); Comment: National Worker Shortages in U.S. (Feb. 3, 2023); Comment: Economists Surprised by January New Jobs Data (Feb. 4, 2023); Comment: Migrant Workers Being Paid Premium Wages in Tight U.S. Job Market (Feb. 8, 2023); More Details on U.S. and Other Countries’ Worker Shortages (Feb. 9, 2023); Other States Join Iowa in Encouraging Immigration to Combat Aging, Declining Population (Feb.22, 2023); COMMENT: More Support for Immigrants’ Importance for U.S. Economy (Feb. 23, 2023); U.S. High-Tech Layoffs Threaten Immigrants with Temporary Visas (Feb. 25, 2023).


Minneapolis Westminster Presbyterian Church: Presbyterian Principles: Truth is in order to goodness   

On May 7, 2023, Rev. Dr. Timothy Hart-Andersen, Senior Pastor of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church, delivered the second of three sermons on Presbyterian Principles.[1] This one focused on “truth is in order to goodness.”


John 3: 16-24

 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world but in order that the world might be saved through him.  Those who believe in him are not condemned, but those who do not believe are condemned already because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.  And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.  For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”

 After this Jesus and his disciples went into the region of Judea, and he spent some time there with them and baptized.  John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim because water was abundant there, and people kept coming and were being baptized.  (John, of course, had not yet been thrown into prison.)


We’re on the second Sunday of a three-part series exploring what are called The Historic Principles of Church Order. They were adopted by the Presbyterian Church more than two centuries ago. Our forebears set out to build Christian community on these basic tenets of faith. The principles served – and still serve – as the foundation of the values we hold dear and which we embrace as followers of Jesus.

We may be tempted to dismiss a set of ethics adopted in the late 18th century as anachronistic or irrelevant. But give them a chance and it becomes clear they still speak to us. Last week we looked at this historic principle: God alone is Lord of the conscience – meaning that in the mind and heart of a Christian, God’s love is the ultimate guide for how we live.

Today we look at another assertion upon which our Church stands: Truth is in order to goodness. When I first read this in our denomination’s constitution many years ago, I didn’t understand it. It refers to one thing that follows another. To say truth is in order to goodness means that goodness results from following the truth. Truth leads to goodness.

Could any old-time principle be more appropriate for our time today, when lies and illusions abound in our public life, and mendacity doesn’t even bother to masquerade? Could any principle be more apt for our time than this one? Truth is in order to goodness. 

When Jesus was before Pilate, only hours before his crucifixion, the Roman governor was probing him, trying to learn who he was, and the motivation for what he did. Jesus finally tells him,

“For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truthEveryone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:37)

As followers of Jesus, we ought to be known as those who belong to the truth, who refuse to follow falsehood. If we belong to the truth, our lives bear witness to what is good and honest, right and just. Our actions and our integrity point others to the truth.

But how do we know what is true? “The great touchstone of truth,” according to those 18th century Presbyterians, is “Its tendency to promote holiness.”

By “holiness” they meant life that reflects the love and righteousness, the light and justice of God.

Our forebears went on to declare, “No opinion can be either more pernicious or more absurd than that which brings truth and falsehood upon a level.”

Truth is in order to goodness.

Jesus couldn’t agree more: You will know them by their fruits,” he said. “Are grapes gathered from thorns or figs from thistles?” (Matthew 7:16)

A few years ago, we chuckled at the notion of truthiness in our political and cultural ethos. That was then, and this is now, and it is no longer a laughing matter. With new technology the world of “alternative facts” has scaled up beyond anything we could ever have imagined. To quote Dorothy, “Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

In an interview this week, Dr. Jeffery Hinton, known as the “godfather” of artificial intelligence, was asked about the benefits and risks of AI. AI, he said, can be a force for astonishing good.  “Would you rather see a family doctor that has seen a few thousand patients or a family doctor that has seen a few hundred million patients, including with the same rare disease you have?”

A benefit of AI.

But, as we have been hearing a lot these days, there’s a deep shadow side to AI. At a recent UN conference on the risks of technology, a participant said, “AI can bring with it a host of unintended consequences. One of the most pernicious could be AI’s ability to spread misinformation at a pace and scale not seen before.”

Pernicious is the very word Presbyterians used 235 years ago to describe bringing “truth and falsehood upon a level.” It carries the connotation of malevolence. The use of this technology – not the technology itself – can be detrimental to our life together, even sinister.

Dr. Hinton recently left Google to speak out about the threats in the use of the technology he spent decades developing. The first danger he cites is “the risk of producing a lot of fake news so no one knows what’s true anymore.”

This has gone way beyond a mere press conference where someone claims something we all know to be false, and it begins to spread by people repeating and believing it.

Jesus was acutely aware of the power of what is true. “You shall know the truth,” he said, “And the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

But in an age when unregulated and unrestrained technology can easily be used to spread that which is untrue and present it as gospel – and I use that word intentionally – we will soon lose our freedom.

If truth is in order to goodness, when much of the world is filtered through and controlled by AI can we even know what is true?

By ourselves we cannot stop the malicious use of technology, but we can be careful with it and check its veracity when in doubt. We can use technology to verify the accuracy of technology. We can discern what is true and decide what we will do about it – even if that truth is painful or difficult to face in our personal lives, in our families and our relationships, in our city and nation today, and in its history. The truth can be hard to hear, but you and I, we are bound to pursue it and act on it.

A statement by the national church 40 years ago, in 1983, says,  “As Presbyterians we believe there is…no way to disconnect faith from practice. What we believe is reflected in our actions, both individually and corporately. Acceptance of untruths as truth is harmful…The truth of a particular idea is often revealed in the way it leads people to behave…Time is a test of truth.”

Truth is in order to goodness, sometimes over a long stretch of time.

The New York Times columnist Tom Friedman spoke this past week at an event here in town sponsored by World Savvy, a wonderful national education non-profit headquartered in Minneapolis. Friedman commented on the credo of the founder of Facebook Mark Zuckerman: move fast and break things.

Friedman countered: “In a speeding world, that which happens slowly is more important than ever.”

The three things such a world needs, he said, are self-motivation, the discipline to engage even when so much can be done for us, without our engagement; access, the capacity to get and use the technology; and, character.

Friedman focused on that last point, character. He named a number of “slow-moving” experiences that teach empathy and kindness and help create lasting, healthy community. At the top of his list was Sunday School – and he didn’t mean what happens only in churches; at this very moment, over at Temple Israel they are teaching in the synagogue what they call Sunday School.

People of faith instinctively know that slowing down helps us and our children see and listen and discern more carefully. Prayer slows us down. Music slows us down. Quiet slows us down. Every Wednesday evening people gather for mid-week worship in Westminster Hall that includes 5-6 minutes of silence together. It never seems long enough.

God rested on the seventh day in the Creation story and wonder at all that had been made. The Creator needed to stop and see the truth of all that beauty – and then pronounce it good. We are told to honor the Sabbath because human beings lose their way when they go fast all the time. Truth gets in when we slow down – and truth is in order to goodness.

We don’t often think of Jesus as having a focus on truth in his ministry. He healed, he taught, he loved those reviled or feared by others, he welcomed those excluded, he prayed, he listened, he gave his life for others. But what does all that have to do with truth?

It has everything to do with truth.

Jesus said, “I am the way the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6)

With his own life, Jesus points to the truth, truth with a capital T and the smaller, everyday truths at the core of our faith, that you and I try to live every day: that love is greater than fear and compassion stronger than hate, that dawn will follow even the longest night, that mercy leads to forgiveness and grace heals brokenness, that hope gives courage to seek justice against all odds. that we are not alone.

I John asks a simple question: “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth. And by this we will know that we are from the truth.” (I John 3:17-19a)

We who follow Jesus are from the truth. We belong to the truth. That means how we live is not some random accident, controlled by some force outside of us, but a direct result of holding fast to the truth that God is love.

“We are persuaded,” the Presbyterians said long ago,,“That there is an inseparable connection between faith and practice, truth and duty. Otherwise, it would be of no consequence either to discover truth or to embrace it.” (PCUSA Book of Order, F-1.0304: Historic Principles)

Truth is in order to goodness.

Thanks be to God.



These Presbyterian “principles served—and still serve—as the foundation of values we hold dear and which we embrace as followers of Jesus.” “God’s love is the ultimate guide for how we live.”

“To say ‘truth is in order to goodness’ means that goodness results from following the truth. Truth leads to goodness.” “The great touchstone of truth [is]the tendency to promote . . . life that reflects the love and righteousness, the light and justice of God.”

Dr. Jeffrey Hinton, an expert on Artificial Intelligence (AI), says AI “can be a force of astonishing good,” such as enabling an M.D. to see medical results of a disease in vastly more cases. On the other hand, AI risks “producing a lot of fake news so that no one knows what’s true anymore.”

Tom Friedman, the New York Times columnist, says the world needs (a) self-motivation or the discipline to engage with the world; (b) the ability to get and use the ever-changing technology; and (c) character, which is shaped by “slow moving” experiences that teach empathy and kindness and help create lasting, healthy community. A prime example of such “slow moving” experiences is Sunday School in churches and synagogues.

“With his own life, Jesus points to the truth with a capital T and the smaller, everyday truths at the core of our faith, that you and I try to live every day: that love id greater than fear and compassion stronger than hate, that dawn will follow even the longest night, that mercy leads to forgiveness and grace heals brokenness, that hope gives courage to seek justice against all odds, and that we are not alone.”


[1] Previous posts about this series of sermons:

The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), dwkcommentaries.com (May 11, 2023); Minneapolis Westminster Presbyterian Church: Presbyterian Principles: God alone is Lord of the conscience, dwkcommentaries.com (May 12, 2023).

[2] Rev. Dr. Timothy Hart-Andersen, Sermon, Presbyterian Principles: Truth is in order to goodness (May 7, 2023); Bulletin, Westminster Presbyterian Church (Minneapolis) (May 7, 2023).