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Truth, respect, service: can you commit to these values? At the Ash Wednesday service, I invited all the Senior School students to come forward to be anointed with ash, which involves having a cross traced on your forehead. Because Saints is all about embracing diversity and being inclusive, this year I invited anyone to come forward, who could commit to truth, respect, and service. Not everyone calls themselves a Christian – I would be naïve to think that everyone at Saints did – but we can all commit to truth, respect, and service.

Let me reflect on these ideas in reverse order, starting with service. I think here at Saints we have a very clear idea of what it means to serve other people and this is something that we’re continuing to build on. Service can range from the smallest actions here at school, in assisting someone to get something done, to a much larger, ongoing commitment to get out into the community and serve others. Service is easy to comprehend and, really, it just takes organisation and commitment to get it done.

Respect is pretty straightforward too. It’s easy to know when you are disrespecting someone and it’s usually pretty obvious when someone is disrespecting you. Yet respect is the easiest thing in the world to give, perhaps a little harder to win back if you’ve lost it. Recently I’ve been catching up on the Fast and Furious series of films, all about street car racing. One of the ongoing themes in the series is the notion of respect. In the first film it was all about the respect earned in car racing, but slowly in the films the notion of respect matures and comes to represent being prepared to look after your family. You show respect in the way you treat your family. Implied in this, though, is a much greater notion of respect for all humanity, though the family is quick to dismiss those who don’t deserve respect.

Finally, truth. I preached last week in Chapel about integrity versus hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is this notion of playing a part to impress people, acting a part if you like, without having the internal integrity to back it up. Truth on the other hand is all about integrity and being a part of something bigger.

Let me tell you about a parishioner of mine in my church in W.A. Glen was a successful business-man: a millionaire. He had had a bit of bad luck now and again, though, so his fortune was diminished somewhat. He joked to me a couple of times, Father Theo, I’m down to my last million. One of his bits of bad luck had been with a business partner. They had been good friends and ran a successful business in Perth. He ran the sales side of the business and his friend ran the finance side – everything from invoicing to ensuring the financial records were up to date. Then my parishioner friend began to suspect something was not quite right with the books. So he did a bit of investigating and secretly employed an accountant to look over the books. It turns out his business partner was defrauding him, keeping more than his fair share of the profits, and not sharing equally.

As a Christian he had to forgive him. That’s the whole point of being a Christian: you forgive those who hurt you. But that doesn’t mean you have to put up with continuing to be hurt. It doesn’t mean you put up with something that is not true. My friend had to call the police and have his business partner investigated for fraud. Justice needed to be done. It’s the principle of restorative justice: you pay back, you restore what you’ve taken.

Truth is about more than not just lying – it’s about absolute integrity. Truth is about total commitment to loyalty: it has a very strong link to respect. Truth is about God: the realisation that we are part of something bigger, that we serve a greater purpose. In our school prayer we pray that our foundations may stand firm in truth and righteousness. It’s talking about God’s truth and God’s righteousness. It means committing ourselves to the things we know from Jesus that God is interested in: justice for all, care for the world God has given us, including the natural environment, creating a better society in which all may flourish. Truth is not just about being honest in your business dealings – it’s about saying, We’re all in this together: I respect my neighbours and I commit myself to serving them. We are all part of a bigger project: creating a more just world. Let’s commit ourselves to that.

The Reverend Dr Theo McCall
School Chaplain