May 14, 2017
by Rev. Chris Carr
View, print or save PDF: Sermon.05.14.17.DISCOMFORT
Jesus the Way to the Father
14 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe[a] in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?[b] 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And you know the way to the place where I am going.”[c] 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you know me, you will know[d] my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If in my name you ask me[e] for anything, I will do it.
So, one of the activities that our youth ministry does each summer, is we have a movie marathon. We have done a number of different series of films or themes, such as Disney princess movies, or Pixar, that we have done in the past. A couple of years ago, just before the movie, Star Wars-The Force Awakens came out, we did a Star Wars movie marathon, watching all of the previous six in one sitting. Now there are many stories in such a marathon that could be shared, but when we first came up with the idea, we discussed what order the movies should be shown in. You may not know, but the movies are based on a series of books, and the chronology of the books does not match the order the movies were made in. The first three movies, that most people are most aware of, the originals, are actually dropping you into the middle of the story. They are considered 4,5,and 6. Then there was a set of three that were made in the late 90s and early 2000s, 1,2 and 3, that time wise take place before 4,5, and 6. The most recent movies are considered 7,8, and 9, and pick up the story as a continuation of the original 3. I know, I was just a s confused when this was first explained to me. And it was also explained to me that there are different orders that you can watch them, in to tell the story in different ways. And this was a contentious debate as we decided on the movie marathon. The order that many think is best is to watch the original movie Sat Wars, the one EVERYONE knows from the late 70s before anything else and then go back and watch the original 3, followed by 5 and 6. The reason for this is to create the experience of a flashback. Watch the core storyline, and then go back in time to see how we got there.
When I read the scripture for this morning from the lectionary (the lectionary is a recommended order for including scripture in worship over a three year period that would actually get you through the entire bible over those three years), this text in John 14, I had a similar flashback experience. As we are going through the Easter season and our focus has been on the movements of Jesus after the resurrection, appearing to the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, the Great Commission, etc., this morning’s verse takes us out of the timeline and back into the Jesus story while he was living among them, in humanity, just after he gets done washing their feet. It pulls a Star Wars-like jump, from the Risen Christ, to the very human Jesus, talking to them about what is to come.
I imagine the disciples, perhaps Peter, going back to this memory, as they are dealing with all that is happened, Jesus’s appearances, as he wrestles with the seemingly perpetual change, discomfort, and uncertainty of these next stages of ministry. Last week, our text was the great commission, where Jesus tells them to go and make disciples, baptize, and teach. In the moment, I cannot imagine what an ask that might be. The disciples are still trying to really wrap their heads around this idea that Jesus did actually rise, like he said he would. And now what, where do we go, what do we do? Are we going to get killed to? What will happen? I want it to go back to the way it was, with you, Jesus!
Change is hard. It is uncomfortable. Stepping into the “new” is super hard. Dealing with the unknown, the unexplainable, or that which we do not understand or necessarily agree with makes us want to cling to the current, the status quo, to avoid the change at all costs. Bringing forth the new can be super painful. While I am not a mother, I have been present for at least 3 births and I can say that discomfort and pain definitely comes alongside bringing forth the “new”. So, with that I say, Happy mother’s day to you mothers out there, and bless you.
Change is hard in many ways, and we, as a church, are not exempt from such struggles. There are times that I look for more inclusive translations of the text, that have more inclusive language regarding gender of God, but I went with this one this morning as an example of our understanding. There was a time that there was only a concrete definitive understanding of God as “Father” in a paternal and male-centric way. Over time, change has brought a variety of perspective, rooted in scripture, that has brought forth many understandings of the nature and identity of God, maternal as well as paternal, that has allowed for relationality to God in very important ways, as father, as mother, as Creator. Scriptural study has allowed us to hear the language of God in reference to the Father of Jesus, one born into the world through a human mother as part of the important experience of the humanity of Jesus, and also to see that relationship, between Creator and Created, as intimate and deep as it can be. This change has been met with fear and concern and has also opened up doors of new relationship with God for people in ways that they may not have been able to reconcile in more binary ways. This topic is one that has brought much pain and confusion, and hurt as people process that which was concrete, to that which is full of the new.
So, in the midst of the struggle with change, as Jesus knows what is to come, the suffering of the cross, and grief and anguish that the disciples are sure to feel, Jesus says this:
14 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe[a] in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?[b] 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And you know the way to the place where I am going.”
This teaching from this morning, I imagine would be that type of jump back in time to help put everything else into a little different context, to provide perspective and wisdom to connect the dots in the midst of upheaval and change. This is Jesus’ preparation for the hearts of the disciples. Knowing that they will be troubled, knowing that the may be crying out in despair, panic-stricken, and unsure with what will happen next, Jesus plants this seed of memory for them to go back to. This does not make the hardship go away, does not remove the challenges before them, but encourages them to approach each state of discomfort, with an untroubled heart.
So as they hear this, the disciples seek more information:
Thomas- “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”
Phillip- “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”
“Jesus, make this easier on us, just give us the cheat sheet on us to make this change easier.”
Jesus says “I am the way. I am the cheat sheet. Believe in me” Often this text has been used as a conditional exchange of if you do this then you get that, but the Greek translation of these conditional phrases are much more about a statement of fact, than an exchange,
“If you know me (and you do), you will know my father also.” So that there can be no misunderstanding, Jesus adds, “From now on, you do know him and have seen him”
There is certainty that NO MATTER WHAT, the redemption, and the relationship with Jesus and humanity is locked in, it is settled. God’s love through Christ to all of humanity is a given, not a maybe.
This is what Jesus is calling the disciples into an understanding of that untroubles the heart in the midst of discomfort.
It was a difficult week for sermon-writing. Between personal schedule, the inability to unplug from the ongoing news cycle and the events of this week, as well as a birthday and our ongoing moving of our family, I found it difficult to concentrate on writing for extended periods of time.
When you experience…
- Change in the political climate around you…
- Change in a job…
- Change in your church…
- Change in a relationship…
Flashback to these words of Jesus. Go back to the memory of that comfort in the midst of discomfort and lean on these words to bring forth a change of heart.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. I am with you.”