Hear It, Believe It 5-18-14

This week’s sermon comes from John 14:1-14. It is an early portion of Jesus’ Farewell Discourse to the disciples and includes the famous phrase “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”

You can listen to the sermon here:

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

This weekend, I’ve been finding myself a little nostalgic as the 2014 Luther Seminary graduation ceremony is occurring. I’ve been thinking back to my own graduation a year ago…and also looking back even farther than that…remembering fondly the times I spent at Luther…and the people that I’ve met…fellow students, faculty, and staff that come together to form the Luther community.

Now of course, as I think back, some of the names and faces stand out a little more than others…particularly in terms of the faculty. Some professors shaped me more than others due to the amount of interaction that I had through class work with them…and others stand out in my memory simply for who they are, and the almost tangible presence that they bring to the community…which can be felt when they leave. (pause)

Earlier this week, the official announcement was made that David Lose, one of those professors at who left a solid impact on me, will be leaving to become the new president of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, one of the other ELCA seminaries scattered around the US.

I wasn’t completely surprised by this announcement, as an earlier press release a few weeks ago named him as the front runner for the position…but yet when I heard the news, I felt a little odd about it. Sad that he would be leaving Luther…and the tiniest bit upset that, even though I’m no longer a student there, that there will be a David Lose shaped hole in the Luther community…in short…the announcement of his future absence left my heart troubled.

And in pondering on that reality this week, I found something in common with the disciples. Today’s gospel lesson is a small portion of Jesus’ farewell discourse to the disciples in John’s gospel. It occurs at the Last Supper and directly precedes Jesus and the disciples heading out to the Garden where he will be arrested. The discourse begins just a few verses before this particular portion…when Jesus announces to them…I am with you only a little while longer. (pause)

I’m guessing that this was one of those moments when you could have heard a pin drop…because Jesus has just dropped a bomb on his closest friends…I know we’ve been together for awhile now…but its coming to a close, because very soon…I’ll be gone…cue the crickets chirping.

I can only imagine what the disciples must have been thinking in their minds and feeling in their hearts at that moment…though it seems that Jesus likely had a pretty good read on the situation…because he opens today’s passage…this particular portion of the farewell discourse with these words…Do not let your hearts be troubled. (pause)

WHAT? How can you say that Jesus? We’ve been following you for three years…and now you’re leaving? Why shouldn’t we be troubled? What are we going to do now? (pause) All valid questions…questions that we would likely share if we found ourselves in their shoes…questions perhaps that we do ask in similar situations…when an important figure in our lives announces their upcoming departure unexpectedly…or in an unexpected death…or the diagnosis of a terminal disease…or any other way that we learn of an important persons permanent absence.

And to top it all off…this is the absence of Jesus Christ that we’re talking about here…and so, when he announces Hey guys I’m taking off…and then follows it up with…but don’t worry about it…don’t let your hearts be troubled…well…understandably, the disciples don’t quite get it.

And that’s nothing new is it? Constantly throughout the gospel accounts we hear the disciples piping up that they just don’t understand what it is that Jesus is trying to tell them…and we see several more instances here. Peter has squawked just before the start of today’s text…good old Thomas the doubter chimes in…and we hear from Phillip…and I image that the rest of the crew were murmuring their concern as well.

But that doesn’t stop Jesus…and he lays some very important things…including…just where it is that he’s off to (pause). In my Father’s house are many dwelling places…If it were not so, would have told you? (pause) Well that’s all well and good Jesus…but why are you telling us? I’m telling you, because I am going to prepare a place for you…You know Dad’s house? It’s a big big house…with lots and lots of rooms…One of them is yours…and I have to leave now…because I have to go and get it ready for you.

Wait a second Jesus…you’re saying that in God’s house, I’ve got a place to stay…there’s a place for me? (pause) You bet there is…but its not ready yet…and unless I take off now…it won’t be…so that’s where I’m going…but rest easy…Yes I’m leaving now…but I’m coming back…and I’m coming back for you…so I that where I am…you’ll be too…so that’s where I’m going. Okay? (pause)

Ummm…okay Lord…but? How do we get there again? We don’t know the way? (pause) Say what you will about Thomas…good old Doubting Thomas…but with this one seemingly foolish question, Thomas cues up Jesus with one of his most famous lines. I am the way…I am the truth…and I am the life. (pause)

Now we hear that line…and we know the history behind it don’t we? We have our own history with it and we bring that prior knowledge to the table…but imagine for a moment that you are hearing this for the first time…and maybe, just maybe for some of you sitting out there today this is the first time you’ve heard it.

I am the way the truth and the life? WHAT? The way to where? That’s what we’re trying to figure out Jesus…and the truth? The truth about what? And what do you mean the life? Aren’t we alive right now? What are you talking about?

All valid questions…questions that seemingly get an answer in Jesus next statement…no one comes to the Father except through me. (pause) And once again…I believe that we hear those words, and the way that we hear them is shaped by our own experience…but imagine that you have no prior experience with these words…or with the teachings of Jesus at all…and you hear that…how does it sound? Joyful? Or maybe judgmental?

In this famous phrase, we find ourselves in the midst of the divisive nature of the Gospel…because for believers…this is full of hope…that through Jesus Christ we see the way to the father…we hear the truth from the father…and we find the life with the father…but for those who have not heard the gospel…they hear exclusion…that there are those who are in and those who are out…and that’s a tough pill to swallow isn’t it?

But it’s the reality in the world today…and whether we realize it or not…even as believers in Christ…we experience doubts…we experience the lack of understanding of just what it is that Jesus is really talking about…just like the disciples express in today’s story…and if anyone should have gotten it, it was these guys…but their example shows us that the human condition leaves us unable to fully grasp the truth of what Jesus proclaims…the truth about the kingdom of heaven…and the truth that through his sacrifice we can be…and in fact are brought back into relationship with the father…we are lost…but through Jesus Christ, God comes to find us where we are.

The disciples may have thought that Jesus was being lost to them…that he was telling them he would be gone forever…but that’s not the case at all. (pause) That reminds me of something that happened a couple years back when we were still living in Minnesota. Emily had taken the kids to the library…but it was not the one we normally went to. As they looked around, Jack got separated…and being in an unfamiliar building…he got a little scared…but fortunately he knew enough to go to the front desk and ask for help.

And so as Emily was in the library…at this point starting to wonder where Jack had gotten off to, she heard an announcement…Would the lost mom come to the front desk…your son is here. (pause) Jack had told the lady behind the desk that “my mom is lost.” I’m guessing that disciples felt the same…Jesus would be lost, but that’s not the case…because Jesus and the Father are coming back…they are coming to where we are…they are not the ones who are lost, but us…and just as Emily was worried about Jack and went to him…God comes to us through Jesus Christ…who brings us to himself so that where he, we may be also.

And the place where he is…is not somewhere specific…it is not a location that we can plug into the gps to find…rather…it is a relationship…a relationship lived with God the Father…life lived with the Father made possible through the life death and resurrection of Jesus Christ the Son.

This is what Jesus is talking about. I am the life…the life given to you to be in relationship with the father…I am the truth from the father given to you because I am one with the father…and I am the way to come back into relationship with him…and if you’re wondering how that’s possible…how that works…Jesus asks a simple question…Do you know me? Because if you know me…and I say to you that you do know me…then you know my father as well…because we are one.

And now here’s the important thing that might slip under the radar…Jesus tells us to believe it. Quite simply…but he doesn’t just tell us once…he tells us 6 times in this passage to believe it. And when Jesus repeats himself…its intentional…and when he repeats himself this much…you better believe it.

Believe in God…believe in me…Believe that I am in the father and the father is in me…Believe me that I am in the father but if not, believe me because of the works done by the father in me…and when you believe in the works that I have done…then you will do even greater works than these. Believe it.

And that final statement about the works…that’s important too. Jesus isn’t saying Believe that I’m God because I can turn water into wine…or because I heal the sick…rather…the works are the proclamation that through Christ we find the relationship with God.

Christ proclaimed this truth throughout the course of his ministry…but there were limited numbers of people that he could reach…but through the power of the holy spirit…which grants us faith…which gives us the ability to believe that Jesus is God and God is Jesus…we find the ability to proclaim the same gospel to those we encounter…this is the work of the body…this is the work of the church…the work that we share…to proclaim the gospel so that those who have never heard may hear…so that those who do not know, may come to know…so that those who have not seen Jesus may be found by him…and when they are found they too will hear that Jesus has prepared a place in the father’s house for them…because if it were not so…he would not have told you.

Do not let your hearts be troubled…hear it…and believe it. Amen.

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Teri on May 23, 2014 at 8:51 am

    Great job


Leave a Reply to Teri Cancel reply

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