“The Right Way?”
March 22, 2015
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Dear God, thank You for bringing us all here to this place. Help us to open our eyes, our ears, our minds, our hearts, and our spirits to better understand who You are and to know You more. Please be with us as we draw near to You and closer to one another. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.
This month has been a more emotional month than I anticipated. It has not been a bad month (for the most part), but an emotional month. Most of you know that I lost my father last July, and I have been reminded of his death several times this month – March 6 would have been my parents’ 61st wedding anniversary, March 13 was a Friday the 13th (and my dad hated Friday the 13th, so I always called him on those days and just checked in with him), and March 20 was my dad’s birthday. So I have had weekly reminders that I can’t pick up the phone and call him any more (he couldn’t hear what was said on the phone anyway, but that’s another story).
But the good thing about these constant reminders of death, and even my dad’s death in particular, is that death always brings me to today’s Bible reading. This passage is a description of direction and hope and life and perfect love. And, in this day and age, boy do I need direction and hope, and the promise of life, and the experience of love.
How about you? Maybe we don’t all require an emotional month, but I think most of us could use some sure and certain direction, a little hope during dismal seasons, the promise of life at the other end of the valley of the shadow of death, and the experience of true love when we might feel lost and alone.
Five weeks ago we read from the Old Testament book of Exodus – and we listened as God told Moses who God is. Do you remember what God said when Moses asked Him, “Who do I tell people You are?” God said, “Tell them ‘I-AM has sent me to you.’”
Since then, and through this whole Season of Lent as we prepare ourselves for the Easter celebration we are in the New Testament Gospel according to John – because the Apostle John records some fascinating ways Jesus also answers Moses’ question.
Jesus identified Himself with God by the way He identified Himself by saying, “I-AM the Bread of Life – I-AM the Light of the World – I-AM the Good Shepherd – I-AM the True Vine – I-AM the way and the truth and the life.”
As we come to today’s Bible story in John 14, we see that Jesus has made His final trip to Jerusalem; He has ridden into the capital city on the donkey; He has washed His disciples’ feet; and He is now seated at the Passover feast – that which became Holy Communion; while at the Passover Supper Table Jesus is teaching His disciples and the opening lines of John 14 are …. —-
1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”
5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
6 Jesus answered, “I-AM the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
May God bless the reading, the hearing, the receiving of His Word which never fails.
What troubles your heart this morning? Are you worried for a loved one’s health? Are you missing someone who has passed or who lives too far away to go visit? Is there someone for whom you are in daily prayer for their salvation or for their faith development? Are finances a concern? Are you afraid of threats made to your way of life?
Full confession: All of these trouble my heart at some level. What are your own heart-troubled concerns?
Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled…” He was talking to His 12 Disciples who were about to lose their beloved Teacher, Leader, Lord, Savior. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. (The NIV says) You believe in God; [now] believe also in me!”
Sometimes that’s harder than it should be. “Lord, I do believe; help me in my unbelief.”
The description of the Mansion over the Hilltop (is that the old Gospel song?) is a promise that we who believe need to hear and hang on to. It’s not just a “very, very big house” (as the newer Gospel song says), it’s actually the Bridal Suite. The way it worked in Jesus’ day was, when you got engaged to be married, the groom would leave the bride for awhile to prepare their new home – which was attached to his father’s house (there may have been more mother-in-law issues to deal with, but there was always a baby-sitter ready for date night!). And the bride would, obviously, know how to get to the groom’s house!
So, when Jesus says, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going”, He was describing the Disciples’, and our, eternal Home – because the Son of God is the Bride-Groom and the Church, the followers of Jesus, those who believe in Him and submit to Him, is the Bride! Of course, the Groom is coming back for His Bride!
“Lord, I do love You and trust You; help me in my wandering lust and doubt-filled mistrust.”
So, the Disciple who is best known for being a doubter, most remembered for saying he would not believe in Jesus’ resurrection unless he actually saw for himself the risen Lord – he ought to be best known for setting the scene for one of my most relied-upon statements of Jesus. Thomas, the straight-man, sets the stage by admitting that he, and probably everyone else in the room, including you and me had we been present, Thomas says, “What? We have no idea what You’re talking about, Jesus! We do not know where You are going, and we, therefore, have no way of knowing the way to where You are going!”
Just like us, the Disciples didn’t quite get the wedding picture Jesus was painting. So Jesus says straight out: “I-AM the way … and the truth … and the life.”
Do you need some direction in life? Do you need some help navigating turbulent waters? Is this unfamiliar territory you are in? Are you trying to follow Jesus, out of the safety of the boat onto the unsteadiness of the lake-water? Are you wondering what it means to go out to places and people you don’t know, or maybe even like, and share the Good News of Jesus with them? Are you listening to the voices of those around us and wondering who this Jesus really is?
Jesus says, “I-AM the way….” using God’s own name for Himself, Jesus says, “I-AM is sending you.” Jesus says, “Do you need direction? Keep your eyes focused on me, because I-AM the way! You will not be lost, even if you don’t know where you are, you will not be lost if you remain with me, because I-AM the way!”
This week many of you read or heard the news that the PC(USA) has officially changed our understanding of the definition of marriage. Our Book of Order used to read: “Marriage is a gift God has given to all humankind for the well-being of the entire human family. Marriage is a civil contract between a woman and a man. For Christians marriage is a covenant through which a man and a woman are called to live out together before God their lives of discipleship.” It will now read: “Marriage involves a unique commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman, to love and support each other for the rest of their lives. The sacrificial love that unites the couple sustains them as faithful and responsible members of the church and the wider community.”
Is this the worst thing that has ever, or could ever, hit the proverbial ecclesiastic fan? Not at all.
Is it faithful to what the Scriptures teach about what marriage should be? I think, not at all.
Do I need direction to know how to follow Jesus through this? You better believe I do. Does His Church, does Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church, need Jesus’ clear direction – not just what does the Bible say?, but also how do we live that out in a way that honors God and also loves our neighbor?? I believe we need it, here, maybe like never before.
“Lord, I do want to follow You faithfully and rightly; help me in my fog to see You clearly for every step!”
And Jesus also says, “I-AM the truth….” That is my ray of hope in the darkness of wondering what’s next. We worry about our future – health, longevity, cash-flow, eternity, church-fidelity. Jesus shines a beam of hope on us. “I-AM the way and the truth….” There is nothing false or wrong in Him. We can trust Him completely because He is the truth! And no matter how afraid I might get about what’s around the next corner – I can hear Jesus say, “I-AM the way and the truth…”, and maybe I’ll be able to put my feet where His have already trod.
“Lord, I do want to trust You completely; help me when I don’t, and when I worry over that which is already in Your hands!”
And Jesus also says, “I-AM the life….” Whatever is waiting around the corner – yeah, but my husband is sick, my mother is dying, my rent is due, my son is rejecting Jesus, my friend’s faith is stalled and not growing – whatever is around the corner (and those are all huge things, right? Those are life-situations no-one wants to face) – Jesus reminds us, “I-AM the way and the truth and the life.”
“Lord, I am alive in You; help me know that eternal life when this earthly life feels shaky – and if I ever cannot shake off the fears of this life, show me again Your perfect love which casts out all fear, in Jesus’ name!”
Jesus’ next words are of vital importance! He has just claimed: “I-AM the way and the truth and the life.” Not, “I am one of the ways, one truth among many, and life for those who go to church”. If that had been what He said, it would deny His claim to use God’s name. No, what He said was, “I-AM the way and the truth and the life.” Then He adds, “No one comes to the Father (who is ‘the Father’? God!), no one comes to the Father except through me!”
Why does He add that phrase? It is vitally important because without it we human beings will change His meaning to anything that makes us happy and comfortable. Without that exclusivity clause, we can make His claim of divinity and salvation into whatever we want it to mean.
But with this addendum, Jesus claims authority over all of life and death! Jesus is God. And it is only through belief in Him, trusting our lives into His hands, into eternal life, that we have any hope for salvation! And because of Jesus, we have all hope!
This exclusivity is not what some think of as a closed door to heaven – it is Jesus holding the door open for all who believe in Him – no matter who we are or what we’ve done. He offers the gift of salvation, free of charge, if we will only receive it!
This is that direction and hope and life; it is His perfect love for all – because God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that all who believe in Him would not perish but would have everlasting life!
Do you want that? It is yours for the taking.
Philip asks Jesus for just a little more proof. And Jesus, you can almost hear the hurt in His voice, says, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”
Do you know what it means to “really know” Jesus? Do you have a personal relationship – a living, growing relationship – with the Father?
Living Christ, thank You for showing us the way, for being the truth, for offering life. Help us to understand that just as You have sought us and found us, You are seeking all those around us, too. Teach us to live and to speak about faith in such a way that other seekers will be drawn into a saving relationship with You. Amen.
Book of Order; Presbyterian Church (USA); 2013-’15; W-4.9000.
Fuquay, Rob; The God We Can Know: Exploring the “I Am” Sayings of Jesus (Adult Group Guide); Upper Room Books; Nashville, TN; 2014; Pp. 36-39.