Jesus the Way to the Father
14 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe 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? 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.” 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 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 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 for anything, I will do it.
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled!” Well, that seems to easy to say doesn’t I?! Yet, we let our hearts be troubled every day at times. Yet, anxiety can lead to deeper belief, and belief can turn into deeper commitment. So, if there is a pattern to this sermon, it’s the “ABC’s”. Anxiety to belief to commitment and how do we get there?
My anxiety on one level has risen this week. My nephew sold his car to my son for 1/2 the cost of what it would normally be. That’s great, but it’s a stick shift.
Everyone in our family can drive a stick except for Brennan. To his credit, he’s learning. But, until he does, he’s been driving my car while I drive his. I’m anxious because I want him to be safe. But, I have to admit, when I take a step back and look at the whole picture, it’s kind of fun to drive his car for a bit.
Well, that’s one thing. But, life throws so many curves at us, doesn’t it. More than learning how to drive a stick shift, we face so many other things in life. We live in anxious times where we don’t know the future and it seems like our dreams and expectations are not coming to fruition. I see it and hear it every day. We have an older congregation, many of us are wondering what the rest of our days will be like. We also wonder about our congregation and where we will be…and we look around and wonder where are our sons, daughters, and grandchildren. Not just in the church, but in our lives.
In troubled times, we have to begin to ask deeper questions. That’s why I love Thomas’ questions. He stays open and curious, even in his anxiety. In that process, he grows and faith takes shape. It took Thomas to starting the church in India after Jesus’ death. A church that still exists today and started a movement of folks across Europe actually. That same faith is alive in us and giving us agency. I believe that God’s agency, God’s Spirit is moving in and through this church and our neighborhoods, and it’s going to be good. But, even in our anxiety, we have to stay curious and listen together to figure out what God is up to and to be moved in the direction that God has us going in.
This passage is a part of John’s writings called the “Farewell Discourse” found in John, chapters 14-17. I’d encourage you to read them all when you get home…not right now though… Jesus is setting the stage for what is to come after he is crucified and resurrected. The disciples are a bit confused, they’ve got these questions. Where we take up this discourse in chapter 14, Jesus points directly to Jesus being in the Father and vice versa. It gives foundation to our understanding of the Triune nature of God, the Trinity. Jesus is saying that he is one with the Father and he speaks, not with his authority, but with the Father’s authority who lives in him, and Jesus lives in the Father, they share space, they mutually indwell within each other. Jesus also, in his humanity, shares space with us and in his humanity is showing us how we should live and the work we should be about as we participate in God’s actions.
That’s hard for me to completely understand. Jesus has an intimate oneness in his relationship with the Father and Jesus is one with us in our humanity which allows us to share in God’s love for each other and the world around us. We are one in Jesus as it says elsewhere in Scripture, because of this oneness, we are connected together by the very power of God.
I have to believe that something is happening here at Fleming Road UCC, in our community, in me, in our relationships, something very good, and hard though, especially as we live into this season of disruption that seems will be with us for a while. But, we have to remember our oneness. Are we honoring one another? Are we asking questions? Are we willing to be in this together? To celebrate even our differences?
I believe that my coming to Fleming Road UCC was such a unique calling. It’s a church in my neighborhood wanting to be community engaged. The timing of the conversations with our church started right before I left for India for three weeks. While in India in 2017, I had a growing sense that my next call would be as pastor of this church. I was filled with excitement, but also had some anxiety and lots of questions and not knowing what to expect or what this church would be like. Yet, I believed. And, it’s proven to be a great call almost 6 years into it. Filled with ups and downs, yes, but so good…and, friends, I don’t want to go anywhere in this season…I see our congregation coming together in deeper ways if we allow ourselves to slow down, reflect, and allow God’s flow to move us into new places. I believe, that if we stay faithful, that the next two to three years of our congregational and community life, even with all of the uncertainty of our times, will be the most exciting in our church’s history.
Jesus says he’s the way. That’s not an exclusive statement, it’s actually inclusive. Jesus is calling us to live into our agency as we live in Christ…a Christ that is universal and present within all of us. The way of love…and it is our way at Fleming Road.
Jesus is asking in this passage: Do you believe? The Greek word in this text for believe is a great word πιστεύw it means 1. believe, believe in, be convinced of, give credence to; 2. believe (in), trust in a special sense, with God or Christ as object; Have confidence; 4. think, hold, or consider (possible). It is used 3 times alone in vs. 10 & 11. In vs. 11, the word “believe” is used as an imperative, giving it a sense of command and urgency. The writer of John is trying to drive home a point, do you believe?
The writer goes on to say that if you believe, then you will do even greater works than me. This is where we come to the word “great”. What does that mean to do greater things than me? The key here is to understand what Jesus means when he says “they will do even greater things than these..” Jesus is communicating to his disciples, and to us, that we have a new identity that is wrapped up in him and our understanding of what it means to be truly human. There is a new power at work that will enable his followers to do great things. What are some of those works? Taking care of those who are impoverished, healing disease, causing the lame to walk, preaching release to those held in bondage, being a true friend and good neighbor. Jesus says that to be great, those are the types of things that we need to be about because that’s what he was about. When read in that context, we begin to understand vs. 14, which says that anything we ask in Christ’s name, he’ll do it. In other words, God’s purposes will always win out and those purposes are consistent with his character. As humans, we share in those characteristics and purposes because we share in Christ’s humanity. Our identity does not lie in what roles we play in life such as being a doctor, engineer, parent, pastor, runner, or whatever…our identity lies in Christ and it shapes our roles and actions. Because of Jesus’ identity with us and our identity with him, we can be great and change the world…not only on global issues, but in our own communities, and even in the lives of those we see every day. We can all be great to someone!
Our passage says that Jesus is going to prepare a place for us, that God’s house has many rooms. Well, that’s a message for now. Our church building is huge, and we are opening it to the community. Yes, most of our contacts have come through my connections, but YOU have embraced it and have had agency and are taking these new partnerships in different directions. You have worked through some anxiety, you have believed, and you have committed. Someone on our church council asked me this week if I’m ready to be a new kind of pastor to multiple groups in our building. My response was yes in so many ways. We have some work that is still emerging, but it is good work. We also have many rooms in the community opening up. As Marilyn and I preached together on a few years ago, our congregation is merging with the neighborhood around us. God is showing us the Way! I am committed to making sure that our current congregational live thrives, and that we engage the community together in meaningful ways that bring life to us and to our neighbors even as we commit to creating new things. Live in Jesus and have confidence that his Spirit is living in you and wants to transform the world with his love through you! ABC… Amen?