â€œLiving the Way, Truth and Lightâ€
April 20/08, John 14:1-14
â€œI am the Way, and the truth, and the light. No one comes to the Father except through me.â€ Do we believe this? What do these words say to us today? We live in a world that has changed a lot, even in the last 50 years. 50 years ago every church in the country seemed full. For the United Church, the late 50’s and early 60’s is when our membership was at it’s very highest. From there began the steady decline to where we are today. Globalization and immigration have introduced us to many new ideas and ways of living, including all the religions of the world. This is a good thing, it helps us to open our eyes and see how others live elsewhere in the world. It helps us maybe get some sort of understanding as to why the world is the way it is. Or maybe it confuses us more…
I’ve been reading through the Old Testament this year, usually just before turning in for the night. Sometimes it’s hard going, the readings are repetitive or long lists of genealogy. But overall it still gives a perspective. I’ve been learning things as I read through it. Things that help me understand the struggles the Jewish people went through, why there were times when even God’s chosen people were sent into exile, or worse murdered by neighbouring nations.
You see the times where they were obedient to God’s call, and times when they weren’t. Times when they were obedient to God’s laws, they prospered. When they didn’t, well… that’s when they suffered. It wasn’t just about following God’s laws, it was about times when they followed God’s will for them. God always loved them, but when they didn’t listen to God and did their own thing, they found themselves in trouble. God then tried to make the best out of the mess they made for themselves.
Which brings us to Jesus. It seems that giving people laws to follow, even the ten commandments, which are about as straightforward as you can get, didn’t seem to do the trick. So God sent His son, Jesus, to show people how to live.
Jesus came to tell us plainly how to live. Jesus was a good Jewish boy. He lived as one would expect a good Jew to live. He observed and followed the laws, but he also went far beyond that. He taught us it’s a lot more than just living right, it’s about how we are supposed to live as children of God. He broke down laws of God into two simple statements. One: love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength; two: love your others as yourself. He actually said ‘neighbours’ but also said that everyone is our neighbour, regardless of social status, background, sex or colour.
There are two things that will come out of following those two very simple commands. The first is that the world will become a better place. Imagine if all Christians took this seriously, what would the world look like? If we love God with our entire being, and show that love to others through caring for them then we are able to help alleviate suffering in the world. We think of the example Jesus gave us in the parable of the Good Samaritan. A man who helped a wounded stranger, acting far above and beyond anyone would expect someone to act in the circumstances he found himself by not just taking him some place safe, but making sure the man was cared for completely until he was brought back to health.
The second outcome of following Jesus’ teachings? This is where our readings come in for today. When we follow Jesus with our entire being, with our body, our soul, our strength and our mind, Jesus will have a place for us in heaven. Jesus promises when he goes back to be with God, he will prepare a place for us in God’s kingdom.
Now the disciples seemed to be confused by this whole discussion around preparing a place for us and for seeing God in action. Philip asks to see this ‘father’ that Jesus is talking about. Who is this ‘father’ we are looking to be with?
Of course all this is happening before Jesus’ death and resurrection, so the disciples are still struggling with many of the teachings Jesus is giving. They still don’t quite understand who Jesus is, despite the explanations he gives.
Jesus once again plainly tells them the Father is in him. If they have seen Jesus at work, if they have heard the words he spoke, then they have seen God face-to-face.
Jesus says it plainly, â€œif you don’t believe the words I speak, then look at what I have done.â€ Jesus tells the disciples who he is in very plain terms, he is the Son of God, wholly part of the Trinity.
As Christians we should find great comfort in these words from Jesus this morning. Jesus has come to show us how to be in relationship with God and the world around us. When we live our lives as Jesus teaches us to live, he says our works will be greater than his own! Wow!! Those are pretty big words! How can the simple acts we do be greater than what Jesus has done?
Well, I don’t know that they can, except to say it’s because we do them in the name of Jesus that they become great. Jesus continues to live and work in this world through the Holy Spirit. It’s more than just being part of a community of worship, it’s a way of life.
Tuesday is an important day to remember. Not just because it’s my birthday, it’s also apparently Earth Day, or something like that. The environment is a huge issue in the world right now. Taking care of creation, sharing our resources, living lives that benefit our neighbours. The only way we’re going to change the destructive path we’re on is to change the way we live. To change our mindset as a consumerist society into one of being a sustainable society. It’s more than just changing light bulbs and using less oil. It’s about creating a culture of people where everything we do is done with an eye towards it’s environmental impact. This goes from choosing political leaders to buying groceries.
Christianity isn’t all that different when you think about it. Christianity is more than just gathering on Sunday mornings. Being a disciple of Jesus Christ means changing our own mindset from someone who looks for personal gratification, a â€œme firstâ€ attitude into a mindset of loving God first and foremost, and also caring for the rest of the world as we ourselves would like to be cared for. This is a huge change in thinking for many, if not all of us. This change is only possible, in my opinion, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Through the words Jesus said from the start of the reading, â€œdo not let your hearts be troubled, believe in God, believe also in meâ€, Jesus can help us with our troubled hearts. Hearts heavy with seeing people suffering in the world. Hearts heavy with the question of â€œwhat do I do?â€ Jesus can help us through those times in our lives, just as God stepped in and help his chosen people in the Old Testament when they struggled from times where they didn’t listen to His call in their lives.
Jesus has prepared a place for us. We may never see treasures here on earth. In fact there may be times where we feel like our whole life is a struggle. But Jesus says these simple words, â€œBelieve in me, follow me and do work in my name. Do this and you will be with me forever.â€
Happy Birthday Nick.