Memorial Presbyterian Church of Wenonah
Text: John 14:1-7 (NRSV)
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 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? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
During my first trip to Korea, I got lost while navigating the subway system. I didn’t really know any Korean at the time and while there were signs in English I couldn’t make heads or tails of what any of them meant. I felt embarrassed, I thought that I could get to where I needed to go without asking a friend to come and get me, but I couldn’t find the way. So eventually I managed to set aside my pride and my embarrassment and walked up to someone who looked like they were around my age. With the limited Korean I knew I asked them if they spoke English. Nodding their head I asked them how I could get to the address I had written down and they kindly wrote down directions on how to get to where I was going. Seeing that I didn’t look confident they offered to ride with me to make sure I got off at the right station.
I’m not sure why, but it’s hard asking for directions. Maybe it’s because we have trouble trusting someone we’ve never met before. Maybe it’s because we thought that if we just entrenched ourselves into our belief that we were heading in the right direction it would somehow work itself out in the end. Regardless of whether we are asking for directions or seeking out the answers to life questions, we know that our journey to find our way through life cannot be done alone.We know as people who have been baptized, who eat the bread and drink from the cup, that Jesus is one who often journeys with us, showing us the way of God. Yet sometimes, even when we have Jesus by our side, it can be hard to see which way God is pointing us towards.
Did you ever wonder who pointed us towards the path that God wanted us to travel before Jesus? Who did the ancient Hebrews and the people surrounding them have to rely on before the coming of God made flesh? If we turned back to the Old Testament we find that God sent prophets to be leaders and help guide people back to God. Because that’s one of the overarching themes throughout Scripture, God desires to bring us back into the relationship we once had with God in the Garden of Eden. Maybe you might remember the well-known words of the prophet Isaiah who said:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”
(Isaiah 2:3-4, NIV)
Time and time again God sent prophets to the people with the hope they would turn from their own ways and follow the ways of God. And while sometimes it seemed like the prophet’s message got through, it wouldn’t take too long for the people to revert back to the way that they lived before. The prophets may have been good “traffic cops,” who helped point us in the right direction, but it would take a master architect to rearrange the world around us so that we all could go on the right path. So we shouldn’t be surprised at how the story continues after that… After sending prophets, God sends Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, into the world to essentially say, “Follow me… Follow me, because ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
But what keeps us from following Jesus? What keeps us from following Jesus who told us that he was “the way, the truth, and the life?” [Impromtu Reference: Sermon from the Rev. Dr. Fred Gary] Maybe we get distracted because we pay too much attention to the rest of what Jesus says. We don’t quite dispute the first part where Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” but have a hard time digesting the second part where Jesus says, “No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
If you remember the story that I told at the beginning, I said that maybe one of the reasons why we have a hard time asking for directions is because we get too stuck up without selves thinking that we know where we are going. Well, I think the same is true with why it is sometimes difficult for us to follow Jesus. Too often we think that if we live by a particular code of conduct, say certain things, or believe “x,” “y,” and “z” we are following the path God wants us too and everyone else is wrong. I’m not saying that what we believe isn’t important, but I am saying is that maybe it’s time we take another look at what it means to follow Jesus. Maybe it’s less being 100% correct in everything that we say, do, and think, and more about the kind of relationship we have with Jesus.
What we find when we turn to Scripture is that Jesus cared a great deal about relationships. The kind of relationships we have with the people around us and the kind of relationship we have with God. Maybe this point is made most poignant when we recall what Jesus said in Matthew:
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and we visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
(Matthew 25:37-40, NRSV)
We know that Jesus has gone ahead to prepare a place for us. We know that Jesus cared for us because he went to the cross and offered his life for the world. We know that Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life.” And now all that we have to do is open ourselves to enter into a relationship with God. It doesn’t matter where we have come from, what we might have done, or whether or not we believe we have the right answers to life because when we let Christ into our hearts don’t expect things to stay the same… There is a call to action, a call to dive deeper into a life with Jesus Christ, a call to focus on the bigger picture.
So how do we make Jesus our way? How can we know Christ in such a way that sustains us, carries us through the challenges we encounter in our lives? How can we get to know Jesus, the one who would carry the cross for us, in a way that transforms the very core of our being?
I hope that during this lenten season you have had the opportunity to develop a spiritual practice of your own. Maybe you’ve started doing the practice of Lectio Divina, as Pastor Keith has mentioned, or maybe you’ve been attending one of the small groups, or maybe you come once a month to a wonderful Taize service that is held on the second Sunday of every month for some good food, fellowship, and worship… Whatever you have done this lenten season I hope that you continue the practices that you have started and if you didn’t have time to start one it’s never too late to begin.
Because it’s when we become part of a community that we are able to get to know Jesus in a very real way. It’s when we build relationships that we get to see how Christ is at work in the world. It’s when we spend time in personal meditation or worshipping with others that we can hopefully see how Christ’s love sustains and nurtures us. Of course, there will days when we aren’t too sure of where we are going and like Thomas who ask God, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” But all of this is part of what it means to journey on the path that Christ is calling us to travel in a relationship with God and those around us.
Let us pray… Holy God we give you thanks that you call us to be in a relationship with you. That when we doubt, when we feel joy, or sorrow, or anger, we can do so knowing that you are there beside us. Lord of love we know Christ has prepared a place for us and ask that you open our hearts so that we may share that love with others. We ask O God that we don’t get caught up on who is right or wrong, but that we focus on who you call us to be as human beings created in your image. Bless our work as we go out into the world and keep our souls attuned to the workings of your Holy Spirit. Amen.