Sermon A Passage through Difficulties and on to Greater
This sermon can be found on YouTube at
Have you ever noticed that when you hurt your finger, that that is the same finger you hit again on something else – several times. Ever notice that when you bite your tongue, you don’t just bite it once. Sometimes bad things seem to pile up. For many people there is a feeling of gloom, desperation and even frustration over them right now. Covid 19 has added a heavy layer to everyday life. It seems to make things worse. Weddings and funerals are limited. Shopping is more difficult. Seeing loved ones especially on a day like today – Mother’s Day is impossible. Life seems tough.
We all recognize that when you are having a bad day and someone tries to give you advice, it is not always well received.
The usual response is: What do you know about trouble?
But it is when you are having trouble that advice – good advice, is needed.
The scripture today is about getting through difficult times.
Jesus did know about trouble and loneliness and fear. He lived in a occupied land with strict governmental and religious controls. He got crucified.
To put it into context, this passage from John takes place the night before Jesus is crucified. The disciples are gathered in an Upper Room which traditionally was a room on the second floor of a house that was designated as a place of spiritual care. There has been lots of speculation about whose house this was but we don’t know for sure. If you visit Israel today you will find a church on the apparent spot. Regardless it was a place where Jesus took his disciples to share his last hours.
It was also a place of sanctuary because the disciples were associating with a rebel leader and so they too feared for their lives. The next day when Peter denies Jesus, he does so because he is terrified that he will get killed. They were basically quarantined in that room – and they didn’t even have cell phones or Netflix.
One of the first things Jesus did was to wash their feet. It was an act to clarify that they were all together. That no one was better or worse than the other. It was a symbol to counter the priestly idea of religious hierarchy and to empower the disciples to make their own decisions in the future.
He then shared a meal with them; A meal which has become very symbolic. During that meal one of them makes it clear that he is going to betray Jesus. Jesus reaction is to say “Go and do what you need to do”. There was no anger or hatred.
Then he turns and addresses the rest of the disciples with a passage that has become a favourite at funerals. He recognizes their fear of death. He tries to bring comfort. This is one of the very few places where he talks about the after-life. He says “Don’t worry. In my father’s house there are many rooms”. He uses the term “Abba” or father to indicate that it will be like going to a good home. He could have said “parent” but he lived in a different time. His point was that it was a secure place and with many rooms they were all welcome.
Then Thomas – a doubter – like many of us, asks how we will know the way. Jesus basically says “through me”. He says “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the father but by me”.
Unfortunately, this line has been used as an exclusive instead of inclusive term. A statement that should have brought comfort to people has been used to strike fear into generations of worshippers. I don’t believe that is the way it was meant.
To explain it in a different way I would use the analogy of a road. After this pandemic is over we are going to be invited to people’s cottages (hint hint). Some people live down a laneway or road where there is only one access. They will say “In order to get to our cottage you have to take this road only.” That may be true but it doesn’t matter what vehicle you drive. Some drive trucks, some drive cars. Of course some ride motorcycles and I better include horses. In other words, there are many different ways to travel on the same road and you reach the same destination.
Jesus may be the way to communion with God but it isn’t limited to a certain culture or religion. His road can be found in many places.
Having said that – you need to make sure the vehicle you are using is roadworthy.
I am reading a book presently called “A Course in Miracles. It is a book written by a woman who had a vision and claims to have some further insights into Jesus words. Maybe it is good maybe it isn’t. I am not sure yet. There will always be someone trying to sell you on a religion or dogma that doesn’t add up. If it seems like a cult, it likely is and won’t steer you in the right direction.
Another analogy is the new math. If you are homeschooling your kids, you have found the new math very different and I am sure you have said” There is a different way to get to the same answer”
So what was the answer that Jesus gave?
Right after this discussion about pathways with Thomas, Philip asks about God. Jesus response is – “if you have seen me, you have seen God”. Philip is still not convinced and Jesus says” If you don’t believe me – look at the works that I do. That is God at work in me.”
In other words – the indication of God in your life is doing good. God is the ultimate embodiment of goodness. When you are doing good, you are in sync with God. You are in sync with the universe. God is in you.
Then Jesus says something that again has been misunderstood. He says, “if you believe, you can do greater works than me”. Think about what Jesus did. He healed the lame, brought sight to the blind, raised the dead, etc. Unfortunately we have, over the years put a timeline on that. We think that means we have to be able to do these feats right now, by ourselves Many have lost faith because they couldn’t do what Jesus did.
Possibly Jesus wasn’t talking about individuals only. Possibly he was talking about the whole human race. When we, as a collective group put our minds together we can do those things. Think about the accomplishments we have had. We have given sight to the blind, enabled the lame to walk and even raised some of the dead.
Right now we are binge watching Grey’s Anatomy. I know it’s a medical soap opera show but it’s based on medical reality and it’s amazing what can be done.
We have a long way to go but when we put our minds together for good, or we might say for God, we can accomplish amazing things.
This comes back to the situation that Jesus was in. He was in a room where fear and uncertainty reigned. He was the man who should have been the most worried. How many of us, if we knew we were going to be tortured and killed the next day would spend time helping others?
What did he do? He did acts of kindness and love. He washed their feet, he fed them, he forgave, he had compassion, he taught that in the midst of distress the best thing and the most godly thing to do is to help others.
This applies both to our personal life and our world
The road to overcoming fear and distress is to do something for others
Thank you God for the vast array of information that we have access to; Information about how to heal and how to help.
Information about how to treat each other.
Information about how to make life longer and better.
Thank you that we have a choice each day on what direction we should go.
Help us to rise above the obstacles that we meet.
Guide us that we might always use the information in ways that help.
Guide us in ways that our own lives would have meaning.
We look to you. We look to the words and wisdom of Jesus as we try to follow his example.
We pray now for people who are close to us, for mothers and mother figures in our lives. We pray for others who especially need pray at this time.
Now we pray in the way Jesus taught us.
We repeat together the Lord’s Prayer
Our Father who art in heaven
Hallowed by thy name
Thy kingdom come,
thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us
lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil
for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory
forever and ever
SERVICE May 10
Hymn – 213 – Rejoice the Lord is King
Scripture John 14: 1-10
Hymn Deep in our Hearts 154 More Voices
Go now in Peace
Go now in peace, Never be afraid
God will go with you, each hour of every day
Go now in faith, steadfast strong and true
Know God will guide you in all you do,
Go now in love and show you believe
Reach out to others so all the world can see
God will be there, watching from above
Go now in peace, in faith and in love
Amen, Amen, Amen