5th Sunday of Easter 2014, Year A
Acts 7.55-60; Psalm 31.1-5, 15-16; 1 Peter 2.2-10; John 14.1-14
Pastor Renee Splichal Larson
Grace and peace to you from the One who is the way, the truth, and the life, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
There was a married couple named Joe and Aleta. I never met them myself, but I heard great stories about them through family. One time, long before GPS came to be for the average person, they were on the way to a friend’s house out in the country. They had never been there before so Joe asked them for directions.
The directions were something like: “Head out of town a few miles on the gravel road, when you see the church building take a left, then at the top of the big hill a mile or two away there is a hay bail, turn right, wind your way around a pond and take another right at the lone tree at the junction of the road at the old Anderson place,” etc. etc.
So Joe and Aleta got into their car and started driving. “Do you know how to get there, Joe?” Aleta asked.
“Sure do,” Joe replied.
A few miles onto the gravel road Joe stopped the car without saying a word, got out and went to the back of the car and stood there a short while. He stepped back in the car, again without saying a word, and resumed driving. A few miles more down the road he stopped the car, got out and went to the back of the car stood there a while, came back and started driving.
As you can imagine, Aleta became suspicious. “Are you sure you know where you are going, Joesph?
Awhile later, he stopped, got out and went to the back of the car, got back in and kept driving. Right before Aleta’s patience ran out they pulled into the farmyard of their friend’s home. “See,” Joe said, “I told you I knew how to get here.”
They exited the car and curious, Aleta, went to look at the back of the car. She couldn’t believe what she saw. You know on cars when you can easily write, “wash me” on them? Well drawn in the dust on the trunk of the car was a map of how to arrive at the friend’s house. Joe had drawn out the map with his finger in the dirt on the car in order that they might find their way to where they needed to go. True story!
It should not surprise us that in our Gospel reading, Thomas, the one who needed to touch the nail marks in Jesus’ hands before he would believe that he was raised from the dead, is wanting an address and a roadmap for the way to the place where Jesus is going. Jesus is going away into a reality beyond what is known in this life, and Thomas, like many of us, wants directions and a step by step, “this is how you get there” plan.
Jesus tells the disciples that they cannot come with him, but they know the way. Confused and without a map, Thomas says to Jesus, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”
How often throughout our lives do we ask, “How can we know the way?” Over and over in life we are presented with change, opportunities, crises, decisions, illness, gifts, and the like.
A prime example of this is with those of you who are graduating from high school this week, or celebrating attaining your GED. These milestones are a really big deal and wonderful, and yet they also mean change and probably decisions that need to be made regarding one’s future. Even in this exciting time one can feel a sense of “What now? Where to? How? With whom?”
These questions and uncertainties can pop up throughout all of life:
From attending kindergarten for the first time to changing careers later in life. From entering into a romantic relationship with someone to watching a loved one take their last breath.
From being diagnosed with a serious illness to passing the one-year mark of sobriety.
From finally choosing to leave an abuser to being baptized.
From having a child to facing one’s own death.
Many times in my own life I have heard and asked the questions: “What now? Where to? How? With whom?” How is it that we are to know the way through this life, let alone into eternal life?
Our hearts are troubled all the time with worries of this world, even worries of what will happen after you and I die. We cannot help ourselves sometimes, which is why we need to hear the words of Jesus again and again: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.”
In our Gospel reading Jesus speaks about his Father’s house, going away, preparing a place, returning, and taking people to himself. We might wonder what the “place” is; perhaps we might even think Jesus is referring to heaven.
Whether we call it heaven, eternal life, or the resurrection, the promise is clear: You have a place in God’s house that Jesus has prepared for you. And the place in which Jesus is preparing is not necessarily a spot in a physical dwelling, “but a “place” in God’s family — a “place” where one can be related to and remain with the Father as closely as Jesus, the Son, does (www.crossmarks.com).”
Picture the heart of God as the house…you have a place in it that is for you. Just like we say at the communion table: “The body of Christ for you,” there is place in the Father’s house, the heart of God for you.
Eternal life is about being with God and seeing the face of Christ. It is a dwelling with, abiding with the One who has created, loved, and sustained you. It is about the many abundant rooms, the spaciousness and the wideness of God’s embrace to people of all tribes and nations.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2.9: “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love God’—
If we read a little further in John 14 to verse 23, Jesus says: “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”
This promise is meant for this life and this world here and now. Not only does Jesus promise a place for you at the heavenly banquet, Jesus is saying that he and the Father have made and are making a home right here, inside you.
The radical Word of John 14 is that there is nothing uncertain in our present or our future when it comes to the unconditional love and presence of God because of our relationship with Jesus. Through Christ, the way to God has already been prepared. To know Jesus is to know the way. We do not need to concern ourselves about getting to heaven when we die, but rather to know Jesus more.
As we come to know the incredible love of God in Christ the things of this world that trouble our hearts and keep us awake at night become bearable because you and I are not alone in our life, or in our death.
The “way” then is a way of living, acting, believing, and being in the world that continues to carry out the healing and hope-filled work of Jesus. At the end of the Gospel reading Jesus says, “If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”
Now, if you pray for a million dollars in the name of Jesus, don’t hold your breath. What he means by this is: pray for what gives life and spreads the good news of the love of God, forgiveness of sins, and the conquering of death.
There is a power in Christ’s name for the community of faith, we here at Heart River Lutheran church, that when we pray, worship, sing, serve, console one another, speak hope and love to one another, when we are fed at the table, hear Scripture, share the peace, hear that we are forgiven, and leave this house of worship to love and serve God’s people and world, we are walking and living out the way.
We know the way and we walk it together as people of God. The way begins and ends with Christ. The way is Jesus, no road map needed.
So what now?…we trust that your life and mine is in the hands of God
Where to?…we are already on “the way” that leads to the Father’s house and heart
How?…through Christ who has already prepared the way
With whom?…with Jesus, who will never forsake or leave you