The Fifth Sunday of Easter

In these early years of the third millennium of the Christian experience there is deep unease. Terrorism, war, crime, shootings and murders, disregard for life, fear, greed, hatred, natural disasters, and plagues, raise the question: “We are afraid and where is God?” The Apostle John, looking back half a century after the resurrection, records these words of Jesus. Jesus spoke these words before his death and resurrection and they are directed toward the future. So in a real sense these comforting, powerful, and disturbing words are for us.

jesus_4Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house 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 will take you to myself so that where I am, there you may be also.”

We are afraid. Many are afraid some of the time. Others are afraid all the time. I knew a woman once who was paralyzed by fear. Every morning when her husband and children left the house she began to run horror movies through her mind all day long of them being injured and harmed in a variety of horrible ways. This would go on until she saw them at the end of the day.

Jesus: “Let not your hearts be troubled.” The word here is the same used to describe the experience of Jesus in the Garden. The sense of the word is to shudder. It is a deep apprehension.

Parker Palmer

Parker Palmer

Parker Palmer in an interview said, “Faith is the willingness to take the experiential journey without being crippled by your fears. It is the willingness to keep walking, putting one foot in front of the other, even when we don’t know exactly where we are going. There are three words which sum up all the spiritual traditions which are familiar to Christians. They are ‘BE NOT AFRAID’. Notice it doesn’t say we shouldn’t have fears BUT, we don’t have to BE our fears.”

Many of us become our fears. There is an urban myth going around about an elderly woman who was terrified that she would become the victim of violent crime. So she bought a little gun which she carried in her purse.

One day she came out of the local mall, arms loaded with packages. When she got to her car to her shock there were two young men sitting in it. She was horrified but she had her gun. So she pulled it out and bore down on those young man and ordered them out of her car.

They went.

Trembling she got into the car, fished her keys out of purse, put them in the ignition. The key wouldn’t turn. It wasn’t her car!!!! She got and there one row over was her car. She got in and drove away in a hurry with two young men yelling, “That old woman stole our car!!”

It is human to have fears.

But the Gospel of Jesus the Christ proclaims, that  we do not have to BECOME our fears.

Jesus also says, “Believe in God, believe also in me.”

This believing is not simply a matter of believing with the head; the sort of believing that affirms that Jesus lived 2000 years ago. It is not simply a matter of intellectual affirmation that Christ lived. If it is only that, then it is not any different from believing in George Washington

george-washington-picture

  • I believe in George Washington.
  • I believe that George Washington lived from 1732-1799.
  • I believe that George was a pretty good man.
  • I believe that George was the “Father of his country.”

BUT, that doesn’t have too much to do with how I live my life in 2014.

  • I may take George’s name in vain and say “By George” in conversation but then such talk is cheap.
  • If I am in Virginia, I might go to Mt. Vernon and see where he lived and is buried.
  • I might go to the Washington Monument in Washington DC .
  • I even carry a few copies of his picture around in my wallet. And while, they are not holy cards they are of untimate concern to many.

My point is that I can be culturally Christian in much the same way. I can believe all sorts of things about Jesus without being transformed, without living in the Resurrection.

Believing = as Jesus describes it is a radical belonging to the truth. Truth here involves the ideas of reliability or faithfulness: what is real compared to mere appearance.

Jesus said, “In my Father’s house 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 will take you to myself so that signwhere I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.”

Jesus said, “And you know the way to the place where I am going.”

Thomas speaks for himself and multitudes of others when he contends that he doesn’t know the way. Jesus is more clear.

“I am the way, the truth and the life.” The way is not a road map, BUT A PERSON!

1. Jesus is the way because he is the truth or revelation of the Father.
2. Jesus is the way because he is the life. Since he lives in the Father and the Father lives in him, he is the channel through which the Father’s life comes to people.

This passage is used often at the burial of the dead. These words of Jesus are not intended just to give us comfort at funerals. They speak to the power of the resurrection working now, here, in us, and between us, in the world. And that power will not end here but will go on forever.

We are called by our baptism, to live into this resurrection now, not waiting until we are dead. This is not fire insurance. This is the power of God to authentically alive NOW.

We ask where is God? One answer is that God is here. We believe, as Christians have believed since that first Easter, that whenever we gather together and break the bread, Jesus is present. Therefore, this Eucharist which we are about to eat and drink is for a sure and predictable way of encountering the risen Christ.

doubting_thomas

I invite you and me this morning to bring your fears to this table. We all have fears. But we do not have to BE our fears! Let us eat and drink, healing, and confidence, and joy, believing as he has taught us that regardless of what we face, He will be with us and will come for us that where he is we will be also. Let us take comfort and courage from these words and this feeding.

 Amen.

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