the one about the here and now...
May 15, 2017, 7:51 AM

Sermon from May 14, 2017

Text: John 14: 1-14

Grace and peace to you from God our creator and our Risen Lord who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, for many of us, this part of John’s gospel is incredibly familiar. You may be even wondering why it is so familiar. Well, I’ll tell you – it is one of the most common readings you hear at a funeral. But, I want to warn you – that is about all I want to focus on that particular use of this scripture. This text does provide comfort in the words of Jesus for those who are and have experienced the death of a loved one.

But, this text doesn’t just focus on the hereafter, but on the here and now as well. Probably even more so.

I’m going to tell you a story – and for those who participated in the Animate Faith series we did during Lent this will be very familiar. There was a man who was excited to go to a fancy restaurant. One of those restaurants where you’re given each portion of the meal and when everyone finishes that particular part, the plates are removed and the next course is given. A friend of this man told him how amazing the final course was and so this man greatly waited for it after each dish. Of course, the longer the night went on he kept thinking about that last course and because the latest one that was placed before him didn’t look that appetizing, he decided to skip it and save room for the final course.

The waiters came and removed the dishes; when they returned they handed the bill. The man was despondent. He’d lost count. The very part of the meal he was waiting for was the one he skipped. He was so focused on the ‘future’ that he forgot to enjoy the present.

I share that story because of how we use this text and how we often view our life of faith. Simply as a ‘means to an end.’ I live this life solely to get the ‘reward’ in heaven. As we focus on that ‘goal’ that becomes the end all be all of our lives. Everything has to line up in order to ‘get there.’

Where instead of words of comfort, this text becomes a tool and a weapon to beat people in to specific shapes – to fit into the ‘narrow’ door of God. A threat to get people to accept Jesus – or else. Doing so robs this text from context and we lose sight as to what Jesus is actually doing with his disciples.

So, what is Jesus doing? This is an odd text to read during Easter; the seven-week season celebrating Jesus’ resurrection. This morning we listen in on Jesus’ conversation with his disciples on the last night that he was with them before his death. It is after this conversation that Jesus will be handed over to the authorities and begin his very clear path to death on the cross.

Understandably the disciples are beside themselves. Their friend and leader is telling them that he is going to die. That’s not news you want to hear, especially when you believe that friend is the very literal incarnation of God. It doesn’t make sense. If they could kill him, what hope is there for you?

Yet, Jesus’ words provide comfort in this trying time. Don’t let your hearts be troubled. If you know me (and you do) you know the father. If you believe, you’ll do even greater works than me.

Nowhere in this short conversation is Jesus saying, “If only you’d do this, then you’d be good. Good enough to go where I’m going.”

No. That is not what is going on here.

Jesus is telling his disciples and in turn telling us – you already know the way. I’m right here. Always. You know me, you know God. In fact, because you know and believe you’re going to do even greater things than me.

Jesus is telling us of the promise in him. Jesus is not laying out a contract for a transaction later down the line.

Jesus is calling his disciples and calling us to live into the here and now knowing that he is indeed fully present with them and with us. Always. In that truth, great things will happen.

Now, that’s where people can be a little put off right? How in the world can we do ‘greater’ things than even Jesus?

I don’t know about y’all, but I haven’t seen anyone multiply a few loaves and fish and feed thousands. I haven’t seen anyone be healed through the act of simply touching someone’s clothes. I haven’t seen anyone call someone out of their grave. And, as much as I’d love to see it, no one has turned water into wine in my presence.

So, what exactly might Jesus be getting at?

In Jesus’ name, we have established hospitals. In fact, looking back through history, very many times it followers of Jesus who cared for the least of those in their communities. It was a prevailing thought at that time (and in some cases still today) that it was taboo to care for or even simply touch the sick and dying. In a world and time that was centered on cleanliness, you didn’t go near those who were sick or dying. You let them ‘handle’ it in some way. Followers of Jesus have followed in his ministry to be with and touch even the most ill and potentially contagious and have provided health and care to millions upon millions and still do today.

In Jesus’ name, we have helped and continue to provide relief for hunger throughout the world. It may not have been a miraculous multiplying of loaves and fish, but through creativity, intellect, and faith we have helped increase the yield of harvest in so many ways. Out of our abundance of our gifts, wealth, and time we share and provide need to those most vulnerable in our society and world.

In Jesus’ name, we haven’t called anyone literally back from the dead by simple words, but we have fought back and conquered disease in so many ways that people indeed are given more life and time.

In Jesus’ name, children and families are united and made whole through adoption and foster care. Homes are continually filled with love and life as parents say to children of all ages, “You are my child. I love you.”

In Jesus’ name, we have gathered those who have fled in fear for their and their families’ lives from war torn areas and welcomed them here.

In Jesus’ name, last night we gathered with members across so many different parts of our community to share in stories, laughter, song, and more. And yes, alcohol was indeed present there – just as it was present in those same shared conversations, stories, laughter, and song as Jesus walked and gathered with his disciples and those who he met in his ministry. Though – to my knowledge – no one turned water into wine or beer.

Jesus has called us to live this life of faith now. Not so that we get something in the end, but in thankfulness of the promise that we have already received it from God in our Lord. That our Lord is indeed present with us today, filling us with new and an abundance of life to proclaim, share, and care for those in the world.

In the words of Rev. Dr. Elisabeth Johnson – professor at the Lutheran Institute of Theology in Cameroon:

Jesus promises to be with us through the power of the Spirit, to work in and through us to accomplish his purposes in the world. This does not necessarily happen in easily visible, spectacular ways. Yet, wherever there is healing, reconciling, life-giving work happening, this is the work of God. Wherever there is life in abundance, this is Jesus’ presence in our midst.


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