Sunday: The Sixth Sunday of Easter
Preacher: The Rev’d Thomas Lapp
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You trust in God, trust also in Me”. John 14:1
A young, 10 year old boy, rushes from his bed in the early evening to the side of his mother. “I don’t want you to die” he sobs. All this apparently came out of nowhere. It is a heart wrenching, intimate scene oozing love, and a prevailing sense of impending and untimely loss. But the mother, in all her love, cannot promise her son that what he feared would not happen – she could not promise that she would never leave him. There is no lack of events and perceived events that troubles our hearts. They can be deeply personal, as in the young lad, or events we read in our newspapers and see in news casts. We think about those suffering from illness – emotional, physical, spiritual. We think about racism, immigrants and refugees. We think about increasing tensions around the globe. We think about personal issues – unemployment, the uncertainty of our contemporary world. Obviously the viral pandemic that we all are experiencing weighs heavily on all of our hearts. What troubles your hearts today?
We hear the words of our Lord telling his friends to not let their hearts be troubled but do we really ponder these words and how they may offer encouragement for us today.
The event read from today’s Gospel begins in the previous chapter. It was supper in the Upper Room., before the Feast of the Passover. A meal has been shared, friendships and familiarity savoured. Feet have been washed and Jesus drops this bomb shell…. 33 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’
36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterward.” 37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Master, he might have added, We have been with you for three years. We left everything for you – we are your closest friends. And besides, You are the Messiah, the one who will rescue Israel from the Romans. Indeed the disciples were once looking for the Messiah and they believe that they have truly found him. They believe their Messiah to be immortal but he is about to be executed. They have the vision of a messianic superman who will liberate the people from Roman occupation but it now appears that he is about to be defeated in all fronts – political and religious. They believe that their Messiah was about to usher in an eternal kingdom of peace but now all those dreams are being shattered. Where are you going? Can’t we come too smacks of worldly, secular places. What are we to do without you? Our hearts are breaking, Jesus.
The ten-year old boy could not envision a world without his mother. Peter and Philip and Thomas could not foresee a world without Jesus. We wonder what our world will be like at the end of this pandemic. We are told that the new normal will not resemble the world we were familiar with and found comforting in a predictable way and our hearts are troubled. Here we can take some comfort that the “human” Jesus understands us because He, himself has experienced the same troubled heart. Upon the death of Lazarus we are told that when he saw Mary grieving he was “greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved” (John 11:33). Later John recalls that Jesus’s “soul was troubled” as He anticipated his death on the cross. (John 12:27).
Think about the times when your hearts have been troubled – Perhaps that time is now. What does it feel like? What words come to mind that describe these feelings? Despair, grief, disconnected, overwhelmed, fear, anger? “Do not let your hearts be troubled”, Jesus said. — To them, to us. — When we are knocked off balance, and this happens during the normal course of our lives, we need to refocus on the foundation of our very being. Often this passage is used in funeral services and reminds us of the reality of a perfect life beyond this one in the Presence of Almighty God. But there is more to this passage. There are at least two more points to consider. Jesus reminds us that there is a truth, an anchor that sustains us – really, sustains us and it is not material security, it is not our successes and power, it is not our country and its laws it is not even the Church with its creeds and doctrines can sustain us. Our rallying point is in the Father’s house in which there is a dwelling place for every one of us. It is a place where God’s kingdom intersects our own on a personal level. It is a place where the Kingdom’s love exceeds our worldly, sentimental love, even a mother’s love! A love that extends to enemies and the unlovable and it does not refer to the afterlife but in the here and now where compassion, courage, forgiveness joy and mercy abound. Thomas asks, “where are you going?” And Philip asks “show us the Father”. All we really need to know is that no less than the true Messiah, Very God places Himself in our lives to keep us grounded in true living and loving and Jesus is the Way because He is both God and man. Jesus Christ is the sole source of knowledge about the Father and He speaks as both as one still in the world and also as One having left it. (The Gospel of John and the Epistles of John – Brown, page 75). By uniting our lives with his in prayer, we are united with God in the here and now. And where is this kingdom. 20 Once Jesus[a] was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is within/among[b] you.” (Luke 17:20, 21). It is not a place that we aspire to go to – a dormitory that we will inhabit after death, but, rather, an profoundly close relationship with the Father in the here and now and that can accompany us for an Eternity – and it is this connection, this relationship that will sustain us even, but especially when, our hearts are troubled. And in order to access the Peace and Joy and Eternity that is the Kingdom, what we need to do is pray. And effective prayer, in the Name of Jesus, does not require special words or a particular formula but comes with aligning our spiritual longing for a deep and lasting relationship with God, Abba, Father….
God’s promise to love us, to make room for us, to know us never ends (1 Corinthians 13:8). Therefore, our hearts never need be troubled…