May 18, 2014
Grace and Peace to you this morning. Grace and Peace.
This morning’s reading is part of Jesus’ farewell speech to his disciples in the Gospel of John. Jesus says he is going to prepare a place for those who follow him. This seems strange. Before the resurrection, Jesus sent his disciples on ahead to find a place for him. The VIP has people who make the arrangements.
But in the love of God, it is the sinners, the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the unlovely and the unloving, people like you and me, we become the VIPs; and Jesus, the one who came not to be served but to serve is the one who goes and makes sure all things are ready. And he promises that we will be there too.
But two things Jesus says are immediately questioned by his disciples:
“And you know the way to the place where I am going.”
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you
are going. How can we know the way?”
“If you know me, you will know my Father also.
From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father,
and we will be satisfied.”
They still do not get it. This is not an opportunity to feel superior to the disciples. This is an opportunity to ask, do we get it yet?
You do not know the way to where I am going? Jesus says, “I AM the way.”
When Jesus says “I am” in John, we hear echoes of the voice of God to Moses in the burning bush. And that is the point. For Christians, the clearest view of God is seen in Jesus. If you have seen Jesus, you have seen God at work. If you have experienced the forgiveness and welcome of Jesus, you have experienced the welcome and forgiveness of God. And if you want to go where Jesus has gone, do what he did.
“You have not seen the Father?” Jesus asks. You have seen the one the Father has sent, and it is the same thing.
Rachel Held Evans reads in these verses the God who is hiding under our noses. Not far off in some heaven filled with light and angels and glory, but here and now, in the very acts of grace that Jesus did.
The story goes that one day Dr. Albert Schweitzer, philanthropist, physician, humanitarian and scholar, was coming to town on a train. Wanting to meet such a famous and faithful man, people rushed down to the train station. But they were disappointed because they could not find him. All they saw was this older gentleman helping a woman with her luggage.
They missed Schweitzer for the same reason many of us miss God. Right there in front of us, but we are expecting a rock star instead of a servant, expecting the heavens to open and doves to descend instead of a still, small voice.
If you want to see God, then ask, and seek, and knock. You need no vestments, no church authorization, no credentials of any kind. Go away to a lonely place and pray. And then come back and serve. Light the way for someone else so that they do not stumble in the dark; gather the children and tell them stories about how loved they are. Sit with the people in the hospital or at hospice, and let them know they are not forgotten. This is where God is.
Jo was a friend of mine in seminary. When she was a Marine, she worked on the jets that they flew. She told us something fascinating about the front wheels on jets. Each of the pair of front wheels was individually balanced, but they were also balanced to each other.
The speeds at which these wheels roll meant that if they did not match each other, a takeoff or a landing could turn catastrophic. So when one wheel showed any wear or damage, they replaced the pair, not just the one.
This was Jo’s understanding of grace. For every sin, there is a grace that matches it. For every wound, a healing. For every loss, a comfort. For every fear, a peace. For loneliness or isolation or being cut off, a welcome.
God’s love has a matched and balanced grace to match each and every one of our places of brokenness. And this is why your healing and my healing may look very different.
Very truly, I tell you,
the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and,
in fact, will do greater works than these,
because I am going to the Father.
Belief in this sense is not an intellectual act. It is not thinking the right things or signing off on a set of ideas. Belief in this sense is about trust. Trust in God like Jesus did and you will do even greater things because Jesus is doing the heavy lifting.
Jesus gives God an accessible face. A way in. A chance to see what God is up to – which is to say what we should be up to. And then Jesus, the way we are to walk and live and act and trust, goes and prepares a place for us.
Thanks be to God.