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5/7/23 Sermon

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John 14:1-17 – New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition

14 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 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. 4 And you know the way to the place where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, but if you do not, then believe because of the works themselves. 12 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. 13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

The Long and Winding Road

Lennon and McCartney

The long and winding road that leads to your door, Will never disappear, I've seen that road before It always leads me here, leads me to your door.

The wild and windy night that the rain washed away, Has left a pool of tears crying for the day. Why leave me standing here, let me know the way.

Many times I've been alone and many times I've cried Anyway, you'll never know the many ways I've tried.

And still they lead me back to the long winding road You left me standing here a long, long time ago Don't leave me waiting here lead me to your door

But still they lead me back to the long winding road You left me standing here a long, long time ago Don't keep me waiting here, lead me to your door.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

There has to be somebody else in this sanctuary or viewing online that remembers pairing The Wizard of Oz movie with Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album. Yes? No? Watching the movie with the volume muted, the album lyrics and music uncannily coincide with what is happening on the screen. Ask me about that after the service…

A variation on that theme, often when I listen to song lyrics, I hear threads of scripture woven through them.

When I was attending Bangor Theological Seminary there was an unintentional intersection of sacred and secular while studying this John scripture and listening to the Beatles on my commute from Lincolnville to Bangor.

I heard in the Beatles’ song, “The Long and Winding Road,” the angst of the disciples crying out in their confusion and despair. No! they did not understand where Jesus was going, and No! they did no know how to get there. The lyrics plead, don’t keep them waiting… don’t leave them standing there. I am in no way implying that Paul McCartney and John Lennon intended for this connection. I stumbled upon it in 2013 and now I can’t unsee it or unhear it.

The long and winding road of life… the path that Jesus trod… the path that is available to us… leads to God, to a divine being, to Oneness with Creation and our Creator. For many of us that is our hope and our prayer and our goal for ourselves and others.

We have all wondered where God is… wondered why God is not with us in our times of trial. The followers of “the Way” of Jesus were needing to readjust their vision. They thought Jesus was coming back for them in their lifetimes; literally and figuratively.

John’s gospel helped them and can help us to understand Jesus in a new way. John believed that we are not waiting for Jesus to come back in some future time, that Jesus was with them then and there, that he is with us here and now, through the Advocate that he asked God to send so that we could all be one.

I often need to remind myself that our Gospels were not written in the days immediately after Jesus lived and died. They were written decades after his life, death, and resurrection. This gospel was most likely written around 100 C.E. approximately 70 years after Jesus’ death.

Our gospels are not factual, but they are historical, and they are grounded in truth. The author/s of the Gospel of John chose to present their truths through metaphor. This passage we heard today is not corroborated in the other three canonical gospels – Mark, Matthew, or Luke.

This week in the Gospel of John we are in the midst of what scholars refer to as Jesus’ Farewell Discourse. One belief is that Jesus knew all that was to transpire and was preparing his disciples so that they would carry on in his absence. Another belief is that as time passed, Jesus’ followers had more time to put the puzzle pieces together using oral histories and hindsight.

John’s gospel often seems to be moving in circles and this passage is no exception.

One of John’s styles of writing is to ask and answer questions. This allows the author/s to write conversationally to help us know what the community may have been experiencing. Often the disciples were put in the role of “slow to understand” so that the author/s could have Jesus explain in laborious detail the emerging understandings of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, correcting earlier beliefs.

In these verses, the author/s depict the disciples – Thomas and Philip – as confused by their literal interpretation of Jesus’ words; words that they were intended to understand as metaphor. The earliest understandings of Jesus’ life and death centered on Jesus’ literal, physical resurrection and return. When that did not happen in the ensuing weeks, months, or years the followers of the Way began to reinterpret the signs.

In this passage, Jesus answers Thomas’ incredulous question with an “I am” statement, a major purpose of the dialogue. In our Hebrew scriptures, God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” (Exodus 3:14)

There are eight “I am” statements in John’s gospel. John’s not so subliminal attempt to equate Jesus with God, the great “I am.” I am the bread of life… I am the good shepherd… I am the light of the world… Today we heard, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Throughout his gospel John makes the case that Jesus is in God, and God is in Jesus.

John wants his audience, then and now, to know that Jesus abides with God and that we too can abide with God. Knowing Jesus is one way of finding our way to God. Jesus has prepared a place in his heart for us to abide – not in some far away place in some far away time – but here and now, across time and space.

I have come to believe that the relationship that Jesus had with God is the same relationship that we can have with God. If it was true for Jesus, it can be true for us, as supported by these verses we heard today. It is a mutual “abiding.” Jesus invites us to abide in his heart and we invite Jesus to abide in ours.

The author of John assures us that Jesus was, and the risen Christ is, the way of God, the truth of God, and the life of God. And because they are truly one – we can be truly one with them. Jesus is our way home to God.

It is not always easy to trust God. It is not always easy to find God. It is a lifelong endeavor. It is a long and winding road. Like the road of forgiveness. Like the road of sobriety. Like the road of humility. We stumble and fall at times, and wander in and out of right relationship with God and with one another.

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Jesus. (John 14:1) And you know the way. The way is through your heart.


Rev. TJ Mack – May 7, 2023

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