Finding the Way

Sermon by Reverend Dr. John Mann | August 9, 2020

John14: 1-14

I am the youngest of four siblings. My siblings and I remember when we were children and often when our family was dining at a restaurant, the wait staff would say, “My, how well behaved these children are.”

The observation was likely meant as a compliment to my parents on their child raising skills. But we knew that had we not been anything but well behaved, then there would be a punishment to suffer. 

We each learned in our own way to keep our thoughts and feelings in check. Saying the wrong thing or expressing the wrong emotion would be met with correction. I think one of the hardest things for a child to be told is, “Stop crying!” 

One of the ways I coped with home life was to have an amazing life outside of the house. I had great friends and we had epic adventures. My siblings and I all grew up to be well-rounded individuals. We love each other and we are married to people who love us for we are. 

It’s likely just a human trait that we don’t like people telling us what to think or how to feel. Think of when someone said to you –

“Don’t be so sad.”

“Look on the bright side.”

“Don’t think that way.”


Or any number of instructions that push your buttons the wrong way. 

What about when Jesus tells what to think or how to feel? Such as when he said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” 

I guess that settles it then….Oh wait, that’s right, this is the year 2020. Doing something as simple as grocery shopping is like preparing for a battle with anxiety. 

“Why is that guy not wearing a mask?! Don’t they enforce the rules here? It’s the law! What is wrong with people?!”

People are getting sick…people are losing their jobs…what if it happens to someone I love, or to me? 

Is Jesus telling us to not worry about it? 

In the Gospel of John, the story of Jesus is told in a way so that we might understand it as the Spirit of Christ, alive in the world today, speaking to us here and now. 

Do not let your hearts be troubled on the one hand can seem like the resigned fatalism that says, “Oh well, what will be will be.”

We are meant though, to find in these words the courage and conviction to live mindfully in spite of troubling circumstances. That isn’t necessarily easy, but it’s also not impossible. 

Toward the end of his journey Jesus gathered with his followers and he told them that it was time for him to move on. He would have to leave them because he was going to be executed by the Romans. This was not something they wanted to hear, obviously. 

He said to them, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. In my Father’s house, there are many dwelling places. I am going there to prepare a place for you and then I will come back and take you there to be with me.” 

These words are a comfort in times of stress and distress. We often hear them spoken in times of death and dying. At the funeral service we hear them as a kind assurance that even though death has separated us from those we love, that there is a room, a dwelling place in God’s realm where our loved ones are together with God. 

On a deeper level Jesus was talking about life in the here and now. The word for “dwelling place,” or “room” or even “mansion” as it has been translated, actually means “camp ground” or “resting place.” 

More than the final destination of eternity, Jesus was talking about the journey of our lives today and tomorrow, if tomorrow is what comes. We can’t see what’s there and though we plan and hope and trust that tomorrow will come, we only have right now. 

And the here and now can be a pain. As his friends were facing the uncertain future of his death, we face the uncertain future of death in all its forms – death as the assault upon and denial of life. When we are the ones traveling through the valley of the shadow of death what we don’t need are people telling us, “Oh, don’t worry! Look on the bright side! Count your blessings! God will never give you a burden heavier than what you can bear!” 

What we need is a friend who says, “I am with you, no matter what.”

What Jesus is saying in this story is that he is going ahead of us. He is preparing our future for when we get there. It might not be a future that we want to live into. It might be a future of grief, pain or suffering. But he is saying to his friends that he is going there, preparing a place, then coming back to go there with us. Every step of the way.

“So that where I am, you may be also.”

Thomas always speaks for us in our moments of doubt. In this story he said, “We don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 

He speaks for us when we need hard facts and solid proof; when we need something that we can see with our own eyes and feel with our own hands. 

To which Jesus answers, “It’s me Thomas. I am the way. I am the truth. I am the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

But wait…Why did Jesus say, ‘no one comes to the Father but by me? Did he really mean to say that he himself was the one and only pathway to God, to the exclusion of any and all others? 

The author of John’s gospel was saying God is like Jesus. He is the way, the truth and the life. There is no other way to God, but through him, meaning his way of love. That’s why he said there were many rooms in his Father’s house. Room enough for everyone who lived by the rule of love and forgiveness. As if to say it doesn’t matter who you are, where you are, or what you call yourself, if you show love and forgiveness, then you are following the way, the truth and the life. 

But we like to categorize it – systematize it – control it to make sure it works the way we want to work. What we end up doing is drawing a line and saying, “If you’re on this side, you’re in. If you’re that side, you’re out.” 

The story of Jesus as it’s told in the book called “John” is a play on that meeting at the burning bush. The God who said, “I AM WHO I AM” is now saying things like – 

“I am the bread of life.” Your sustenance. 

“I am the light of the world.” Your source of illumination. 

“I am the door.” Your gateway to life. 

“I am the good shepherd.” Your guide and protector. 

“I am the resurrection and the life.” Your courage when you need a second chance. 

“I am the true vine.” Your sense of connection, community and belonging. 

What’s interesting about the time we’re living through now is that we don’t know how it will turn out. We’re learning how to live with a sense of uncertainty. When we get through this, or where we end up are ideas shrouded in mystery. There’s the sense that when we get there, it won’t be the same as it was before. There’s grief at what is lost. 

The final story in the book of John tells of when the followers of Jesus had decided to back to their old lives catching fish. It was some time after Jesus had been killed. When they came back to shore after a night of fishing, there was Jesus waiting for on the beach. He had made a campfire and was cooking breakfast. As if to say, “I told you I was going ahead to prepare a place for you.”

Which tell us, wherever we go in this world, in life or even in death, the Spirit of Christ is there waiting, having prepared the way. 


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