Words to Live By , May 10 2020
Words to Live By
Clarence Jordan, a Southern US Bible scholar, once wrote, “The proof that God raised Jesus from the dead is not the empty tomb, but the full hearts of his transformed disciples. The crowning evidence that he lives is not a vacant grave, but a spirit–filled fellowship; not a rolled–away stone, but a carried–away church.”
“A spirit–filled fellowship, a carried–away church.” Jordan is talking about abundant life. This is the good news of Easter, the good news of the gospel. God’s life is being born in the world and it fills our lives to overflowing.
But it’s hard to think about our lives these days as abundant. It’s a tall order not to be discouraged and disappointed. As I’ve said before, we live today in a similar kind of situation to that of the original disciples. They couldn’t believe the good news of resurrection and life … “the story seemed to them like an idle tale” (Luke 24:11). It’s also hard for us to trust the good news of abundant life when it feels like life has been diminished.
In a time like that, Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” This is what Jesus says to the disciples just after he’s told them, “I am with you only a little longer” and “Where I am going, you cannot come.” (John 13:33)
The disciples are stunned. Jesus is leaving? 20th century preacher Fred Craddock pictures “the disciples like children playing with their toys on the floor when suddenly they look up to discover that Mom and Dad are putting on their coats and hats. The kids ask, ‘Where are you going?’
“I’m going to my Father and your Father.
“Can we go?”
“Where I am going, you cannot go now. You can go later.
“Well, who will stay with us?
“I will ask the Father who will send the Spirit, and the Spirit will be with you always.”
Put yourself in their place. Jesus’ answer hardly makes any sense.
Our place is not so different from the place of these early followers of Jesus. We’re living in a time when we don’t have many answers about COVID–19. We don’t know what the future will look like. We don’t know when we can get back to our fuller lives. We don’t know what will happen or when it will happen or even if it will happen. We are disappointed because we can’t even do the simple things, like gathering together for worship, or a meal, or even a simple cup of coffee (or a glass of good scotch or wine).
Abundant life? It’s tough to grasp that these days. It’s tough to believe Jesus’ promise of life in all its abundance.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled.”
How can we not be troubled?
And Jesus says simply, “Trust God. Trust me.” Even though your hearts may be troubled, don’t give up hope. Keep trusting.
Now, most translations read, “Believe in God. Believe also in me.” But the Greek word has more to do with trust. It’s not about believing something. It’s about having a relationship with God, a relationship with Jesus.
Trust God. Trust me. The relationship doesn’t end, even in such tough times. Yes, I know there is no certainty in your life right now. That’s why faith becomes such an important thing. Trust God. Even when it feels as if God is absent, trust God. Especially when it feels as if God is absent, trust more deeply.
The disciples aren’t so sure about that. Thomas says plainly, “We don’t know where you’re going. How can we know the way?” You gotta love Thomas—he dares to ask the question we’re all thinking. How can we know? How can we trust?
And Jesus answers with nothing but love. “You do know where I’m going, Thomas. You know me, so you won’t get lost. You can’t get lost. You know me, and our relationship will never end, Thomas.
I am the way. I am truth. I am life. You know me and I am the Road so you can’t get lost. And if you know me, you know the Father.”
That’s the thing about relationships. A relationship is a journey in which we change as we travel on. Long–married couples know the truth of this. You don’t end up where you started. You change over time on the journey.
The same is true of our relationship with God. We grow. We change. We are constantly on the way in this journey. My relationship with God now is so much different than it was when I was younger. It has changed with all the changes and experiences of my life, both the joys and the sorrows.
We are always a people who are on the way. We walk in the way of Jesus, journeying together to live lives of service, compassion, grace, love and humility. Every act of service changes us. Every time we receive compassion and love, we are changed. Every time we reach out in grace, we are changed. And we grow.
And this … well, this is the way of abundance. “I am the way, I am the truth, I am the life.” Walk in my way, and you will find a life worth living, a life lived out in all its fullness. Walk in the light of truth, and the truth will set you free. Receive the gift of life and live life in all its fullness.
This is an offer of comfort in the midst of every difficult time. It’s an offer of joy in every amazing moment. It’s an offer of grace which makes our lives whole and rich and abundant.
Trust God. Trust me. Words to live by.
To make the point even clearer, Jesus continues, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.” What he means with this is that God is roomy. God is generous. God is hospitable. God can handle your doubts, your fears, and your questions. And God’s offer of belonging extends far beyond the confines of this mortal life. “I go and prepare a place for you,” Jesus says as he stands in the shadow of his own cross. You have a place with me. You have a place with God. You have a place.
God does not abandon us. God welcomes us into the divine heart and invites us to explore this world as we learn to see with the eyes of God and discern the abundance which God gives endlessly as sheer gift.
In your laughter, know that God laughs with you. In your pain, know that God embraces you. In your vulnerability, know that God’s life is being born in you.
These are words to live by, in times of joy and in times of sorrow.
When life is good, we remember that our lives are filled with grace. We live in gratitude and compassion so that we can be a blessing for the world.
And when life is not so good, we remember that our lives are filled with grace, that the God who has accompanied us thus far continues to journey with us.
Jesus says quietly and lovingly and calmly, “Trust me. Let your hearts rest easy.”
I am the way. I am the Road. It’s a word of encouragement to continue on our journey with God. Keep walking in the way I showed you. Keep doing what I’ve been doing. Keep loving God. Keep loving your neighbours. Keep showing compassion. Keep being gentle with each
other. Keep being tender with creation and all earth’s creatures. Keep being soft with yourself. Walk in this Way, and the Way will lead you home.
It’s a good word to live by in these days. Even though we walk through this dark and shadowed valley, God accompanies us. As today’s Psalm puts it, “In you, O Lord, I seek refuge. Incline your ear to me. Be a rock of refuge for me.”
We live in trust. We live with compassion and love. As we do so, we are part of the Jesus movement in the world. We live without fear. We live with a deep trust that we have seen God. We live in the profound trust that God’s love permeates our lives and flows into the world. We live in an intimate relationship with God, trusting deeply that God hears us and cares for us.
When we walk the Jesus way, we walk in harmony with all of creation, caring for all God’s beloved creatures, embracing those who are walking the way of compassion, grace and love with us.
When we live the Jesus truth, we don’t just hear the truth, but we live it out day by day. We are caught up by the way of life that he embodied. We live the vision of God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
When we share the abundant Jesus life, we reach out in grace so that all the world may know the life and love of God.
And then we become that “spirit–filled fellowship and carried–away church” of which Clarence Jordan speaks.
Thanks be to God.
Rev. Dr. Yme Woensdregt
May 10, 2020 (5th Sunday of Easter)
John 14: 1–14
Psalm 31: 1–5
Acts 7: 55–60
1 Peter 2: 2–10