Easter 5, 2020

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Sermon Notes, Easter 5, 2020 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 Jesus trying to comfort his troubled disciples. Usually a man of few words who chooses to show by example. But here he has many words to offer his disciples. Words that will lead to his prayer for their safety after he leaves them, his prayer for the church and for the coming of the Kingdom of God. But it begins with a simple image his followers knew well. Home. His father’s house. He is talking as any of us might, about our childhood home. For me that brings to mind a quiet tree-lined street, a small modest house on a small lot. Cracked sidewalk. Screened porch. That’s the place that comes to my mind. The home that comes to mind is much more than that. My brothers. My father and mother. The neighbors around us. Shared spaces and private hideouts. A whole host of growing up experiences. Part of me would love to go back there again. But life and Thomas Wolfe have taught me, “You can’t go home again.” For Jesus though, going home again is the direction of his life, and he offers his home to his disciples. “I go to prepare a place for you. I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” He then says to them, you know where I’m going. You know the way there. He is telling them the truth, but they have not realized it yet. Thomas challenges him. He assumed too much. More needs to be revealed. They need a roadmap if they are to follow him on this journey. Jesu’s answer is the foundational statement of Christian belief. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This journey home begins and ends in Jesus. There is no other way. How do we know that’s true? Because Jesus said so. How do we know that Jesus knew what he was talking about? Because he is the Truth. J.I. Packer explores this seemingly elliptical logic in his book, “Knowing God.” He says we first need to know what truth Jesus is referring to. It’s Biblical truth as distinct from scientific or logical truth. We aren’t talking about truth as mathematical supposition, or as logical inference. Those two meanings of truth have an important place in understanding our world, but they’re not the truth Jesus claims for himself. Biblical truth is all about relationship. Packer writes, “Truth in the Bible is a quality of persons primarily, and of propositions only secondarily.” 1 Truth is determined by the quality of the person who claims to have it. He further says, “God is such a person: truth, in this sense, is his nature, and he has not got it in him to be anything else.” 2 We encounter Biblical truth when we encounter that person who best exemplifies the goodness, the sincerity, the holiness we associate with God. Jesus, as the perfect example of all those characteristics, is Truth, the Truth he shares in perfect union with God the Father. That relieves us of a tremendous burden when we consider the words that Jesus speaks. They are true because he speaks them. It is fruitless and in fact sacrilegious to assume anything else. What ironic poignancy that gives to the confrontation between Jesus and Pilate. Pilate asks, “What is truth?” Even as he looks into the very eyes of Truth standing before him. What assurance that gives us when we consider the home Jesus prepares for us. “I go to prepare a place for you. I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” If you’re like me, you’ve given a lot of thought and time to home lately. It’s where we’ve been confined to stay these past six weeks. Where we are yet bound to stay for the foreseeable future. Initially, that brought on a lot of angst and uncertainty as we dove headlong into uncharted waters. But now we’ve been here awhile. We’re getting used to these familiar surroundings, and psychologists say we’re in a different phase. We’ve passed through euphoria, where we rose to the challenge and congratulated ourselves on coping and thriving in a stressful time. And now we’re seeing a descent, a descent into disappointment and for some depression. In this dangerous phase home is nothing like the mansion in Jesus’ description, but more like a prison holding us against our will and without our consent. Well, is it possible to make this present home less like a prison and more like the home Jesus is preparing for us? The answer is Yes, if we begin to see it through eyes of Biblical truth, as a time and place set aside for us by God. A time like the year of Jubilee proclaimed by God for Israel in Levitcus 25. Every 50th year Israel was to proclaim a year of Jubilee. Listen to what the Jubilee year should be: A year to proclaim liberty throughout the land to all inhabitants. Vs. 10 A year to return to your family property and own clan. Vs. 10 A year to neither sow nor reap or harvest untended vines. Vs. 11 A year that is to be holy for you, to eat only what is taken directly from the fields. Vs.12 A year to deal fairly with your countrymen and not take advantage of them. Vs. 14 A year to fear your God, I AM the Lord your God. Vs. 17. To me, this reads like a Covid-19 sequestering with a Godly purpose. Instead of struggling with shortages and deprivations, celebrate the true bounty of the Lord: our families, our church even though we are not face to face once a week, the faith that sustains us. We have been given the time to spend time with God as never before. Remember Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof? All he wanted was to be a rich man so he could spend his time reading the Torah and talking with God. Tevye would know what to do with our present situation and he would thank God for it. In the light of all our failures, in the knowledge of how little we really know and how inadequate our defenses, in light of living in the valley of the shadow of death, how very much we need to sing with the Pslamist of Psalm 66, O come and see the works of God, * how wonderful he is in his doing toward all people. Jesus is preparing a home for us, but he is fully present in the home we already have. Let us take this season of solitude to seek him out. In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen. 1, J.I. Packer, “Knowing God,” pg. 113. 2. ibid.
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