Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sermon for the Fifth Sunday of Easter

Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life.

This is one of the more famous passages from John’s gospel. You only have to have been to a funeral to have heard it. It is often chosen because it gives great comfort.

“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?”
Look at the question that gets Jesus to say this.
It is from Thomas,
he who will doubt,
he who will suggest that they all go and die with Jesus.

‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’

How can we know the way?
What is the way?
Is this the way?
Being here, praying, receiving communion,?
Is this the way?

Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, 

Like last week where Jesus referred to himself as a gate,
here he is also a means of getting somewhere.
He is the way.
He was the gate, a means of getting in or going out, now he is the way.

He is the journey.

Jesus said to him ‘I am the way, and the truth’

Not a truth, but the truth.
The perfect correlation of thought and reality, of flesh and deity.
The truth,
not a system of propositions,
not a series of experiments that end up with a definite conclusion,
not a good story,
not a good idea
but the truth.
If you want to get more full on about it, there is nothing truer than Jesus Christ.
It is the truth we hold.
It is a universal truth and a personal truth.

Jesus said to him ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life’

The life that enlivens all life. The wellspring of all that lives.
Our lives are lived in him, and he lives in us.
He is life as we are to live it and he is the life in us so that we can live.

As the 1st Letter of John says:
And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

Jesus is the true God and eternal life.

Jesus continues:
No one comes to the Father except through me.
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.’

Well, Philip, you are looking at him. Whoever has seen Jesus has seen the father.
Are you satisfied.

I believe Philip’s question is the key to the way, the truth , the life.
If we can see the father, we will be satisfied.

This last part, we will be satisfied when we see the father is very true.
There is nothing else that can actually satisfy us.
WE all know that longing.

The Germans have a word for this: sehnsucht.
It can’t really be translated, but the best would “inconsolable longing.”
We all know this, we all experience it, we all avoid it, and we all try to smother it.

You know what I am talking about.
It is very hard to describe, but it is real.
It kind of hurts, there is often a physical sensation.
It can make your heart skip.
It can make you breathe differently.
It can come at odd times.

Music can make it happen.
A chord change or a twist in a melody can send a shiver through your body.
A song can take you back to a place and time, and there is the longing.

A longing that things could have stayed the same, or they could have changed.
A longing that you wish you were still there.

Seeing old photographs of places you have been is the same.
But what about the longing we have for places and people we have never met?
Where do you think the dream of time travel comes from?
It is an attempt to fulfil a longing that cannot be satisfied.
We play with the idea,
knowing it cannot be reality,
knowing it cannot happen, yet we continue you dream it.
We have that sense of inconsolable longing.

It’s like we like the feeling.

It’s like we are supposed to have it.

CS Lewis puts it like this: “This sweet desire cuts across our ordinary distinctions between wanting and having. To have it is, by definition, to want: to want it, we find, is to have it.”

Here is the point:

This longing is a longing for God.
It is given to us by God, it is a gift.
It is given to us by God out of his longing for us.
It is his way of letting us know he longs for us.

Everyone experiences this.
Whether they believe or not, it is experienced.

We have a choice.
We can either wake up and realise this is what this sense is, or we can ignore it.
It is not going to go away.
WE can try and interpret it as something as else, as need to create.
It can be misinterpreted as a sensual desire.

We can try to dull it by drinking, by drugs, by television, by sex, by gambling, or by buying things, all hoping that this longing will be satisfied.

But it never is.
It never can be.
It isn’t supposed to be.
That is where Philip’s thoughts are so interesting: He is right on the money:
Show us the Father and we will be satisfied.

It is when we recognise that the longing within us is from God and is indeed the same longing God has for us, that we can begin the journey.

The moment of recognition is when we respond to God.
Then it is time to wake up.

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