St Andrew, Glencairn
Glencairn Methodist Church
READ JOHN 14: 1-14
I’m sure you have heard the story of the city dweller who was on a motoring holiday somewhere in the wilds of Ireland. His SatNav was not working and he was looking for a wee village that didn’t feature on the tourist map he had. And he was completely lost. Luckily he came across one of the locals, leaning on a gatepost, contentedly smoking his pipe and watching the world go by in slow motion.
So the driver pulled up beside the man and said to him, “Sir, I wonder if you could help me, please? Can you tell me the way to Ballyberine?” The man sucked on his pipe, thought for a moment or two, and then said, “Sir if I wanted to get to Ballyberine, I wouldn’t start from here.”
“I wouldn’t start from here!”
Where did you start your Christian journey? Was it in your parents’ home when you where a child, or in church at your baptism or confirmation, or in Sunday School, or in a youth organisation, or at a great revival convention like the ones Billy Graham used to do?
It could really have been anyplace, couldn’t it? And so it doesn’t really matter where or when you started this journey. The important thing is that you did start it. If there are any here today who have not yet started their Christian journey, or are dithering about where might be a good place to start or indeed where it will end, well, anyplace and anytime soon would be a good place and a good time to start. Because until you do start on this journey, you won’t know were it will take you and you certainly won’t know the way.
Today’s Gospel reading from John 14 is a continuation of Jesus’ conversation with his disciples after Judas had left the Last Supper to betray Jesus. He was warning his disciples about his impending departure. In 13: 33, Jesus is recorded as saying, “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going you cannot come.” Peter asks, “Lord where are you going?” Jesus replies, “Where I am going you cannot follow now, but you will follow me later.” Peter asks another question, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now?” And Jesus says, “Really?”
In an attempt to comfort his disciples he goes on:
“Look, it is like this. My father’s House is like a great big hotel and I am going to get some rooms booked and ready for you.”
My Father’s House?
The only other time Jesus talks about his Father’s House in John’s Gospel is in the story of the Cleansing of the Temple, when he refers to the Temple as My Fathers House. The Temple was considered to be God’s dwelling place on Earth, the place when heaven and earth meet. But he is not talking about the Temple in this passage; he is talking about God’s great big hotel.
But not only is he going to get the rooms ready, he is coming back to take them with him so that they will be in the same hotel as himself. But then he says a strange thing. He says “You know the way to where I am going.”
But they don’t and Thomas makes this perfectly clear, “Lord we don’t know where you are going so how can we possibly know the way?” The tourist lost in wild Ireland knew where he wanted to go but just didn’t know the way. The disciples knew neither destination nor way
And then we get Jesus’ famous enigmatic statement, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”
And he goes on with what might seem an arrogant claim, “No one – NO ONE - comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my father also. So from now on, you do know him and have seen him. IN ME”
People today, say things like, well the other religions have got something good, haven’t they? And maybe God has some other way for Jews and Muslims and Buddhists and Hindus and all the rest, to get to his hotel. This sounds nice and democratic. But it doesn’t work. Because if you dethrone Jesus, you enthrone a bunch of others who, we believe, have got the wrong end of the stick, false news about God, an inadequate revelation or understanding of God in their lives. What does God have in store for them? Jesus tells us not to judge others, so I don’t, and I leave such questions to God to deal with.
We should not be arrogant or triumphalist about this matter for else we deny the very message that this passage is trying to convey. The Truth, the Life, through which we know and find the Way, is Jesus himself; the Jesus who washed his disciples feet and told them to copy his example, the Jesus who was on his way to give his life just as the Good Shepherd was prepared to do for his sheep. Was that arrogant? Was that self-serving? Only when we recover the nerve to follow Jesus in his mission and vocation, will we be able to claim that Jesus alone is the Way; and be believed
Don’t come with a set, fixed idea of who God is or what he is like and then try to fit Jesus into that picture. Instead look at Jesus, the Jesus who wept at the tomb of his friend, the Jesus who washed his followers’ feet, and you will see the perfect image of God.
That was Jesus’ answer to Philip. It is the answer to the natural questions that arise in people’s minds today. Only when his followers are themselves continuing to do what Jesus did will we be believed when we tell others about the earth shattering truth that he spoke.
Ken (18 May 2017)
This Message was inspired by Tom Wright's John for Everyone.
NOTE - Previous "Monthly Messages" are archived at http://glencairn.connor.anglican.org/previousmessages.htm