The Way and the Life: Mothers’ Day 5-14-17

Our assigned reading this morning is from the Gospel of John, part of a long speech by Jesus called, the Farewell discourse. In this speech, Jesus is preparing the disciples for his departure, for his death. The pericope is often used in funerals, but the disciples must not have been reassured by the words. They were hoping that Jesus would be their Messiah, turning over the world order. Not only is Jesus saying farewell, but his death will mean the death of that expectation and hope. It will take a long time for the truth of Jesus’ message to be resurrected in a movement that proclaims in a new way that death will not have the last word, and that they will find a new home in the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

 John 14:    “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith in me as well. In God’s house there are many dwelling places; otherwise, how could I have told you that I was going to prepare a place for you? I am indeed going to prepare a place for you, and then I will come back to take you with me, that where I am there you may be as well. You know the way that leads to where I am going.” Thomas replied, “But we don’t know where you’re going. How can we know the way?” Jesus told him, “I myself am the Way— I am Truth, and I am Life. No one comes to Abba God but through me. If you really knew me,  you would know Abba God also. From this point on, you know Abba God and you have seen God.” “Rabbi,” Philip said, “show us Abba God, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and still you don’t know me? Whoever has seen me has seen Abba God. How can you say, Show us your Abba’? Don’t you believe that I am in Abba God and God is in me? The words I speak are not spoken of myself; it is Abba God, living in me, who is accomplishing the works of God. Believe me that I am in God and God is in me, or else believe because of the works I do. The truth of the matter is, anyone who has faith in me will do the works I do—and greater works besides. Why? Because I go to Abba God, and whatever you ask in my name I will do, so that God may be glorified in me. Anything you ask in my name I will do.

May 14, 1017

The Way and the Life 

All of us need a place that we call ours, a place where we can be dry, comfortable, safe – not too hot, not too cold – a home. In my home I used to have a home office where I would write my sermons. Last year, we transformed that room to a bedroom (still lined by my books) a bedroom where we could welcome guests from Hosts for Hospitals.

Hosts for Hospitals, as you may know, connects people from out of town with housing when they are caring for a loved one in the hospital. Our first guest was a woman from Guatemala whose husband was very sick. She put her bag in the room and then we hardly saw her for a month. She spent every night and most of the day in the hospital with her husband. But she would come to our house in the middle of the day for a shower every now and then, bless her heart. I know she appreciated the space.

All of us need a place we can hang our hat, store our suitcase, leave our toothbrush, change our underwear, recover our balance. Back in the mid 1980’s when I was doing community organizing, I worked for a group called Kensington Joint Action Council (KJAC). Kensington was, and still is, a very poor community, with lots of abandoned houses, and lots of people who have inadequate housing.  As we looked around our neighborhood, it seemed obvious that the large number of abandoned houses could be put in the service of people who needed housing.

Wilson Goode was the Managing Director of the city at that time. We proposed that the city start a “Gift Property” program, in which they would acquire abandoned houses through eminent domain and sell them to individuals who would put sweat equity into the houses.  It was also called the “Emergency Nuisance Abatement program. They agreed to the program, then kept delaying its implementation until we finally did civil disobedience to push it into place.

We were finally successful in getting people houses, but during that time, the stress would really get to me, and I would burn out and get sick. Every now and then I would go back to Cincinnati, and my mother would welcome me with open arms and nurse me back to health. I had not lived in Cincinnati for over a decade at that time, but when I really needed nurture and support, that’s where I went. * Home is the place where they will always take you in. We revere mothers on Mothers’ Day because they so often are the ones who make those homes for us – life long homes we turn to in our hearts, even after our mothers are gone.

Our scripture reading this morning, as I say, is from a long speech Jesus gives at the end of the gospel of John called the Farewell Discourse. In it Jesus reassures his disciples that even though he is going to be crucified, even though the work they started is going to feel like it has died and even though their hearts are troubled because they think they have no home in the world any more, no place to hang their hat, they will always have a home in the heart of the risen Christ.

Martin Luther, the revolutionary priest who began the Protestant movement, was asked what it means to have a God and he answered that God is what you hang your heart upon. The heart that is troubled is a heart not hung upon God but hung rather on al the things the world peddles to soothe a troubled heart. Jesus tells his disciples as he prepares to leave them, as he prepares for his death, to hang their hearts on God; hang your hearts on me!

Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to God except through me.” This statement has been used by some as an exclusionary statement – to say that no religion is valid but the one that worships Jesus. That’s a shame though, to limit Christ’s impact, by acting as though only one religion owns him. As Dr. Ahmed told us at our dinner, the Koran has more references to Jesus than to Mohammed. The Way of Jesus is the way of the heart, the way of the truth, the way of life and life abundantly. We hang our hearts on God in Christ no matter what any particular organization or religion says.

That Way of the Heart is not a path of judgment. We are not called to decide who is in and who is out, who deserves God’s love and who does not. That Way of Jesus is a declaration of God’s love for all creation. This is a love that surpasses every trial, every bit of trouble.

I’m sure there are some who come here today with troubled hearts in this troubled world, some who are stressed and need a place of reassurance and healing, some who need a place to hang your heart.  When Jesus says, “I am the Way and the Life,” I am confident that he is inviting every creature in all creation to find a home in the Living God, to know that you can find healing, rest, shelter, beyond even death itself, beyond the death of your mother or father, beyond sickness or pain or struggle, God’s promise is to make room for us,  a place for us to be safe & loved. So none of our hearts need to be troubled.

Responsive hymn: 2046 Womb of life