Grace and Peace are yours from the Risen Christ. Amen.
The Gospel reading for today is often referred to as Jesus’s “Farewell Discourse.” It features an intense conversation between Jesus and his disciples. The disciples had just witnessed a dramatic exit by Judas,with the taste of bread and wine still fresh on their lips. And then their leader, their teacher,their friend, began talking about going somewhere “they could not go.” Emotions were high. The disciples knew , they could sense, that they were on the verge of a huge shift. And they were terrified. They were filled with uncertainties and questions.
And Jesus comforts them with an image of Home.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.
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?
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.”
Thomas, the ever-practical one of the group, jumps in and more or less starts asking Jesus for Google Maps or GPS or something. He says, “Jesus….how can we know how to get where you are if we don’t even know where you’re going?!” I can kind of imagine Thomas here, being kind of exasperated withJesus. It’s like he’s saying, “We want to do this. Just tell us…what to do!”
And Jesus reassures them again, “You know me. You’ve lived with me. You’ve done this work with me. You know the way.”
Some people have read this part of scripture…”I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me…” they’ve read it as a sort of an exclusionary text. But I don’t think that’s what Jesus is saying here. Jesus isn’t giving a message of exclusion to a 21st Century, Pluralistic society. Jesus is comforting his closet friends.
The disciples don’t see it that way at first, though. I think they are feeling a little panicked, feeling a little bit abandoned. They are so worked up by the idea of being without Jesus that they can’t even hear what he is saying to them…. “There’s room for you in God’s house. And I will be there, too. Because me, you, us, together, doing this thing…doing God’s work….that’s Home.”
Jesus isn’t talking about a physical house. He’s talking about a relationship. He says, “I will come again and take you to myself.” Because being together, building God’s kingdom, THAT is home.
The disciples seem unconvinced, insisting that they need more to know the wayHome. They want something more. But Jesus tells them, “You know the way. We’ve walked this path together. You’ve been with me when I preached good news to the poor. You’ve seen me turn the powers that be on their heads. You’ve seen me heal the sick and preach and teach…. You were there. You did those things with me. We did them together. All you have to do now, is continue on in the work that we have done.”
And I think that is the real crux of the disciple’s anxiety here. Jesus is about to push his baby bird disciples out of the nest, and they are panicked because they are wholly unconvinced that they can actually fly. They don’t feel ready or worthy to continue on without Jesus. These questions about roadmaps and proof are really just derailing tactics because they areTERRIFIED that they won’t know what to do when Jesus goes to “a place they cant follow.”
I can relate to the disciples here. Because, most of the time, in my ministry, I feel like a complete imposter. I wish that there was just someone there to tell me, step by step, what to do. Like maybe, I could get some sort of checklist to make sure I’m on the right path. Maybe as a congregation in transition, you feel that way sometimes. Or maybe some of you are graduating or moving on to new things. Or some of you who were confirmed yesterday. Maybe as you proclaimed your faith in front of your community of believers and were more or less knighted as “grown ups” in the church…maybe you were thinking to yourself, as I often think to myself, “I have absolutely no idea what I am doing over here.”
But Jesus says to the disciples and to me and you, “You know the way home.You’ve read about it in scripture. You’ve seen it in action through the Saints throughout history and through the Saints of today in your communities. You know the way. You’re ready.”
It’s like, in the beginning of this passage, when Jesus says, “Believe inGod. Believe also in me”, Jesus is also saying to us, “Because I believe in you.” “Believe in God, Believe also in me, Because I BELIEVE INYOU. You are going to do amazing things. And when you do those things, you are going to be a part of this revolution where we create and build Kingdom Come on Earth as it is inHeaven.”
God is looking at us and saying, “I have a plan to change the world and its you.” And when we say, panicked,back to God, “I don’t know how to do that!” God smiles and says, “Yes. Yes you do. Continue on the path set before you.”
When we say, “We cant!” God says,“You are.”
We might think we are small, that we are nothing. We might believe that we are much too ordinary for such extraordinary work. And maybe in some ways that’s true. But we also know that ourGod loves to work through ordinary, every day things like water and wafers and wine. We know that this same God does extraordinary things through ordinary people like gruff, uneducated fisherman and an unwed teenager mother who birthed a tiny king into a filthy manger. So when scripture tells us “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people”we can believe that its true. And when we believe this truth about who we are, this truth about our identity, we can become empowered to “proclaim the mighty acts of the one who called us out of darkness and into the marvelous light.”
When we follow the path set before us by Jesus, the path that is beaten down with foot prints of the Saints that came before us, when we continue on that path, we are already Home. Because Home is not a destination. It’s a relationship. And so when we live in relationship with one another, when we are honest, when we serve one another, when we choose to see the face of God in our neighbor, we are tracing the path that Jesus has gone on before us and in those moments, there we are.We are in tune with God’s will. We are home.
So may you continue on the path set before you. May you do small things with great love. And in doing so, may you know, that in the love you build in your communities, in the way that you minister to one another, in the way that you do God’s will, God is there. And when God is there, we are already Home.