Sunday, March 5th, 2023

The Second Sunday in Lent
Believe

The Reverend Dr. Cathy S. Gilliard, Pastor

John 14:1-14

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGQbD5iOESc[/embedyt]

Sermon Text

Believe!

John 14:1-14

“Let not your hearts be troubled.”[1] I want to sit with this for a while amid the complexities of life and everyday living, the disappointments, roadblocks, twists, and turns. Decisions that must be made, one curve after another.

I want to stay right here with this word of instruction, comfort, and consolation that Jesus gave to those early disciples and I want to believe that he speaks to them to us as well because the truth, is our hearts are often troubled by so many things. I mean, how can they not be?  

I sit with this line along because of what resides in my own heart this morning – those things that concern me deeply and personally: Cathy as person, mother, grandmother, sister, friend, colleague, pastor, citizen of the world connected to the world and the world’s problems.

I sit with it because 9 people were shot to death yesterday afternoon in a Texas mall – one more shooting among so many and we just can’t seem to do any better despite our brilliance about so many other things.  Gun violence, choke holds on subways to the point of death, wars, and disasters everywhere.  Let not your hearts be troubled. 

I sit with this because I care very deeply for Nica Val Hackett on the brink of laying to rest a longtime companion, her daughters their father, and those grandchildren that Val spoke so glowingly about – oh my goodness, the things that only grandparents can see! 

I want to sit with this because I know people who are treated poorly on their jobs; bereft of fair wages, tired and worn out – overworked and feeling trapped, needing the salary, the income but lifeless on the inside void of any creativity or imagination; and lacking the kind of ambition to really try for something else; not to mention those who for the life of themselves seem able to find a job matching their skillset, gifts, and talents.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled,” that’s what Jesus said. Believe. 

Now, I like that because what we believe can make all the difference in the world.  What we believe about ourselves and others has almost everything to do with how we act, what we say, and how we show up in the world. 

What we believe about who we are, what we might be able to accomplish, our purpose in life, our capabilities, power, and privilege are critically important regardless of what other people think. They don’t know everything and are not qualified to do all the directing of our lives.  

We must always believe in ourselves – always and never stop no matter what. Most of us can be trusted with ourselves and are far more capable of it than we might think or allow. We can be trusted to emerge into the person God has created us to be. 

Believe. Believe in God, the God within us. The God who loves us no matter what, who does not promise exemptions from things but presence.  “ I will be with you always,” through good times and bad.  The God who leads, guides, and directs our path if only we allow it.

We must believe that we were created good and for good. There is goodness within us not perfection but God’s goodness.  Grant that we might call that forth.  God has created us for good. Not to be petty and mean and selfish, backbiting, criticizing, casting blame, and never assuming responsibility but for good. Believe it; believe that about yourself and live into it and you will see how much different your life will be.

Believe in me, Jesus said. Believe in my love for you. Believe that you are not alone, wherever I go, there you are and wherever you are, there I am. I am the way. I am truth. And I am life.

Have your doubts, yes but believe. We must not act as if doubt and fear are the order of the day; they are not. Be afraid but believe.  We get down sometimes but trust God; hang onto your faith. Never give up on what is right.

Those early Christians were known as people of “The Way.”  “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.”[2] Yes, Jesus says, “I am the way.”  What is that way?  The way of transformation and healing love; and a shared life in which all exist.  The way of freedom and justice for all people.  

The way that turns the world upside down; that has stood against the test of time.  The way for which men and women have given their lives for centuries; have held on through unbearable torture and suffering.  The way that turns murderers into saints; and sinks way down in your soul that no body and no force and no circumstance can fully take away.  That’s the way I’m talking about; call it whatever you want but I believe that that is the way God desires. 

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.”  Hearts.  Did you get the plurality of that?  Your hearts.  Your collective hearts.  Do not let your hearts be troubled for we are in this together and there is a commonness that we all share, like it or not.   We do our good work together. 

Could it be that Jesus knew that the only antidote; the only possible hope is the love he was about to display and all the ways that love could possibly be played out in our world.  

Take it easy.  Don’t let this thing throw you.  Believe in God.  Believe also in me.  Jesus speaks to them and to us about dwelling places and residences; habitations in which God lives.  “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places, many mansions.   I’m going to prepare a place for you and I will come again and receive you as my own so that where I am, there you may be also.  And you know the way to the place where I am going.”[3] 

You know the place and you know the way.

But Thomas isn’t having it.  Thomas isn’t wanting to believe that he knows the place nor the way: “Lord, we do not know where you are going.  How can we know the way?”[4]

Are there not times in your own life when you wish you could be so honest; so transparent as to say out loud, “We don’t know where we are going and we do not know the way.”   

Would it not be great if we could allow ourselves to be so real; so comfortable with at least another soul that we might be able to respond as Thomas did:  I don’t know where I am going?  I do not know the way.  

This kind of honest awareness is risky especially in our culture when we pride ourselves in knowing everything although we don’t; not really.  It allows us to open ourselves up to receive the answers we so desperately need.  It re-orients and re-centers us to look again and to seek the source that looks beyond the immediate and see the long view and all that might be impacted.  

 Jesus said: “I am the way, I am truth, and I am life.”[5] 

[1] John 14:1

[2] John 14:6-7

[3] John 14:2-3

[4] John 14:5

[5] John 14:6b