Summary: In a time of change the words "do not let your hearts be troubled" can be difficult words to hear but these are the words that direct us to Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life. Jesus, the only one we can depend on when all else is changing.
5 Easter A John 14:1-14 28 April 2002
Rev. Roger Haugen
These words are so often read at funerals that it seems odd not to have a casket and flowers. These words are so often used to assure the family and friends of the deceased that the deceased is in a better place, a place assured from the day of their baptism. These are, indeed, words of encouragement but they are not so much about our life after death but about our life after Jesus’ death. It is about how we will live together as believers, in light of the reality that Jesus has died.
These are words meant as comfort for the disciples as they are forced to consider life without Jesus. A time that Jesus has insisted, over and over again, that they consider. Life as they know it will never be the same again. They are faced with change that they neither welcome nor for which they feel prepared.
Funeral words for us and no casket. Yet words for us to prepare us for a post-Easter life in a world that seems hostile and unwelcomed. Words for our life after Jesus’ death. How do Jesus’ words speak to us and our world? We know the same fear, the same disorientation as the disciples.
We live in a world of unprecedented change. We may be tired of hearing about it, but ‘change’ is nothing new and will not go away. In the midst of the disorientation of change we need something to give us hope, an anchor. And so we have these words, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” And “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
Words are sometimes too easy and not nearly enough. We can imagine how the disciples received these words. Their lives are turned up-side-down. The glory years of teaching, healing, the crowds, are a thing of the past. The intimate times of the daybreak breakfasts at the seashore, quiet times in the garden, times with Jesus, a faint memory. The wheels have come off -- arrest and crucifixion of Jesus, death -- and now they are huddled in fear. They have no idea how to go on, how to live, what all of this can mean for their lives in the future. “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Indeed!! These words, no doubt, seemed meaningless, they are troubled. Jesus seems so far away, they feel so very much alone.
We know how the disciples must have felt. We, too, are faced with unwelcomed change. The church as we know it is struggling, we are getting older, the “good old days” seem long gone and we are tempted to huddle in fear. The words come to us, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.” We are tempted to say, “It’s too late.”
We know fear and doubt. Change has gripped our world for so many years now, and not much of it has been good. We have watched towns die, schools close, hospitals down-graded, elevators torn down and churches close. We long for the “good old days”, for stability and an absence of fear. We feel lost and look for a way out of it all. We know Thomas’ wonder, “Lord, we do not know where you are going, how can we know the way.” We understand Philip who wants a road map. “Show us the Father, show us a sure sign of your presence in our lives and we may be fine.”
We want to cry out, “Lord, we’re afraid. Stop the change for a least some breathing space.” And Jesus says, “I go to prepare a place for you.” But this is not some over the horizon, “safe spot when we die” kind of place. This is a relationship with Jesus Christ that will go with us into whatever we will find in the future. Nothing that we know, except the love of God in Christ Jesus, will be secure. Change will continue, but we need not be afraid because Jesus is with us. Jesus does not promise us easy sailing, but he does promise we will not be alone. Thomas Aquinas is reported to have said, “If the primary aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in the port forever.” It is in the sailing of this life that Jesus promises to be with us.
We will need to travel light, letting go of whatever nostalgia would keep us from traveling into the future with Jesus. All that we might think will give us security, apart for Jesus, will only let us down. When jobs, health, family, wealth, politics, or whatever, let us down, all we can be sure of is that God is unchanging. This is nothing new, we have sung for years, Abide with Me,