Sermon for the 5th Sunday of Easter (Mother's Day/Fishing Opener) - John 14:1-14
Jesus isn’t worried about too many things. At least he doesn’t show it. Apart from saying he has a home decorating job to do before he has his open house and gives you a room. I guess there is the whole sweating blood, nails and cross, scourging, crown of thorns, rising from the dead thing. Except for that, he doesn’t have much he is worried about. Maybe your immortality. That too, I guess. Looking you in the face, calling you by name. He can look and see that your worries are his and his should be yours. So in that way, he worries, and so he speaks to you this morning in some truth to tell you, he has a place for you.
Many of you might recognize this text. It is the text often used at funerals. Interesting that last week we had Psalm 23, which we only usually have at funerals and Good Shepherd Sunday. Today we have John 14, which we hear on this 5th Sunday of Easter every 3 years, and at funerals. My first funeral was during my internship, for a 101 year old woman whom I never met, who had not attended the church for about 10 years. So I met with the family, helped them through the order of service and then we visited and I heard stories. When the funeral was done, my hope was not to try and recast that daughter of Christ in a certain way as though I was her best friend, but to offer up peace and hope that comes to us in such a Gospel like this.
The reality is that I had no clue who she was, but I knew she was one who was given the promises of God. That is usually all we have at the end of life. Often we have questions and doubts. We get angry or frustrated because of the loss and the pain of the truth of our mortality. That our lives, albeit having a semblance of control, a sort of mirage we think we have, are really not ours to control. No adding of days or weeks or months to our life. We can’t make ourselves younger. We can get surgery. Color our hair. Workout and eat right. But after each moment, we are that moment older. What the gospel gives us, especially here, is a hope in the one who does have control. A guarantee that when this journey ends, a new one begins with the resting place of Christ being there for us despite our pessimism or lack of faith. A surety of what we cannot control being under someone else’s control.
Once we realize our inability, then the ability of the Gospel arrives. For all we have is God’s. All of it. The problem is that we live in the promised land. We live in a place where we have crossed over into this beautiful place, with having all we possibly need at our disposal, and we have done exactly what Moses warned the people against in Deuteronomy Chapters 6-8. We have forgotten the Lord. We have forgotten the one who brought us out of the land of Egypt. We have forgotten the promises. We have forgotten the source of all goodness and life. We confess the Creator as Almighty with our voices, yet deny the fruits of it with our lives.
Moses warns against this in Deuteronomy 8, Coming into this land of plenty. Land of good vineyards, fine fields, and we forget God. Thinking that we have established our wealth by our own hands and then Moses says in verse 18 of Deut. 8 – It is the Lord who gives the power to gain wealth.
Everything we have is a gift. The gifts you have, that you have used to go to school, to get jobs, to establish homes, to raise children, to build a retirement, all of it from God. But what do we do with it.
Even Peter, in 1 Peter 2 speaks to us of sacrifice, of this giving back. Of this spiritual offering of us as priests. A giving of what God has given us. In the olden days, in the Old Testament, that would have been the best of the flocks, the grain, the vines. Brought to the priest to be offered back to God, knowing that it was from him to begin with.
That is a hard turn for us. A hard place for us to go, especially in America where it is about the American Dream and pulling yourself up. All of it becomes this work here is one lived in an earthly place. So that is where our eyes focus, doing this here. Never thinking that we are best served in this place with a Gospel mind. A mind captured by Gospel words of life that return us to a world where we are poor beggars, humble children, broken people, in need of the Giver of life, the Father of mercy, the salvation of our souls.
The Gospel mind. A mind captured by the grace of God in Jesus, undeserved grace and mercy, has had itself turned towards the heavens, turned towards this place for you, as Jesus speaks of here in John 14. A place you have no control over, but is what is there when you finally lose all control at the end. A mind that is so inclined has discovered how small it is and how amazing it’s Savior is because of this place, being prepared, FOR YOU. Not you making it, building it, preparing for it, or deserving it. A place prepared for you, in spite of you. By a Lord who loves you.
A Lord who loves you enough to take you to be where he is. To take you home to meet his daddy. Better yet, you already met his daddy, because Christ has come to you. He has given himself fully to you in his promises. In who he is, as the Son of God, as God made flesh, to make sure you know what God thinks of you, even after your final breath.
God-con-carne, made flesh to show you the way. Even more so, instead of showing you the way, he is the way he says. The way having hands and feet, eyes and ears, flesh to be eaten, blood to be drunk to drag you into the place he has prepared. To carry you off so that you might know the end of your abilities so as to be guided by him in the way you should go.
A way attached to his name. An asking of Jesus to do something, so the Father might be glorified, he says. A way, a place, a focus of the mind and body on something outside of us, something beyond our means, so that we become dependent on a God who shows compassion to you and all others in so many ways, whether you see it or not. There in those ways, in giving you life and breath to do ministry to love others in the name of Christ. To give you money, property and gifts, to give back to God for the work of the Kingdom. To prepare us as living sacrifices and offerings to God.
In such a way, we pray for the Gospel mind each day. We pray for Christ to do his work among us and continue to do it that we might see more clearly the ways we have been given all things, but also to see the way at work in us. That is our desire and purpose as those who trust in the saving work of Christ. Saving us from ourselves and any way we think better than Jesus and to draw us to himself, to his way, to the place in which he has prepared. Thanks be to God. Amen.