Greater works besides

The following link will provide you with additional information and resources for the whole family for this Sunday, Easter 5: 
https://sjruc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Easter-Week5.pdf

Readings from the Scriptures John 14:1-14 – The Inclusive Bible

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 the Truth, and I am the Life. No one comes to God but through me.  If you really knew me, you would know God also. From this point on, you know God and you have seen God.”
“Rabbi,” Philip said, “show us 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 God. How can you say, ‘Show us your God’? Don’t you believe that I am in God and God is in me? The words I speak are not spoken of myself; it is 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 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.”

Greater works besides

Rev. Chris Fickling

The last couple of weeks in our scriptures (which Rob Selby and Teresa Carse wonderfully shared) there was a constant theme echoed again by today’s scripture: moments of profound fear matched with profound faith. 

The Road to Emmaus (Luke 24) story starts with two friends leaving Jerusalem after Jesus’ death.  The story from Acts that Teresa shared last week tells of the growing Christian community, while in the background, persecution of early Christians had begun (including the story suggested for today from Acts ch 7 – the stoning of Stephen, a deacon of the early church).  Even just before today’s text from John 14, Jesus gathers his friends for the Last Supper (John 13), declares one of his disciples will betray him, and Peter will deny knowing him. 

And the first words out of Jesus are…Don’t let your hearts be troubled

How can we not be troubled?!  As if the worries and grief around covid weren’t enough, there’s the horrors south of the border and the lynching of Ahmaud Arbery back in February which have finally come to light.   As one person said, “I don’t want to live in a country where if you murder a black person there needs to be a viral video before there’s a chance you’ll get arrested.”  Troubled hearts aren’t brought any comfort by them and us mentality – as this week in Nanaimo, BC, teens shot[1] a flare gun in a robbery starting a fire and then bragged about it online, using hate speech.  

And the first words out of Jesus are…Don’t let your hearts be troubled…and the words ring a little hollow…

They ring hollow because they don’t paint the whole picture.  These words begin a longer section of the Gospel of John called The Farewell Discourse – in which Jesus says goodbye to his friends.  This passage is directed to the disciples who will be left (alone) when Jesus is no longer with them.  And if these words seem familiar, you might have heard them before because we often use them at moments of death – or during a funeral – that great goodbye to those we love.  But this passage isn’t just about death – in fact – I think it’s more about living, and participating in life, here and now.

Don’t let your hearts be troubled…Jesus says with compassion in his heart, and tears in his eyes, because the disciples were living the same fears that we are.  We don’t know what tomorrow brings.  We don’t know when the church will open again, when we can get a haircut again, when we can freely move and travel and visit like we used to. 

I said at our Executive meeting this week, I realized that the first month of quarantine for me was all adrenaline. We had online church, and a covid case in our house, and home schooling and all I was focussed on was getting through Easter.  And after Easter passed – I nearly collapsed.  Going forward will take a different way of being.  We’re now into the marathon of uncertainty.    

And the first words out of Jesus are… Don’t let your hearts be troubled.  I won’t leave you alone – in fact the very reason I am with you is to remind you that you’re never alone

It’s been amazing to see this same sentiment picked up from everything to Time magazine[2] to Facebook advertising, that we in the United Church have used for years – we are not alone.  The very reason for Jesus’ life was to point to the presence of God in their lives – both in the flesh and blood presence of Jesus, but in the ways that all of us find strength, peace, purpose (whatever word we attach to it) that seems both a part of ourselves, but yet not.  Jesus calls this strength, peace, purpose – God – and says that even when we feel alone, that presence remains with us.  Even when we cannot be in the temple.  Even when we cannot be together.  Even when we feel alone, Jesus reminds us all, that we already know the way, the truth, and the life that we need to sustain ourselves.  This is the life in God in which we find ourselves. 

Life in God is a way of being in the world that is unhurried, and full of purpose.  And so I wonder – What about your life have you missed?  What are you glad is gone? 
What new way of living is emerging for you?

Life in God bears truth that makes us reconsider what is truly important.  For in this time of quarantine, we have realized all that we’ve taken for granted – how we mark funerals, or Mother’s Day, or all of the other observances which have become more challenging to honour.  What is important for us now?  And so I wonder – what truth has been revealed for you in this time?

Life in God is all about living.  It’s not about the “promised mansions” of some tomorrow not yet here.  The relationships of Jesus’ life were so important to him that they take four chapters out of twenty one for this Farewell Discourse – a fifth of the entire book – for Jesus with compassion in his heart, and tears in his eyes, to say Don’t let your hearts be troubled… because the disciples are as dear to him, as those we call family to us.  Giving that much power to those we share our lives with cultivates an awareness within us, both to the indwelling in the everpresence of the God and the searching out for that same presence as it shines in those you love, as it hides under bushels of those you struggle to love, as it is hidden by acts of hatred and destruction.  And so I wonder – what (or who) sustains your living today?  What new practices – be it deliberate phone calls, or daily walks, or naps, or praying, are you going to carry with you into the future?

For as we go forward into the unknown, for as many days as it will take, means that we need an awareness of the ways, and truths, and lives that create, redeem, and sustain us.

And so I’ll share what’s sustained me.  I go get groceries about once a week, and without fail, the same song has been on the radio.  Like eerily coincidentally the radio will start playing the song Under Pressure by Queen and David Bowie, and I think just for the last few lines…

Under Pressure

Can’t we give ourselves one more chance?
Why can’t we give love that one more chance?

‘Cause love’s such an old fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the edge of the night
And love (people on streets) dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves

Maybe this love is the greater works besides that Jesus speaks of… Amen


[1] https://nanaimonewsnow.com/2020/05/05/2nd-teen-arrested-in-serious-gas-station-fire-pair-now-charged-with-arson/

[2] https://time.com/magazine/us/5810478/april-6th-2020-vol-195-no-12-u-s/

2 Comments

  1. Thank you again for a wonderful service. I especially appreciate seeing the lyrics for the hymns & songs. I did not recognize the Queen song, Under Pressure, so being able to read the lyrics added meaning.
    Happy Mother’s’ Day

  2. Charmian Taylor Patrick

    Another special service. Thanks so very much Chris. And thanks to Sam too! A highlight of our week. Charmian and Hong

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