Posted by: skokiecentralchurch | May 14, 2017

2017.5.14 “Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled” John 14: 1 – 14

Central United Methodist Church
Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled
Pastor David Haley
John 14: 1 – 14
The 5th Sunday of Easter/Mother’s Day
May 14th, 2017

Man Praying by the Sea at Sunset

“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 said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. 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.”

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.” – John 14: 1 -14, The New Revised Standard Version

 “Let not your hearts be troubled.” In some ways, I have spent most of my life trying to practice these words of Jesus.

Those of you who – like me – suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder will understand. I inherited it from my father, for whom it became more debilitating as he grew older. For example, even though he was a crew chief on B-17 bombers in the Aleutian Islands in WWII, I could never get him to fly, even to visit distant family, like me; the anxiety of it was just too much. However, I must admit: the older I get, the more I understand.

The Fifth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the DSM-5) defines GAD as “the presence of excessive anxiety and worry about a variety of topics, events, or activities . . . even when there is nothing wrong, or in a manner disproportionate to the actual risk.” Of course, the preceding anxiety is always far worse than the actual event, such as every worship service, in which nothing happens – and by that I mean no loss of life or limb – other than someone spilling the grape juice or the computer or sound system suffering an occasional hiccup.

Once you become parents – as you are learning, Ryan and Guin, Nick and Odessa – it gets worse. Then, our worries about ourselves are eclipsed by our worries for our precious children. I won’t go down the list of bad things that can happen, you’ve likely already worried about most of them, but just wait until these children become mobile and somehow think that when you say “stop” it means “go.” I’ll tell you right now you have some near heart-stopping mad toddler dashes in your future.

For those of us who suffer from GAD, one consolation right now in the current political situation is that almost everybody is worried sick, so at least we’re not alone. We wake up each morning wondering what the news will bring, whether this will be the day when a new Executive Order is signed for mandatory organ harvests or whether we will declare war not on North Korea but Canada or Mexico. “Let not your heart be troubled?” Jesus, we’re trying!

Even in the context in which Jesus says this, in his Farewell Discourse to his disciples in John’s Gospel before he leaves them, his words are so out of kilter with what’s happening that it’s almost comic or tragic, I’m not sure which. It is as much so when a preacher like me quotes these words to a grieving family in a funeral home, church, or at a graveside. “Let not your heart be troubled?” How could they not be?

James Somerville, a Baptist pastor in Virginia, says that what we have here is the image of Jesus as a mother standing with her hand on the doorknob, with her coat over her arm, watching her children play with Legos on the living room floor. One of them looks up, suddenly noticing she is about to leave, and asks in panic: “Where are you going?”

I got a first-hand experience of this last week with my grandson, almost 2. Whenever anybody starts to leave, he runs around the house yelling “shoes,” looking for his. On Wednesday evening, me, my son, and my oldest grandson, 5, were going to a Washington Nationals game and staying out way too late for a 2 year-old. His mom took him out to the car with us; the look on his face when he realized we were leaving without him, would break your heart.

That’s how Jesus disciples felt, and likely looked. “Where are you going?” they say. To which Jesus says, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, so that where I am there you may be also.” “Can we go with you?” they say. “Where I am going you cannot come,” Jesus says.

“Surely you’re kidding?” they must have said. After all we’ve been through, you’re leaving us? What will happen to us? And Jesus says: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

Though these words were spoken to Jesus’ first disciples before he went away, they were written for all his disciples – including us – to whom he is no longer physically present. Even in his absence, however, he still speaks to us in our anxious and fearful hearts: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” We are still clinging to these words, day by day.

Following Jesus’ shocking announcement, questions fly, and we understand. At times of challenge and loss and bereavement, when we feel anxious or fearful or overwhelmed, we struggle to make sense of what’s happened, and we ask questions too: Why did this happen? Why don’t you love me anymore? Why did he/she die so young? Who’s fault is this; is it mine? Did I do something to deserve this?

As rational beings, questions are important and inevitable: we want to understand if we can, to make sense of things. Unfortunately, this is not always possible. Sometimes, there are no good answers, sometimes there are no answers at all. At such times, what we really need is relationship, someone we can trust, someone we can hold on to, and that is what Jesus gave them, not only with himself, but with God.

So when Philip says, “OK, Lord, just show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” “Show us God? Is that what you’re asking, Philip?”

Fred Craddock imagines Jesus saying: “Philip, where have you been all this time? Were you there when the lame man at the pool stood and walked? Were you there when the blind man saw his family for the first time? Were you there when the centurion’s son left his sick bed? Were you there when the hungry crowd was fed? Were you there when Lazarus was restored to his grieving sisters?”

“Yes, I was there and I believe in miracles, but I want something more,” says Philip, “I want to experience God.” And so Jesus took a towel, tied it around his waist, and in a basin of water washed their feet. “Oh no, not this; show us God.” And Jesus took up a cross and as he walked up to Golgotha, he turned to Philip, to the Twelve, and to all of us, and said, “Whoever has seen me has seen God.” Jesus healing, feeding, caring, serving, dying: this is the portrait of God.

But that’s not where it ends: Jesus shows us God to show us ourselves. To believe in the God Jesus revealed is not to do a self-embrace or a group hug and wring our hands in anxiety, fear, and helplessness: it is to emulate Jesus: to heal, feed, care, serve, die. To know God carries with it the assignment of modeling the character of God, and doing the work of God. So might Jesus not then add: “Do not let your hearts be troubled; roll up your sleeves and get to work.” (Fred B. Craddock, “More Than Anything in the World,” The Collected Sermons of Fred B. Craddock, 4-13-2011, p. 188).

Whoever we are, wherever we are along life’s journey, whether we have GAD or not, we are going to need these words of Jesus: “Let not your hearts be troubled.” Because just as in this scene from the Gospels, life is full of comings and goings, leaving and partings, of parents by children, and children by parents; all of us will eventually break each other’s hearts.

When I was growing up and going away, our family ritual was that everyone would escort you out to the car, where we would say good-bye. As I got older, it got harder, because I realized the day would come when our good byes would be final. That day came, for my grandparents, and my father, for too many friends along the way. Now I am getting to the point where I am the one left in the yard saying good-bye, and more than ever need to hear these words of Jesus:

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me. In my Father’s house 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.”

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