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Sermon for the Fifth Sunday of Easter – May 10, 2020
Dear friends, grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
At our online Bible study this past week a few of us were talking about how hard things are right now for people who like to plan, for people who like to organize. We have a plan now for reopening the state of Washington with four phases and a minimum of three-week intervals between stages, with some details of what is allowed in each phase. But we don’t really know when each phase will be implemented. There are general dates, but they should all be written in pencil because they are subject to change.
I’m a planner, and this makes this frustrating for me. Usually I pretty much know what we’re going to do for worship three or four months in advance, and right now I’m not sure what we’re going to do next Sunday, let alone a month from now, or this fall. I’ve had a frustrating week this week as I heard the governor announce that drive-in worship was OK, so I planned around that, and then very strict rules for how those services could happen were sent out several days later, causing me to ditch many of the plans I had and make new ones.
I know many of you are planners too. Even if you aren’t, I’ll bet many of you are anxious about what to expect or how to plan as we move forward. I know some of you are wondering about the status of a trip you have planned this summer. Some are wondering when they’ll be able to be out and about again without being in danger. Others are wondering about when they can finally get a haircut! Whether we’re planners or not, we’re all wondering about the way forward.
Thomas and Philip were planners. They wanted details. They wanted specifics. Jesus was preparing his disciples for what was coming, and they wanted to be able to plan for it. Jesus had told them to not let their hearts be troubled. He invited them to believe in him, to trust him, to have faith in him. He was going ahead of them to prepare a place for them in his Father’s house. He promised to come again and take them to himself, so that where he was, they would be also.
This wasn’t enough for Thomas. “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Give us the plan, Jesus. Show us the way. Give us the details. Give us an address we can Google!
Jesus responded by saying, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This isn’t exactly a plan. It isn’t a map or an address. Instead, it is another invitation to trust. It is an invitation to trust that Jesus is the way, and that by staying close to him, he’ll get you where we need to be. It is an invitation to trust that he is the truth. He is not “a” truth, or “my” truth. He is THE truth, the true revelation of God. It is an invitation to trust that he is the life, that through believing in him we would have life in his name. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life, Thomas.” Jesus says. “Believe this. Trust this, and leave the details to me.”
Philip still needs more to go on, so he says to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father and we will be satisfied.”
And now Jesus is disappointed. Now Jesus is frustrated. You can hear it in his response to Philip: “Have you been with me all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?” Jesus goes on to tell Philip that he and the Father are one. “I am in the Father and the Father is in me,” Jesus says.
This was quite a thing for Jesus to say. He was claiming complete and total unity with God the Father! Philip was hoping for some kind of sign, apparently, something tangible and specific by which he could get his bearings. What he got instead was another invitation to trust in Jesus, to have faith in him, to believe that if he has seen Jesus, he has already seen the Father.
This virus has created so much uncertainty in our lives. We don’t know the precise way forward. We don’t have many specifics right now by which we can get our bearings. Even if you aren’t a planner like me, this uncertainty about so many aspects of our lives often leads to anxiety, and to frustration, and to disappointment. It often leads to hearts that are troubled.
Jesus didn’t give Thomas or Philip any specific details. He didn’t give them a timeline or an address.
But he did say, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.” He told his disciples that he was going ahead of them to prepare a place for them, so that where he was, there they would be too. This is his promise to us too! You can’t untrouble a heart just by commanding it to not be troubled. You need to push out the trouble with a promise. And Jesus gives us just such a promise here!
Jesus didn’t show Thomas the way with explicit directions, but he did say, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” He invited Thomas to trust in him, to follow him. He invites us to trust him too. As we stay close to our Lord Jesus, he shows us that he is the way to the Father. He is the truth. He is the one who leads us into life.
Jesus didn’t give Philip the sign he was fishing for. But he did reveal to him that he and the Father were one. Jesus invites us to believe this too, so that when we look to Christ, we will trust that we have seen the Father’s heart towards us, full of love and grace and mercy.
I still wish I could make plans. I don’t like all this flying by the seat of my pants! Jesus doesn’t give us plans, but he does give us promises. And through these promises he is inviting us to trust in him to get us where we need to be.
Thanks be to God. Amen.
Rev. Jeffrey R. Spencer
Oak Harbor Lutheran Church