Easter 5, Year A
10 May 2020
Rev Kate McDonald, St Andrew’s Church Jerusalem and Tiberias
Acts 7.55-60, Psalm 31.1-5,15-16, 1 Peter 2.2-10, John 14.1-14
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I’m Kate McDonald, Associate Minister of St Andrew’s Jerusalem and Tiberias, and I pray you may know the hope and comfort of God’s faithful presence on this the Fifth Sunday of Easter.
Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. Give us grace to love one another and walk in the way of his commandments, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?
Thomas asks this question of Jesus in this morning’s gospel reading from John 14.1-14.
Though we are in the season of Easter, this reading takes us back to the evening before Jesus was arrested.
The disciples have had dinner, and Jesus has washed their feet.
Judas has gone out into the night on his way to betray him.
Jesus has just told Peter that soon Peter will deny knowing him.
And for days Jesus has been explaining to them that soon he will be killed.
Knowing the uncertainty and anxiety that they will face, Jesus is preparing the disciples for the time they will be separated from him.
Don’t be troubled, he says.
Trust in God.
Trust in me.
Trust that you’re not alone.
I am going ahead of you to prepare a place for you.
My Father’s house has plenty of room.
And you know the way to the place I am going.
He offers these words as words of comfort. But Thomas confesses he just doesn’t understand.
‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?’
How can we know the way?
I’ve heard this question asked often in different contexts over the past few weeks, as we ourselves face uncertain and anxious times, separated from one another, with hearts troubled by all kinds of losses.
None of us have been here before. none of us have experienced anything like this. None of us can know the path that lies ahead of us.
We don’t know how our communities will be affected as restrictions are eased. How can we know the way … out of lockdown?
We don’t know what our life and worship as a church will look like on the other side of this pandemic. How can we know the way … to safely use our buildings and join together in fellowship?
We don’t know what our world will be like in a few months’ time. How can we know the way … to heal a society that has experienced so many layers of grief?
And maybe if we’re really honest, some of us will confess that we just feel lost in a situation that is always changing. We don’t know with certainty how God is acting, where God is guiding us through this global crisis.
So how can we know the way?
In times of grief, our view is distorted. It is as though we are walking through thick fog. Familiar landmarks disappear. The shapes around us are eerie and insubstantial. We’re unable to see the road ahead.
Jesus knew the impact that grief would have on his followers. And his words of comfort are just the good words we need to hear today. We need him to calm our troubled hearts. We need the reminder to trust in God, to join with people of faith throughout history who, in anxious times have recalled the ways in which God has been their refuge and heard their cries.
God has seen them through before. God will see us through now.
But Jesus also offers an invitation to his followers when we struggle to know the way.
I am the Way, he says.
The disciples don’t fully understand this either. So Jesus points them back to the time they have journeyed together, the signs of the kingdom they have witnessed.
And so we know that Jesus’ Way is the Way of feeding, healing, welcoming, forgiving.
It is the Way of compassion, of mercy, of justice.
It is the Way of generosity and hospitality.
It is the Way of love.
It is not an easy path, but it is one he invites us to walk at all times, in all ways, especially in these disorienting days when so many are feeling lost.
Like the disciples, we have so many questions. We face so many unknowns. Our hearts are troubled.
But Jesus points us back to the way that leads to life, assuring us that wherever there is healing, reconciling, life-giving work happening, God is there, calling us to join in that work. God is faithful. Whatever lies ahead as we seek to walk in the Way of Christ, God will be with us, guiding our steps.
Let us pray.
Lord, our way, our truth, our life, you speak peace to troubled hearts. Enfold in your loving compassion all who cry out to you in pain and sorrow. Fill your church with your abiding grace. And guide our steps in the week to come, that we may walk in your way, loving and serving you with joy and thanksgiving. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
May the God of peace give you peace in all times and in all ways. And the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit be upon you and remain with you always. Amen.