Saturday, May 09, 2020

The way, the truth and the life 2020

The great American evangelist Billy Graham is quoted as saying, “I've read the last page of the Bible, it's all going to turn out all right.” I think there are some days and some times when we need to hear that a little more than at others… Perhaps for some of you, that time may be now ! 

And the readings from today point us, not to the last page of the bible, but certainly to some words of hope and inspiration. 

In the gospel according to John (14:1-14) we’re told by Jesus, ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me’. These are powerful words, and words which can be trusted because they come from Jesus, but it’s not always as easy as it sounds is it ? 

Sometimes, although we want to trust, 
and we want to be sure, 
and we want to know that everything will be ok in the end, 
it just doesn’t feel like it ! 

But Jesus didn’t leave it there. He had more to say, ‘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 ?’ 

People often think of this life and the next and that’s understandable in one sense, but actually Jesus in these words is linking up these supposed two lives and making one – one eternal life… 

Jesus has lived on earth, he has died and come back to life and has gone to prepare a place for us. We don’t get too many pictures of heaven from the bible but what we get is an image of a place of no pain, no mourning, no tears, a place where we live in close contact with God all the time. 

We get this idea that whatever might be happening to us now, whatever happened yesterday, whatever happens tomorrow, things will, as Billy Graham suggested, ‘turn out all right.’ 

That can be challenging enough for us sometimes, but as the disciples were listening to these words of Jesus, they didn’t know he was going to die and rise again, 
they didn’t understand the power that God would offer his people through the Holy Spirit, they didn’t understand the fact that what would become the church would grow into a worldwide family of millions, as we do, 
and so it was natural perhaps that Thomas would speak up and say, 
‘Lord we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way ?’ 

And Jesus responded with those words, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life…’ In other words, I think Jesus is saying that he’s all we ever need ! 

He is the way, leading us in the right direction in our lives. He is the truth – this is God, who we can trust, who we can follow, who has shown us how to live with love, with compassion, with hope and peace; and he is the life, in other words the giver of abundant and eternal life… 

And so we’re invited to follow his way; and to live, knowing and trusting his truth and we’re invited to accept life, life in all its fulness as our gospel reading last week described it (John 10:10)… 

Again in the gospel according to John we are being invited to make a decision as to what we think of Jesus and whether we should follow him or not… What is our response to his invitation drawing us closer to him ? 

And in the reading from Acts (7:55-60, 8:1a) we heard of a real example of what following Jesus meant as Stephen was stoned as the first Christian martyr. It’s a pretty gruesome account, and at first sight, perhaps following Jesus doesn’t seem the greatest idea ! 

But Stephen reminds us that it is. He doesn’t approach his earthly death with fear but with hope and with trust. His words are almost triumphant, ‘I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God !’

The people who were there to see Stephen die didn’t want to listen and covered their ears but Stephen clearly recognised that this wasn’t the end of his life but the start of a new phase – he understood perfectly this bridging of the life before earthly death and the life after earthly death into one life, eternal life with God. 

That is the life into which we are invited. A life that will have ups and downs. A life that will contain some sadness as well as hopefully lots of joy, but above all a life lived knowing that God is right here with us, that God takes our journey of life with us… 

And one final thing to add about that reading from Acts and that came from the last verse we heard, ‘And Saul approved of their killing him.’ Saul approved of killing Stephen.

This was the same Saul whose incredible conversion we read about if we continue the Book of Acts on just a little bit. This was the same Saul who would become Paul, probably the most prolific evangelist the church has ever known. 

Who knows the impact those words of Stephen had on Saul ?

We will hopefully not be called to die for our faith, but we are called to live for it, to live for Jesus, and to share something of his love, and of the peace and hope that he can offer, with others. 

We may never know the power of our words, of our small or huge acts of kindness, of our visible actions of trusting God wherever we find ourselves. 
Who knows what people see and when they will respond to the invitation of Jesus to ‘follow him’, the ‘way and the truth and the life.’  

Adapting some of the words of the hymn that will follow (The Day of Resurrection), 
‘The day of resurrection, let’s tell it out everywhere, 
Christ the Lord is risen, our joy can have no end.’ 

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