FPC Sermon May 14, 2017 John 14: 1-14
On this Mother’s Day, we are faced with a Gospel text which is actually a “goodbye speech” or, as Biblical commentators like to call it, a “farewell discourse.” We know these words well because we often read this text at funerals.
Jesus wants us to know that his death is not the end; rather, it’s the beginning. It’s the beginning of new life for each one of us.
We hear often in the Gospels that Jesus’ disciples rarely understood anything he said. Yet, he never gave up on them. He kept trying to communicate with them. He loved them through their bickering, their attempts at one-upsmanship, their misunderstandings, and their betrayals. He knew they had troubled hearts, and he began with that.
Mother’s Day is a very happy occasion, especially when our mothers love us, we love them, and they are close by. For those of us who have lost our mothers, however, it’s very bittersweet. We know they are in the loving care of God, but we miss them all the same.
When mothers give birth, this wonderful child that emerges from the womb is a special gift entrusted to them. This weekend on public radio’s Story Corps, a mother and daughter, African-Americans, spoke of their lifelong special relationship. Maybe some of you heard them.
The daughter Yomi Wrong was born with a rare condition of exceptionally fragile bones. In fact, said Yomi, my mother had a vaginal birth which then broke the rest of my bones. [LAUGH] So I was born with my, both of my arms and legs broken, several ribs fractured skull, collapsed lung…and I was in pretty bad shape and I was not diagnosed initially with brittle bone disease.
If birth had been a trauma, just imagine what life outside the womb was like. Just a soft touch could break Yomi’s bones. Shortly after giving birth, doctors told the mother, Sarah Churchill, that she had a choice — she could try to raise a child who might not survive, and, if she did, would be a tremendous burden on their family, or Sarah could leave the child at the hospital since she wouldn’t live long.
That’s not what happened, though. What happened was a lifetime of love. In the interview this week, Yomi told her mother, “I don’t know if I’ve ever told you this but I also feel like you picked me. If you had walked away and left me there when I was born, nobody would have looked askance.” Yomi is about to celebrate her 45th birthday.
We have a miracle baby in our own congregation: Nancy LaCroix. In her case, though she was the one with the disability, she took care of her mother in later life.
I’m sure that all of us, whether we’re sons or daughters, keep in our hearts the special stories about our mothers. For you children here today, keep your mother close to your heart because you were a choice. You are the beloved of your parents. Always remember this. Each day is an opportunity for us to give to each other the same love that Jesus gives to us.
The reality is that life is fleeting. Jesus uses the word “trouble” several times in the preceding chapters of John. Jesus is a human being. He is fearful of death and its power over us human beings.
Jesus wants his disciples, those who were with him when he spoke these words, and those of us who are here today, to understand that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. The upheaval , the turmoil, that death can create is not the end. Jesus leads us through those trials with the promise of life everlasting.
This is the only place in John’s gospel where he talks about preparing a place for his disciples. It’s part of Jesus’ assurance that he’s not going to abandon his disciples. He’s coming back to lead and guide them.
Like Thomas, who says he doesn’t know where Jesus is going, you and I often miss the point of Jesus’ guidance. Jesus wants us to know he’s guiding us every step of the way. We just have to pay attention, believe in him, and seek to follow him by doing what he did.
In this passage, Jesus speaks not to individuals but rather, to the community of believers. You and I live in community. As Presbyterians, we’re linked to the broader church, to the Presbytery, Synod, and General Assembly.
This coming Saturday, we are hosting the Presbytery of Mackinac. Our Presbytery meets three times a year. When we gather and break bread together, we remember Jesus’ call to us to love and serve each other. The Reverend Melissa Lopez of Traverse City will be preaching to us at worship. Our Moderator, the Reverend Jessica Paulsen, will guide our deliberations.
Our Presbytery faces serious challenges, challenges of distance, challenges of finances, challenges of membership, and challenges of commitment and conforming to the vows that all ordained officers, whether teaching elders, ruling elders, or deacons, have made.
We are so fortunate that, as Presbyterians, we have our Book of Order to direct us. One of our most important principles, which I mentioned last week as one of the Great Ends of the Church is the preservation of truth.
We also know from F-3.0104 of the Book of Order that truth is in order to goodness, and the great touchstone of truth, its tendency to promote holiness, according to the Savior’s rule, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” It also tells us that ”we are persuaded that there is an inseparable connection between faith and practice, truth and duty. Otherwise, it would be of no consequence either to discover truth or to embrace it.”
Truth and duty, faith and practice. On this Mother’s Day, we remember that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. God has reached out to us by giving us Jesus as our guide.
Whether you’re a teenager about to graduate from high school, a junior high student trying to forge relationships, an adult trying to bond with coworkers, or a member of this congregation seeking ways to show Jesus to the world, you all are blessed with a savior whom you can trust.
Jesus wants us to trust each other, too. Trust is fostered by honest communication. Anything else is a departure from what Jesus expects of us.
As we leave here today – and some of us will be very fortunate to be able to celebrate Mother’s Day – let’s keep Jesus, the one who has prepared a place for us, in our hearts and minds. But not just there, let’s be the face of Jesus so that others will know him, too. Amen.