Following the Truth, May 10

Following the Truth

1 Peter 2:2-10; Psalm 31:1-8, 15-16; John 14:1-14

Rev. Cathy Schuyler

Catskill, Palenville, Quarryville United Methodist Churches; May 10, 2020

 

Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Believe in God, believe also in me.  Trust me.  That's really what Jesus is saying to his friends on this last night before his death.  Trust me.  You know me, ergo, you know all you need to know.  If you know me, you know the Father.  Since you have seen me, you have seen the Father.  I know our time together seems short, but you know me.  Trust me.  I am not abandoning you.  I will send the Spirit who will keep on teaching you, keep on guiding you, keep on being with you.  This isn't, in fact, the end.  And you know the way where I am going.

 

They tried to listen.  They tried to let his comforting words in behind their fear, inside their hurting hearts.  But this last statement was too much.  Thomas calls him on it.  ‘I don't have that map in my notes,’ he says.  ‘Google maps does not give me directions.  You never told us the way beyond death.’  'How can we know the way you are going?'  And Jesus responds, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”  Follow me, just as you have been following me.  I am the way.

 

There are seven I am statements in John, echoing the core of scripture, God's words to Moses at the burning bush:  I am who I am, I will be who I will be.  There are mountains of books about exactly what God meant by YAHWEH, but the basic meaning can’t be ignored.  God is.  God is being itself.

 

In John’s gospel, Jesus uses the phrase ‘I am’ to declare: I am the light of the world; I am the bread of life; I am the vine; I am the gate; I am the Good Shepherd; I am the resurrection and the life; I am the way, the truth, and the life.  It’s that last declaration, central to today’s reading, that challenges us today.

 

We get ‘way.’  We commit to following Jesus the Way.  Two weeks ago we heard the story of the disciples walking with Jesus on the road to Emmaus, and we often wish we were they. Just a closer walk with thee, Jesus.  That’s what we seek and how we hope to get through life.  We get that faith is not simply about the goal of arriving in heaven, but it’s the walk, the way, the path and the manner in which we live to get there, to be there. 

 

We get ‘life’ – Jesus said last week, 'I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly.'  Jesus’ gift of life is for now and forever.  We can enthusiastically grasp and embrace Jesus as the Life.

 

But I am the truth?  We are inclined to shy away from anyone who tells us they have the truth.  Often their truths lack wholeness or compassion.  And without compassion, without an inclusiveness that welcomes all people, we are wary.  Too often we are offered truth, in fact, by people who say they follow Jesus, but their truth is rigid while Jesus is gentle, and their truth is closed tightly while Jesus is gracious to all.  Such so-called truth doesn't ring true, and so we are appropriately on our guard. 

 

I don't have a complete and seamless theology of truth to offer you here.  But I will share a few thoughts.  There's a difference between having truth and being truth.  Jesus is truth.  That is, truth spoken of here isn’t an idea, it’s a person.  John’s gospel begins with the incarnation.  The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.   Jesus is the truth and we can know the truth because we can know him.  Not know about him, but know him.  Jesus is fully God, here among us, and worthy of our trust.  That's what he means when he says believe in me.  Believe and trust and faith are all inadequate English translations of the Greek word ‘pistis.’  Jesus is saying to his disciples, his friends, that they should keep trusting him, as they have trusted him.  They know him.  They have shared life and bread and tears with him.  They can trust him, even after his death.  And because they know him, they know God.  And they can trust God, just as they trust Jesus.  Jesus, whom they know, has loved them, accepted them, forgiven them, and taught them of God in ways that were authentic like nothing they’d ever known.  So trusting Jesus until that moment wasn’t difficult.  Trusting beyond death was asking more.  That was the challenge of this conversation.

 

Jesus the truth is also Jesus the way.  That is, a key part of our choice to walk the way with Jesus is walking in truth.  Yes, that means truth in our public being – honesty on our taxes, returning incorrect change in our favor at the check-out counter, integrity in our business dealings.  Do you remember the story of the roommates in New Paltz a few years ago who bought a couch at a Salvation Army store, found $40,000 dollars under the cushions, and returned it.  They were living truth.  They would have been richer, but couldn't have lived with themselves.  So they returned the cash.  That's the kind of life we're called to in Jesus, following Jesus the way.  But trusting Jesus the truth also allows us to be truthful with ourselves, in our deepest heart and soul.  Truthful about pain and sorrow, truthful about anger and resentment.  Truthful about feeling compassion for others, letting their pain become our pain.  No shame is necessary, because it is Jesus, love incarnate, who is the truth that we speak.  So we can dare to admit to ourselves that we are sad.  We can dare to speak aloud our anger, even our confession of mean or wrong things we've done.  Only by claiming the truth, all of the truth in our lives, can we begin to forgive, let go, and move forward.  That's what the abundant life is, a life lived in grace and forgiveness.

 

What does that mean for us?  Moms, love your kids with the compassion of Jesus.  Celebrate that love today.  If you haven’t always lived that love, name that truth.  Forgive yourself, then seek the forgiveness of your kids.  Do the same for your mothers, fathers, too.  The families that we celebrate today are built on love, love that is strengthened by truth, spoken in love.

 

Our public life today is marked more by fear, anger, and shame than it is by truth and grace.  Jesus the truth lived by compassion and an eye and a heart for those who suffer.  We live in a world that honors instead only those for whom life is easy not those who suffer, a world which identifies compassion as a mark of weakness instead of as strength.  People who stand up for the poor or the forgotten are derided as ‘snowflakes.’ And science that we ask kids to learn well in school is then tossed aside when the conclusions it leads us to seem difficult or scary.  We who follow Jesus know that truth is inextricably bound up with compassion and care; we know that God’s grace is the foundation of life, of our lives, and we can embrace truth because we need not fear its implications.  Because the power of God’s love is greater even than death, we who live in that power can choose to speak to the pain of the world from love.  Our hearts ache with those who are sick and dying from CoVid 19, and we wear masks willingly and make them lovingly to keep the spread of disease as limited as possible.  It is true that human life matters more than the worth of the stock market; and it is true that the ultimate worth of a human life does not lie in one’s earning potential or one’s annual salary. Jesus says, ‘I am the truth.’ Implied in that is that his disciples know who he is.  If he is truth, then greed is not; if he is truth, then shame is not, and if he is truth, then forgiveness and mercy and tenderness are marks of truth.  And we who follow him choose his way of truth over the falsity and fear that speaks loudly in the air around us. 

 

Disciples of Jesus, the gospel is not and never has been fake news.  Its truth is grounded in the grace of Jesus Christ.  Claim that truth, friends.  Let it influence the way you live in the world, the way you treat one another, the way you react to the behavior and jokes and opinions of colleagues and friends, the way you live with grace in a world of fear and shame.  Let the compassion of Christ’s truth be the mark of your own way and life.  Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.  Follow that way, claim that truth, live that abundant life of grace and forgiveness.  Amen.  And amen.

 

1 Peter 2:2-10

2Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation— 3if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

4Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and 5like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6For it stands in scripture: “See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” 7To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the very head of the corner,” 8and “A stone that makes them stumble, and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. 9But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

 

Psalm 31:1-8, 15-16 (UMH 764)

1In you, O Lord, I seek refuge; do not let me ever be put to shame;

    in your righteousness deliver me.

2Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily.

Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me.

3You are indeed my rock and my fortress;

     for your name’s sake lead me and guide me,

4take me out of the net that is hidden for me, for you are my refuge.

5Into your hand I commit my spirit;

     you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.

6You hate those who pay regard to worthless idols, but I trust in the Lord.

7I will exult and rejoice in your steadfast love,

     because you have seen my affliction; you have taken heed of my adversities,

8and have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy;

     you have set my feet in a broad place.

 

15My times are in your hand;

     deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.

16Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.

 

John 14:1-14

14“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2In 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? 3And 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.

4And you know the way to the place where I am going.” 5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” 8Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” 9Jesus 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’? 10Do 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. 11Believe 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.

12Very 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. 13I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.