Show me the Way to go Home
Words for 5th Sunday of Easter – 10 May 2020 Parish of Felixstowe
A Cyber Sermon from the Vicarage
Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ (John 14v5)
God give you peace my sisters and brothers.
There is a moment in the movie ‘Jaws’ when the shark hunters think they have disposed of the Great White Beast that has been terrorising the holiday-makers of Amity Island so they decide to celebrate. They go below decks on their boat, crack open a few beers and sing, ‘Show me the Way to go Home’. And then the Shark rams the boat, sends all the beer bottles flying, and reminds them that it is not yet safe to go back into the water.
There is a danger in presuming that just because things have gone quiet that all is well…
After what seems like an age since our government began the Lockdown, we are tempted, like the shark hunters, to think all is well. The peak number of deaths due to Covid 19 has passed. We have been behaving well. We are Social Distancing experts. Face masks have almost become a fashion item – a friend even had one made for me which mimics a Clerical Collar. And it is that rarity of rarities a Bank Holiday Weekend with glorious sunny weather. We long to go out to play, but we are frightened that the Beast might return. With our political leaders and our scientists we are unsure of the way out of this pandemic.
We share a common lot with the disciples of Jesus. Cloistered away in an Upper Room with troubled hearts, they are shocked to hear Jesus say that he will be leaving them. They knew following him was dangerous. They knew that going to Jerusalem at the Passover was part of the end game, Jesus himself had said that prophets only go there to die. They hoped that something wonderful would happen but they suspected disaster.
Then Jesus tells them he is going and they can’t come with him, yet…
You can hear the anxiety in Thomas’ voice when he cries, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ After all the time they had spent with Jesus there were two things that they had yet to learn.
That his name was ‘Emmanuel’ and he meant to live up to it.
That the Journey and the destination are the same.
These lessons are important for the whole of the life of faith but if we could learn them now we may also find our own hearts are less troubled.
Jesus is Emmanuel
‘God with us’ means precisely that. The revelation Jesus makes about the love of God is that it is intimate and personal. No longer do we have to travel to Jerusalem to be close to the Holy of Holies to be aware of God’s presence. We have a temple that is ‘not made with hands’.
Yes, it is comforting to gather together to worship in church and I miss it greatly, but we know that God is present outside the church building as well. Just as the veil of the Temple was torn in two on the first Good Friday to show that there was no longer any separation between God and Creation, so too we need to remember that there is nowhere we can find ourselves that God is not present (read Psalm 139v1-18 if you want a reminder).
Lockdown is irksome, and for some debilitating, and we have itchy feet. In the middle of our angst we need to recall that God is with us, alongside us, weeping with us, comforting us. This poem by Ruth Wells expresses God’s presence with us during lockdown perfectly;
God snuck home.
No longer bound
by the expectations
of a ‘consecrated’ building
She’s concentrated her efforts
on breaking out.
Now in the comfort
of a well-worn dining table
she shares some bread,
with some friends.
And she laughs.
And she weeps.
In the sacred space of home.
After all Jesus knows what it feels like to be a prisoner, he spent the last night of his earthly life in lockdown…
He is Emmanuel and that means even though we may feel lonely we are never alone.
The Journey and the Destination are the same
When Jesus takes up the title of ‘The Way’ (one of the great seven ‘I Am’ sayings in John’s Gospel) he reminds his followers, and us, that eternal life is not about ‘Pie in the Sky When you Die’.
Eternal Life is not something for which we are looking but something which we already possess. So in the discourse with Nicodemus we read, ‘Whoever has the Son has life’ not will have life. In today’s reading Jesus tells us, ‘Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.’ John sums up the whole purpose of Jesus being amongst us in John 20v30-31 saying ‘these [words] are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name’.
Life begins ‘now’ not ‘then’ and we need to live differently in response to that. Just as Jesus is the Emmanuel of the crib of Christmas, the Bread of Life we meet in the Eucharist, the quiet presence in the midst of our loneliness, so too we meet Jesus on every step we have yet to take. We are not just journeying home, we are journeying with the one who is our heart’s desire. In this way it matters not whether as St Paul mentioned, we are physically at home with the Lord, or still on the journey. If we are with Him we can find the peace that passes understanding in the midst of pain and pandemic, death and disaster, darkness and desperation.
This week is Christian Aid Week, usually we would have raised funds for them at a Coffee Morning and through giving envelopes (please do try to give something online here.) The one slogan Christian Aid uses that always grabs my heart is ‘We Believe in Life Before Death’. This is our faith! We are called to live the life we have in Christ now and, in so doing, respond to all the perils of the world in such a way that we make heaven out of a hell and bring life, light and love to all.
[This blog ‘Show me the Way to Go Home’ is copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2020 and may be reproduced without charge on condition that the source is acknowledged]