In the Name...
A preacher was going on one Sunday about how the “children of Israel” did this and the “children of Israel” did that, and this one little boy tapped his mother on the shoulder and asked, “Hey, Mom, what were the adults of Israel doing?”
Can anybody tell me, what is the meaning of life?
No? I thought it occupied our every waking moment. Well, maybe not. Actually, it takes all our time and energy just to cope with our daily routines. But, then there are times when something comes along which disrupts our routines and, usually, not for the better. All of a sudden that abstract question becomes our question. Things we took for granted suddenly look important. The things we thought were important begin to look so insignificant.
We wonder where we are going, if anywhere. What direction do we take when our very sense of direction has been lost? And, in our collect today, we referred to Jesus in words he used to describe himself to the disciples at a time when they were feeling lost and confused - the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life he told his disciples. One can imagine the scene in which those words were spoken. It was the Upper Room on Holy Thursday at the Last Supper. A lot of things were disrupted that night. A group of close friends have heard predictions of betrayal, their traditional religious ceremony has had some new words added, and their leader has taken the job of a servant and washed their feet. One of them has just left on some obscure errand. In short, they are feeling very confused about direction. Especially because their leader has told them he's about to leave them.
This passage from John in today’s Gospel really records the last words of Jesus to his disciples before his death. What can he say to those he is about to leave? What is the most important thing for them to remember? "Love one another, as I have loved you."
A great preacher once commented that it is very easy to run a society based on the Old Testament, but, almost impossible to do the same using the New. What he meant was that the Old Testament is filled with rules and regulations about everything under the sun from the Ten Commandments to how to remove mildew from your house (seriously, that's in Leviticus). The New Testament, on the other hand, is not so clear. It seems to focus on one person who points not to a code of laws, but, to himself and says I am the Way to God.
He doesn't say I have a way, but, I am the Way. That’s an important difference. It means that only when we are united with him can we understand God because he and the Father are one. Jesus is the face of God, the heart of God, the word of God.
And, Jesus is the Truth. That doesn't just mean he speaks the truth. Any of us can do that. He says he is the truth. Pilate asked "What is truth?” and he was looking for some abstract system of thought. But, if he had asked "Who is truth?” he would have seen it staring him in the face. The truth is not a theory; it is a person. God revealed the meaning of truth in Jesus.
And, Jesus is the Life. The philosopher Rene Descartes is famous for his line "I think, therefore I am." But, he would have done better, from the Christian viewpoint, to say "I think, therefore I know I am". We are; we exist, because God thinks; not us. We did not call ourselves into being. Our very life is a gift from a God who not only thinks, but, loves.
There's a saying around our nation's capital that everyone in Washington is important, or thinks they are. Well, to take that one step further all of us are important because God thinks we are. That's why we regard life as precious, sacred. We are not mistakes.
Of course, we all have days when we may think we are, and others may think we're very big mistakes, but, as far as God is concerned each one of us has a special dignity and value. He is the author of our being and has hopes and dreams for each of us.
Well, does any of this help give us direction? Don't worry. The disciples learned very soon that they didn't have a lot of ready answers to their questions. They had to work together to find a way forward out of their confusion, out of their crises. There was a great deal Jesus did not tell them about the future. They really didn’t understand that he was coming back from the tomb. And, when he came back they didn’t understand that he was going to leave them again.
But, one thing he did tell them, and he tells us the same, is that he trusts us. He trusts us to face the confusion and complexity of the world and still not lose sight of him. He trusts us. That's why he didn't leave a book of pat answers, he left us a life. His life, for us to live into.
That's the hard part about being a Christian. We can never say we've done it; that we've kept all the rules. The commandment of Jesus to love one another as he loved us is a rule we can never say we’ve accomplished.
Bear with me as I say that again. The commandment of Jesus to love one another as he loved us can never be accomplished; never be finished. Because as long as we live there’s always more loving to do. And since we have eternal life…well.
It may sound strange to say, but, looking to Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life doesn't actually solve anything. Even knowing that Jesus is the Way the Truth and the Life doesn't help us one bit. It's only by living, living as if Jesus is the Way the Truth and the Life that brings meaning and gives us direction.
What is the meaning of life? I have no idea. But, I do know that God knows, and someday I'll find out. In the meantime, I'll do my best to live as I have been loved.
In the Name...