PRELUDE + MEDITATION
In you, O Lord, I seek refuge; do not let me ever be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me. Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily. Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me. You are indeed my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake lead me and guide me, take me out of the net that is hidden for me, for you are my refuge. Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.
God who has called
his people to repentance,
who has set the world on a course
toward the coming kingdom,
who has appointed his Son
as Savior and King—
you alone are worthy
to raise the dead to life
and forgive sin and evil deeds.
May we proclaim the good news
of your lordship to the heavens,
to the hills, the valleys, the plains,
and to the depths of the sea. Amen.
PRAYER OF ILLUMINATION
you prepare a place for us,
in the home of the Mother-and-Father of us all.
Draw us more deeply into yourself,
through scripture read,
so that when our hearts are troubled,
we will know you more completely
as the way, the truth, and the life. Amen.
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.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled,” seems like a pretty tall order. The disciples do not seem too sure they can do that, given the circumstances. Judas just left in the dark, betrayal on his mind. And Phillip wants Jesus to call God down so he can have proof. Are troubled hearts something we allow to happen? Or are they thrust upon us? Jesus attempts to still their troubled hearts by telling them he is leaving and he will make a place for them where he is going. On the one hand, it must have comforted them to be included. On the other, I am sure this kind of leaving must have troubled them even more.
The disciples are not the only ones with troubled hearts. It seems like we have enough on our plate that is troubling, too. Global Pandemic. Unemployment. Upcoming Elections. Financial burdens. Educational concerns. Murder Wasps. No public worship. There are plenty of troubling things in our world, too. Again, we are not the first. I have been reading about the church’s response during the Influenza Pandemic of 1918, fascinating stuff: The Rev. S.O. Coxe, pastor of Handley Memorial Presbyterian Church, in Birmingham, Alabama, reflected on the need for a ban of public gatherings for worship.
“By the wise and necessary action of the City Commission and the Board of Health, on account of the scourge of disease now prevailing, all congregational activities are canceled for a minimum period of two weeks,” Coxe wrote. “But, while this providence is a severe one, affecting as it does all our plans and programs in this the most opportune season of the entire church year, may we not yet turn this season to best account by accepting it as an opportunity for the exercise of a fuller devotion to God and to the things of His Kingdom?
Necessarily we shall be kept in our homes many hours that would otherwise be spent in recreation and amusement. Perhaps this circumstance will serve to remind us that in these sacred home-circles there is to be found the very finest of fellowship and the sweetest and most wholesome of all influences. And certainly, if we should improve these hours by prayer and meditation, the seeming curse of this scourge would not be unmixed with blessing.”
Rev. Coxe is making the point that this season of quarantine can be a season of relationship building. That sacred home-circles can be the very finest of fellowships and the sweetest of influences with hours of prayer and meditation. The building of relationship within the home and with Christ. I think this is also, part of what Jesus means when he tells the disciples that the only way to the Father is through him. The way home is not about going to a place, it is about the relationships that make the place home. Jesus is going to prepare their place-their home, wherever that may be and whenever they will need it, because he already loves them. All through the Book of John, the writer is trying to share the importance of knowing Jesus – of being in relationship with Christ. He stresses the kinds of signs that point to who Jesus is and not to the miracle itself. Jesus’ long speeches and “I am” statements point to the ways the disciples can relate to Jesus. He speaks of the connections they share and the difference this will make in their lives.
Not allowing a troubled heart need not be seen as a promise of a worry- and fear-free life. If we read verse one that way, it seems to promise too much. But it does say something about the kinds of things that Jesus thinks might trouble them. He wants them to know that the only thing that should trouble their hearts is separation from him. His words about preparing a place should take care of that. Jesus promises that they too will have the ability to share this relationship with others. Part of their job as disciples will be to stay in relationship so they can be the place preparers for future disciples.
John’s use of the word “household or family” rather than “house or building” gives the sense of community and relationship. In the Father’s household or family there are many ways of being or dwelling. We translate the nominal form of the verb meno, to abide, “dwelling places.” Abiding with Jesus weaves its way throughout John as a formative idea.
Jesus tells the disciples and us something important about “where” he is going. “To the Father” is perhaps a relationship, not a place. These many dwelling places reveal to us not changes in geography, but changes of heart. It is an ongoing thing, because it has already been done for us in some sense, and remains a future hope as well. Understandably, the disciples are uncertain about how to get where he is going. Jesus assures them that he himself is the way, hodos. In Greek, as in English, the word can mean path or road or can be used to mean way of life or practice. In this sense of passage, our journey with Jesus, spiritual and otherwise, is affirmed. Life with him is not a destination or an accomplishment—or a victory won—as much as it is a way of being and becoming.
A transformation happens. A change of heart from trouble-filled to peace-filled embraces those disciples as they learn along their way that Jesus has come with them, and goes ahead to prepare a place. A destination like this: changes everything. Companionship like this: changes everything. Relationship is the essential component, not a building. This reminds me of Emily Dickinson’s poem: Some keep the Sabbath going to church. The theme of the Poem is the day of Sabbath, or the day of rest in Christianity, supposed to be devoted to spirituality and worship. On this day, says the Poet, people head to the Church with their families to listen to the sermons delivered and the preaching taking place. The poet, in contrast, prefers and suggests sitting at home, her own place of worship, and spending time in the company of nature, with birds for the choir and tree cover as the Church. This seems right for a season of quarantine:
Some keep the Sabbath going to Church –
I keep it, staying at Home –
With a Bobolink for a Chorister –
And an Orchard, for a Dome –
Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice –
I, just wear my Wings –
And instead of tolling the Bell, for Church,
Our little Sexton – sings.
God preaches, a noted Clergyman –
And the sermon is never long,
So instead of getting to Heaven, at last –
I’m going, all along.
As we stay at home: Home become a place to worship. Home becomes a movable feast. Home becomes a place to build our relationship with Christ. Even in those moments when we feel troubled, and when we cannot fully trust ourselves or one another, there is a place prepared. And that makes all the difference in these troubling times! Christ is with us!!
Commentary provided by Karoline Lewis, Gayle Landis, Sarah Henrich, David Lose, Jamie Clark-Soles, Alex Evans, & Elizabeth Lovell Milford.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE & THE LORD’S PRAYER
A Prayer for Mother’s Day
The prophet Isaiah said, “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you.”
Mothering God, we cherish Your great love for us.
As the Creator, You made us in Your image, and called life from the earth and water.
In baptism, we are born anew, from water and Spirit, and Your love and care are made known to us as we grow in faith.
We give You thanks for those who have been mothers and stepmothers in our lives, for grandmothers and aunts and all those who have been like mothers to us, who have shown us Your comfort and courage, peace and strength.
God of Peace, we acknowledge that this day that was originally created for mothers grieving the loss of their children in war.
We grieve with all who have lost a child, who have struggled with fertility issues, who have had to give up children in foster care and adoption.
May Your love surround us, hold us in these tender times. Loving God, we hold tenderly the ones who have difficult relationships with their mothers, for those who have separated in relationship.
We weep with those who are missing their mothers.
In these difficult times, O God, we know the distance that separates us, the physical distance for safety, the distance of time for those gone, the distance of fading memories.
We know the distance of estrangement.
We pray for healing wherever possible, O God, for forgiveness wherever possible, and for the hope that You bring in our lives. Hold us, Loving Parent, in Your healing hands, on this day.
As we offer these prayers, we do so in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who taught us to pray saying…
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.
You are a baptized people,
a community of hope,
the new race dedicated to doing the unlikely deeds of grace,
and sometimes even taking on the impossible.
Thanks be to Christ,
whose power is made perfect in human weakness.
The blessing of the Creator, Redeemer and Inspirer
will always be with you.