Interruptions & Upheavals: Pt. 3
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In God's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I Am, The Way, The Truth, The Life. No one comes to God except through me. If you had known me, you would have known God also. From now on you do know God and have seen God.”
Philip said to him, “Lord, show us God, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen God. How can you say, ‘Show us God’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in God and the God is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but God who lives in me does the works of God. Believe me that I am in God and God is in me, or else believe because of the works themselves.
The truth of the matter is, anyone who has faith in me will do the works I do—and greater works besides.
Why? Because I go to God, and whatever you ask in my name I will do, so that God may be glorified in me. Anything you ask in my name I will do.
1 Peter 2:1-10
Therefore, never be spiteful, deceitful, hypocritical, envious or critical of each other. Like newborn babies, be hungry for nothing but milk—the pure milk of the word that will make you grow into salvation, now that you have “tasted that our God is good.” Come to Christ—a living stone, rejected by mortals but approved nonetheless, chosen and precious in God’s eyes. And you are living stones as well: you are being built as an edifice of spirit, to become a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ. For scripture has it, “See, I am laying a cornerstone in Zion; an approved stone, and precious. Those who put their faith in it will not be shaken.” The stone is precious for you who have faith. But for those without faith,
“The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and, at the same time, “an obstacle and a stumbling block.” Those who stumble and fall are the disbelievers in God’s word; it is their destiny to do so.You, however, are a “chosen people, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people set apart” to sing the praises of the One who called you out of the darkness into the wonderful, divine light. Once you were “not a people,” but now you are the people of God; once there was “no mercy for you,” but now you have found mercy.
Priests for Equality. The Inclusive Bible . Sheed & Ward. Kindle Edition.
Show us. What's next?
Is that the question of the day or what? Show me the way! How do we do this thing? So here we are entering week 9 of the pandemic and we want answers on what’s next and we get a passage that talks about Jesus telling the disciples that he is leaving them. All the work and ministry they had seen Jesus do- the healings, the miracles, the wonders- he’s more than their leader, he’s their anchor in this whole thing, and now he’s cutting them loose? Of course, the disciples are upset. ‘You’re Going?’ asks Thomas. ‘How will we know the way- how are we supposed to know what to do?"
Thomas's words resonate, don't they? When we heard about the stay at home order, as a church, we felt it. What now? How will we know the way? How will we be the church without our anchor. My friend Beth calls it the feeling of being "untethered;' unmoored- and it did kind of feel like we were just set adrift on the sea- no sails, no direction- for a moment anyway.
I was so glad that we came together so quickly online-because of each of you, we were able to create a new structure for communication and connection, so we don't have to feel quite as untethered these days. In fact, some of you have told me you are getting tired of all the connecting and zooming and calling- that you could use some time alone. Well, praise God, Amen? The church is doing our job!
But what’s next? Last week we talk about how going back, whenever that might be, that church won’t look or feel the same-but that whatever we have to do, that we will figure it out together, and together, follow the spirit’s leading to create a new normal.
But like Thomas, and the other disciples, knowing that we’ll be without our anchor for a while longer means we want and need direction- so I want to challenge us to listen to the words Jesus said to Thomas: ‘You want to know the way, Thomas?" Says Jesus. "I AM."
Jesus replies in the name of God- I AM! And then gives three other names for God- The Way, The Truth, The Life! I and if you know me, you know God, and you can’t get to God except through me- if you've seen me you've seen God, so from now on you know God and have seen God!
And Philip, thankfully, Interrupts: “What? Where? Show us! Show us God- that's all we want- show us- we want to see, hear, touch, and know God, too.”
And I am Interrupting Philip here because no kidding, he's speaking what everyone in the room is thinking... 'just show us for crying out loud- I need to see the anchor!
And Jesus looks back at Philip, “Have I been with you so long, and you still don't know me, Philip?
Whoever has seen me has seen God. How can you say, ‘Show us God’? Do you not believe that I am in God and God is in me?
Silence... blinking... "well?" Crickets...
Do you think I'm making this up as I go along? God is the one in charge- God is the one who has been doing all of this- all these works, miracles, healings, wonders... it's all been God- in me. (sigh) You can believe me- that I am in God and God is in me, or you can just believe because of the works themselves.
And now we have to interrupt Jesus. Because this is often where we trip in our own spiritual awareness. Jesus is the revelation of God. Jesus shows us the character of God. Jesus reveals to us the mind and heart of God- Jesus lives out the with-God-life on earth- right here- teaches us that God is not separate from Jesus.
But back up-then- what about’ nobody gets to God except through Jesus part- we have to go through Jesus to get to God- don’t we? Well, let’s ask the question- is God really an exclusive deity that has Jesus standing at the door checking our ticket to salvation on the way in to the throne room of Grace? Would God exclude everyone who doesn’t join in this new Jesus religion?
Well, we just said Jesus revealed the character of god. “And what has that character been? One of exclusion, rejection, constriction, favoritism, and condemnation? Of course not! Jesus’s way has been compassion, healing, acceptance, forgiveness, inclusion, and love from beginning to end…”
Jesus didn’t exclude anyone. In fact he brought in to the center of his ministry exactly the people who the religious folk had kicked to the curb because they didn’t live up to their standards or doctrinal viewpoint or moral code. This is the character of God- this is the inclusive nature of God- that God accepts and loves all.
Take a breath. I realize that Interruption, for some of us, just became an upheaval. That maybe, just maybe, the radical love of God extends even to those outside our Christian doctrinal circle- that the spirit of the living God lives in ALL people. If we believe Jesus is in God and God in Jesus and that when we have seen Jesus we have seen God there is no other answer. God loves all- unconditionally- that’s what grace is.
But what that also means, is that God is in us. In the passage from 1st Peter Jesus is called a living stone-chosen and precious in God’s eyes- and then he quickly follows that statement with this, “And you are living stones as well: you are being built as a house of spirit, to become a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ.”
This is the way we go forward. This is our mission. Believing, entrusting, being convinced of the fact that God is not separate from us- that God is not an entity out there, that is watching and judging and deciding our fate. God is as intrinsically connected to us as our veins, or organs or skin... if we believe- are convinced of this- my friends, it changes everything. Believing the living God is living in you- not wondering if God is with you or not, but knowing you are a living stone- a dwelling place for God- and together, we are being built up into a spiritual order, network, society, edifice. It changes the way we see ourselves, and also the way we treat others. Especially right now, we’re in these extreme circumstances- and crisis, well, people handle it in different ways. God living in us, believing we carry the Christ in us, means we also don’t get to judge, or shame, or slander, or exclude. It means we lead with love- it means we bring compassion, healing, acceptance, forgiveness, and we bring inclusion- even and especially too the people who have been kicked to the curb.
And church, if this is our identity- then its no wonder Jesus tells us that when we believe this, we can do the works he did- in fact, Jesus says, greater works besides. There is no end to the and no limit to where God can bring us- if we let Christ show us the way.