John 14: 1-14
I love a maze... or a puzzle.
I love to follow clues and discover hidden treasures
Sometimes cryptic; sometimes needing a map; sometimes just following a particular path until that goal is reached...
A few years back, when I was still up in Moray, one of the local farms in a very enterprising venture planted maize – corn plants which grow up to about 8 feet tall, but they didn’t plant in straight rows, instead they planted a puzzle – a maze made from maize. And that summer hundreds of visitors came to follow the paths, and reach the centre. Then, back out again. There was no prize, just the joy and excitement of the adventure.
A spiritual path can be taken through a labyrinth – different from a maze in that there are no dead ends or blind alleys; instead a labyrinth takes you into the centre of a circle and back out again, it takes time, it takes effort, but as you go something amazing happens, as you walk, and pray and contemplate where God may take you on your journey. (If anyone wants to know more ask me and I will give you a finger labyrinth to explore) The circular route, back and forth seems to make you slow down, it enables you to reflect, it touches deeply – if you will let it.
And it can have a profound effect deep within.
This week we have heard one of the most famous passages in St John’s Gospel; it is familiar because it is so often read at funerals – offering the comfort and reassurance of Jesus’ promise that God prepares a place for those who love him.
It is familiar; and indeed it does offer comfort to many, the route home is simple: follow Jesus... but I wanted to explore a little further with you.
Because – can it really be that simple? That easy?
The disciples were dubious too; probably not for the same reasons as me; but nevertheless they too asked pointed questions:
This passage contains two questions, each of which speaks to where the disciples were at that time; and which also may help us to understand a little better
First Thomas asks: Lord we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way to get there?
My instant response to this is – for goodness sake Thomas, weren’t you listening?
Because Jesus has just told them first he’s going to prepare a place, and second, he is then going to come back and take them – so that they will be where he is.
In which case, why, Thomas, do you need to know? Jesus is going to take you... get a grip!!
But Jesus is much more patient than me!
He takes time to explain – using the most profound of statements.
I am the way, the truth and the life...
And then, as if to take them into something much more tangible he adds: “now that you know me, you will know my Father also; from now on you know him and you have seen him”.
This is the most direct claim that Jesus makes: You see me, you see God, my Father.
Yet, still, they can’t or won’t grasp what he is saying to them and Philip pops up with question two:
“Show us the Father then Jesus. That’s all we need”
Jesus has just said, seeing me is the same as seeing the Father; but Philip cannot grasp what that means – it is beyond his comprehension in that moment. He is not yet ready to fully embrace that Jesus really is God the Son... it is too big.
Jesus answers him; patiently; calmly; slowly...
“Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. If not, believe because of the things I do”
Believe my words; if the words don’t work for you, then look at what I can do; look at all the things you’ve witnessed.
Now Philip – can you see?
I could wish that we had more of that conversation; more questions and answers, and each one getting plainer and plainer – until it becomes so obvious; so evident; so clear that no one can ever doubt it...
Yes, I can wish it. But then, where would faith be?
Because faith is intangible; faith cannot be tied down to explanations and definitions.
Faith makes sense looking back, reflecting, faith needs uncertainty.
Faith involves taking that leap; trusting that promise; faith is often coupled with the word blind for good reason.
Jesus is the way
The way is mystery
The mystery is the essence of faith
Jesus is the truth
The truth is that he is God’s Son;
and he is God – he asks us to believe because of the things he did, and does.
And Jesus is life.
If you remember last week, we reaffirmed another of his promises: he came that we may have life. Abundant Life!
And it really is that simple.
And that simplicity really is profound.
Like walking a labyrinth rather than a maze, the path to God, the path home may be circuitous, but following Jesus’ path will not lead up blind alleys, or try to confuse us.
The path home, takes us round and deep within ourselves
The path home is a voyage of discovery
Discovering the place God has for us; discovering also that God knows us, loves us, wants only good things for us
Jesus concludes in this passage by making an outrageous promise that has troubled many faithful souls, over every generation:
“I will do whatever you ask for in my name, so that the Father's glory will be shown through the Son. If you ask me for anything in my name, I will do it”.
This is troubling.
Because every prayer we make in Jesus name is not answered directly; is not granted instantly.
It is important that the middle phrase is given as much emphasis as the first and last... “So that the Father’s glory will be shown through the Son”
We may make prayers which will bring a quick fix; or relieve a particular problem; we may even make prayers that are only for good and generous purposes.
But they may not be to bring God glory
They may be for purely selfish motives
They may be a quick fix when effort and work are needed... we have to do our part
And, sometimes what we need is not the problem itself to be addressed, but our own hearts to be changed, softened, moved to a different palce...
If we were to change our prayers from
“God please let this or that come true, make good, happen this way...”
“Dear God, help me to accept; help me to understand; help me to let go....”
I wonder how different our walk would be
How different our approach to life on The Way would be
I believe in prayer
And I believe in miracles
I also believe that sometimes what I need to pray for is my own response, my own heart, my own attitude.
Because that truly is the way to the Father