Join Now: 1-800-777-7731

kirshalom.gif united-on.gif

Sermon & Lectionary Resources           Year A   Year B   Year C   Occasional   Seasonal


Join our FREE Illustrations Newsletter: Privacy Policy
Click  Here  to  See  this  Week's  Sermon
Sermon and Reflections For The Fifth Sunday of Easter - Year A
Acts 7:55-60; Psalm 31:1-5,15-16; 1 Peter 2:2-10; John 14:1-14
"Mr. One Way"
Barry Robinson

From time to time we feature "Keeping The Faith in Babylon: A Pastoral Resource For Christians In Exile", a weekly set of comments and reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary texts by Barry Robinson (Lion's Head, Ontario, Canada).   Barry describes his resource this way: "Keeping The Faith in Babylon... is a word of hope from a pastor in exile to those still serious about discipleship in a society (and, too often, a church) that has lost its way".   Contact Barry at fernstone@fernstone.org to request samples and get further subscription information. Snail mail inquiries can be sent to Barry at the address at the bottom of this page.
KEEPING THE FAITH IN BABYLON
A pastoral resource for Christians in Exile
Barry J. Robinson

The Fifth Sunday of Easter - Year A
Acts 7:55-60; Psalm 31:1-5,15-16; 1 Peter 2:2-10; John 14:1-14
'Mr One Way'

	
	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, 
	and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me. If you 
	know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him 
	and you have seen him."

It is an old joke, but it is still true.

Seems this man died and was ushered into heaven, which appeared to be an 
enormous house. An angel began to escort him down a long hallway past 
"many rooms". 

"What's in that room?" the man asked, pointing to a very sombre-looking group 
of people chanting a Gregorian mass.

"That's the Roman Catholic room," said the angel. "Very high church."

"What's in that room?" the man asked, pointing to a group of half-naked 
dancers gyrating their hips and occasionally shrieking out loud.

"That's the Balinese group," said the angel. "Very lively."

"What's in that room?" asked the man, pointing to a group of bald-headed 
people meditating to the sound of an enormous gong.

"That's the Zen group," said the angel. "Very quiet. You would hardly know 
they were here."

Then the angel stopped the man, as they were about to round a corner. "Now, 
when we get to the next room," said the angel, "I would appreciate it if you 
would tiptoe past. We mustn't make any sound."

"Why's that?" asked the man.

"Because in that room there's a bunch of very fundamentalist Christians; and 
they think they're the only ones here."

                                    +

If you've ever wanted a scripture text to make you feel smug about being a
Christian, today is you're lucky day. If you've ever wanted a text with which 
to hit your unbelieving friends over the head, or that will help you make a 
few Muslims or Jews or Hindus feel bad, have I got one for you.

	Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one 
	comes to the Father except through me.

"I am the way. Me. You want to get to heaven? You do it through me. Are we
clear?!"

Now, before any of you get a little testy with me, let me say right at the 
start that this week's very familiar passage was probably meant to bring a 
note of comfort to a group of Christians struggling to maintain their 
identity around the close of the first century C.E. The author, the apostle 
John, or more likely a disciple of John by the time this was written, 
was attempting to give courage and hope to people who found themselves in 
the midst of a very nasty fight with their Jewish neighbours in the 
synagogue. Their survival as a community of faith and their individual 
security and safety were very much on the line; because we all know what 
can happen to people of faith - any kind of faith - when that faith 
becomes passionate, exercised, don't we?  Only one thing matters - being 
true to the faith that is yours and resisting anything else. You cannot read 
a book like the gospel of John without keeping such circumstances in mind. 
John was writing to people who were frightened, vulnerable and defensive.

Much like people are at a funeral, when the world seems to close in. Somebody 
dear has left or is going, just the way John pictures Jesus leaving his 
disciples one last time.  People are grieving, having a hard time hearing much 
of anything that's being said. They wonder what's going to happen to them 
and the people who are dear to them.  It's a situation John's people knew 
well. Which Jesus' disciples did.  Which we do.

	"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also 
	in me. In my Father's house there are many dwelling places....  I go 
	and prepare a place for you,"   Jesus says. 
	
"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to remember our departed sister, to hold 
the faith that is ours and to comfort one another," the preacher says.  Because 
it is a comfort to know that the person you have bet your life on can be 
trusted.  Because it is a source of deep relief to know that the people who 
have shared that faith with you will be taken care of in the end.  Don't we 
all want to know that there will be room for us one day?  That we will not be 
left on the outside?  That we know the way in?

"I am that way," says Jesus, according to John. "I am the way to get there."

To give John the benefit of the doubt, I think we should first assume that his 
aim was pastoral, an attempt to comfort those friends of his who were afraid. 
Who needed assurance. P eriod.  Whether or not he meant anything more, whether 
or not he meant those words as a kind of challenge, a gauntlet thrown down in 
the face of Jewish rivals when the fight turned bitter is anybody's guess. 
"I am the way because your way is not!  Jesus is the only way to God!  It is 
our way or the highway, friend!" Who knows.

What is not in dispute is the way Christians have used such a text to say 
things just like that.  Not to comfort one another, but to make people who 
don't believe in Jesus or don't believe in Jesus the way they do or don't read 
the Bible the way they do or don't talk about their faith the way they do feel 
on the outside. Used such a text, in other words, like a weapon. If ever there 
has been an obscene finger gesture, it would certainly have to include that 
one finger extended heavenward in defiance of any other way other than the
authorized Christian way, which, of course, means the way that I or my group
authorizes and not yours. The kind of 'Christianity', in other words that 
gives Jesus a bad name.  "There is one way to heaven and that is our way!"

                                    +

I'm glad Jesus said (or John said Jesus said, take your pick), "I am the way, 
the truth and the life."  I'm glad he said it to (or John said he said it to, 
take your pick) people like Thomas and Philip and the rest of the disciples,
people who said, "But we don't know the way... Show us the way."  People 
who had been with him all along, who had watched his every move, heard every 
word and still didn't get it.

	"Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not 
	know me?"

Right.  Because this Mr. One Way is not as easy to get as Christians have 
often thought, so inclined have we been to think we can wrap him up in a
theological opinion or a three-point sermon - which other people better agree 
with if they know what's good for them.  Yes, we have been with him all this 
time and still don't get it, don't get the way he insists on - always moving 
on, moving out to people who are on the outside, who haven't found the way 
in yet, always leaving the ninety and nine in the fold and going out to endure 
all the indignities of the search just so that he can find the one that is 
lost.  "I am the way, the truth and the life."  "Like that, not like your 
precious opinions about me.  Not like your beliefs about me.  Just me.  I am 
the way!"

"You want to know the way, the only way?", Mr. One Way says.  "A sower went 
out to sow and scattered good seed everywhere - every-where!  A man found 
weeds growing in his wheat-field and said, "Leave'm be! Dandelions make good 
wine!  A man had a son who stayed at home and kept all the rules and one who 
was a loser and got busted.  Guess what?!  He loved them both!  I'm the good
shepherd, the one who lays down his life for his sheep and who has sheep 
that aren't even part of this fold yet who belong to me too!  That's the way 
I am.  That's the truth I am.  That's the life I am.  Now do you get it?"

Yes, there is something comforting about this week's gospel and it is that 
the way into wherever all of us need to be, the only way in, is a lot broader 
and wider, a lot more welcoming and expansive than any of us have ever 
imagined.  Room enough for everyone!

For Mr. One way was a gauntlet thrown down, was and is a challenge to every
theology and religious practice that tries to ex-clude and be-little and 
re-serve "room" for itself alone, every life-style that presumes to think 
that only some have a right to what they need and that those who don't are
expendable. And it is not much wonder that we still have trouble seeing a 
world like that, seeing the way he was and is and the way we all of us still 
need to become. And it is why we still need to say to him: "Lord, show us the 
way you are!  Show us the way!"
	
                               --------- 

Acts 7:55-60  - Since it is one of the most moving stories in all of 
the Bible we should do it the honour of reading it all (Acts 6.7-15; 7.1-60) 
or maybe even acting it out in a group. Stephen is presented as a model of 
faith and courage, a man who dares to bring forth the truth of a bitter 
family dispute. It was a fight that had grown considerably worse by the time 
Luke wrote these words, with the temple of Jerusalem, from which Christians 
had long since been expelled, now in ruins and the division between the church 
and Judaism firmly entrenched.

    1.  The story suggests that there is something persistently suspicious,
	intolerant and malicious within religious communities. Is this fair? Why or
	why not?
    2.  What are the comforting and the discomforting truths of the story?
    3.  When have you seen this scenario acted out in a religious community?  
	How did it change you?


1 Peter 2:2-10 - The author uses startling imagery to provoke a new 
sense of identity within the community of faith: newborn babies, a living 
stone, holy priesthood, chosen race, royal people, God's chosen, God's own. 
Peter wants his listeners to understand that their vocation is now 
irrevocably tied to Christ.

    1.  Compare Peter's imagery for church and ministry with the ones primarily
	 being used in your church or denomination to describe "effective" and
	 "successful" ministry. What differences do you notice and how do you feel
	 about them?
    2.  Who would Jesus want to feel like they were of royal blood?
    3.  How have Christians both misunderstood and misused such a notion?


John 14:1-14 -  - Although the setting is Jerusalem and Jesus' last 
supper with his friends, the author is writing this for the members of 
John's congregation. It was an attempt to sustain them during the first 
major crisis of the church: how to live in a hostile world in which one's 
enemies may be those of one's own household. The author wants to reassure 
Jesus' followers that their suffering will only be reinforced by Jesus' 
connection with them and his power in them - provided they understand what 
Jesus' way is.

    1.  When and how have you observed Christians misusing the statement or the
	idea behind it: "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the
	Father except by me."
    2.  What is it about Jesus "way" that sustains you during dark and 
	troubling times?


FOR FURTHER REFLECTION - - "I'm in a church which acts as if God has a very 
small house, with only a few rooms and only one door. But thanks be to God, 
God's house, according to Jesus, has many rooms, many places to dwell. If it 
were not so, he would have told us." - A minister of the United Methodist 
Church forced out of his congregation and the ministry.

What are the implications of this week's gospel for such a minister and 
such a church?  In what ways do you need to proclaim such a message?


HYMN  628  Come, My Way, My Truth, My Life  (Voices United)
Keeping the Faith in Babylon:
A pastoral resource for Christians in Exile
A publication of FERNSTONE:
Transformative Resources for the Human Journey
All rights reserved. Please do not copy.
FERNSTONE:
Transformative Resources for the Human Journey
R.R. 4, Lion's Head, Ontario Canada N0H 1W0
Phone/Fax: (519) 592-4551
E-mail: fernstone@fernstone.org

copyright - Barry Robinson 2002, 2005
            page by Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 2002 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.


Further information on this ministry and the history of "Sermons & Sermon - Lectionary Resources" can be found at our Site FAQ.  This site is now associated with christianglobe.com

Spirit Networks
1045 King Crescent
Golden, British Columbia
V0A 1H2

SCRIPTURAL INDEX

sslr-sm