Easter 5A; John 14:1-14
Alleluia. Christ is risen.
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.
It's still Easter. We are still in this long, white season of resurrection. You may or may not have recognized that from the opening response. Easter is often the second-longest season of the Church year, and it can be hard to keep the joy of Easter Day throughout, and the gospel for today reflects that.
The first three Sundays of Easter all have gospel readings pertaining to Jesus' resurrection or events closely associated with his resurrection (Thomas, the Road to Emmaus, on the beach). The fourth Sunday is Good Shepherd Sunday, and we hear from John 10 with Jesus as the Good Shepherd. While not explicitly a resurrection gospel, it does make sense as we see the resurrected Christ leading his Church like a shepherd. Then on Easter 5, 6, and 7 we hear from the Farewell Discourse – that long monologue in John that Jesus speaks to his disciples after Judas leaves to betray him.
Why is that? Why move from resurrection stories to passages that take place before Jesus' arrest and crucifixion? There are easily ten separate resurrection/post-resurrection stories the Lectionary could use over the course of these seven Sundays. So why the change?
I could be wrong, but I think the Lectionary is symbolically preparing us for a life without the physical presence of Christ. On the calendar, Jesus will ascend to heaven in eleven days. Eleven days from now is the Feast of the Ascension and then we're like . . . . whoop . . . Where'd he go? Eleven days and we're on our own. Symbolically speaking, pulling from the Farewell Discourse in the last three weeks of Easter makes sense.
As you would expect there is a lot of material in this gospel passage. And as a side note, if you aren't joining Dcn. Sue on Tuesdays as she journeys through John, you really should be. But I digress.
Among the multitude of subjects is this thing about seeing the Father. Jesus says, “If you know me, you will know my Father also.” Philip replies, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus then says, “If you've seen me, you've seen the Father. I am in him and he is in me.”
This back and forth between Jesus and Philip is reminiscent of the conversations Jesus had with Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman at the well, and maybe even Pilate. That is, everyone is on a different level. Philip and the rest are talking to Jesus on the level of 4th grade math. Jesus is talking in quantum physics.
Philip, like Thomas after him, is looking for something tangible to confirm his faith. Thomas wanted to see the wounds in hands and feet and side. Philip wants to see the Father. How many times do we require visual proof of something before we accept it? And even then we still may not believe **cough** **cough**flat earth**cough** **cough**
But what Jesus says to Philip should make us all pay attention: if you've seen me, you've seen the Father.
If we want to know God, we look at the life Jesus led. He is the embodiment of God. Know Jesus. Know God. Jesus is telling Philip, and us, that you can see God the Father by how he lives his life. We can do the same thing.
At our last Vestry meeting we played a little with our mission statement. Instead of just those four words of Worship, Welcome, Serve, and Encourage, we clarified it a bit. As I wrote on Wednesday, and you see in today's bulletin, we now say we are “bearing witness to Christ wherever we may be.” Ultimately that means through our Worship, Welcome, Service, and Encouragement, but includes the caveat at all times and in all places.
When we intentionally live into this mission of bearing witness to Christ wherever we may be, people can see and witness Christ in our lives. When we make Worship a priority, we bear witness to Christ who attended synagogue worship every Sabbath, as was his custom. When we Welcome people, we bear witness to Christ who welcomed all sorts of people into his presence. When we Serve, we bear witness to Christ who washed the feet of his disciples. When we Encourage people, we bear witness to Christ who encouraged people to see God in a new way.
I've said this before, but it bears repeating – probably the most famous quote from St. Teresa of Avila is this: Christ has no hands, no feet but yours. Yours are his hands, feet, and eyes to bless, to do good, and to look with compassion.
St. Teresa was advocating that people bear witness to Christ wherever they are.
Philip could know the Father by knowing Jesus. Likewise people will come to know Jesus, God, the Trinity, by knowing us. This is the only way people will come to know God – through knowing us and our relationship with God.
What does it mean for us to be in relationship with God? Basically it means to love God and love neighbor. It means to love justice, be kind, and live humbly. It means to feed, clothe, and shelter those in need. It means to welcome the outcast and outsider. It means to care for the sick, rejoice with the joyful, and comfort those who mourn.
When we do these things, and other things that show we live with faith, integrity, and holy priorities, then we live in God and God lives in us. It's through that indwelling and abiding where we manifest Christ to the world.
God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit are not entities per se that we can show people. What we can do, however, is to live lives that reflect the glory of God onto a world that sorely needs it. By bearing witness to Christ wherever we are, people will see God in us and us in God. Hopefully that life of faithful indwelling will allow people to see Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life. And THAT, in turn, will help people find their room in the Father's house.