5th Sunday of Easter—Year A—May 18, 2014
Preached at the Lutheran Church of Framingham
This reading from Jesus’ Farewell Discourse in the Gospel of John is a common choice for funerals. In my two years here in Framingham, it has been the main text for both of the full funerals I have done.
At a funeral, it is comforting to imagine your loved ones settling into their eternal home…in God’s deluxe apartment in the sky.
There is also the comfort that there is no chance we will get lost on the way…no detours, GPS, maps, or stopping to ask for directions required. Thomas doesn’t get it at first, but Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the way to father, to the Father’s house, to the abiding place. Knowing Jesus equals knowing the Father. Seeing Jesus equals seeing the Father.
For some, this might sound intimidating or even scary. What does it mean to see and know Jesus? Do I believe…properly? How do I know?
To some, these statements of promise might sound more like threats. “You better believe, see, know…or no happily ever after for you.” But THAT is to mishear.
Have you ever learned a second language…and actually learned more about English in the process? In my years of trying to learn French, Spanish, Greek, and Hebrew, I learned that there were many more verb tenses than I had ever really thought about or knew the names of. This phenomenon comes in great handy here. We do not just have to wonder what Jesus meant by what he said. We can know for sure because of all the verb tense in Greek…the meaning is precise.
“The Greek tense [used here] is not conditional but rather states an already existing state of affairs, which makes the force of his sentence, well, promisory: ‘If you know me — and you do know me — you will know the Father.’”
With just a slight change in verb tense, we can be sure that what we are hearing from Jesus is indeed gospel, good news, promise. And the same applies to us today and seeing…if you have seen Jesus—and you have—you have seen the Father. It is admittedly not as easy for us as it was for Thomas & Philip; we do not have Jesus standing right in front of us. However we can encounter Jesus all around us. Sometimes we miss it, but the opportunities are abundant and abiding—in nature, one another, in the proclaimed and studied word…
If we read this passage from John in light of the rest of Gospel, we will see that Jesus’ promise to prepare a place for us is not just a promise he fulfills upon death & resurrection or even ascension. Throughout the Gospel of John, he prepares dwelling/abiding places…where the disciples can experience the Spirit, glimpse the Father, be at peace and know that God is God. The garden, the meals, teaching sessions, in resurrection appearances…
The same is done for us. It is not only at the end of our physical lives on earth that we abide with Father. We do not have to go to some far off place to be close to Jesus. It is not only in heaven that we can experience abundant, eternal life in the Father’s house.
The Father’s house is all around us…God did create the whole world.
We have abundant opportunities to abide with God and live in the midst of that—to see and do greater works.
In the Old Testament, God communicates God’s name as “I AM”…and throughout John, Jesus does the same. I hope that you today and into the future hear those words “I AM” as a promise, not an intimidation tactic, but as a statement of presence. God is as accessible to us (through work, play, prayer, study, and creation) as much as to our loved ones who have died. We do not have to wait to receive some prize or surprise in the end. We are resurrection people…seeking to live out God’s purpose for us: to be led by the Holy Spirit to spread Jesus’ gospel of love & forgiveness to all…knowing that Jesus prepares the way, abides among us, and supports us with all we need along the way. Amen.
 Dear Working Preacher by David Lose on Worskingpreacher.com