08 April 2008

troubled

John 14:1-14, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled . . .”

Boy, do I wish Jesus had just laid it all out in five simple steps.

I’m assuming that it would have to take at least five steps, not three. Three steps sounds great, but when we are talking about our relationship with God through Christ, maybe three would be too few.

So maybe if Jesus could have laid it all out in five steps.

I guess what I really wish too is that we had some clear guidebook instead of the Bible. Because if many of us are honest with each other, and there’s no reason to be anything else here, many of us have trouble reading the Bible. It just doesn’t make sense in some places, or not the kind of sense we want it too. Or maybe if someone would just tell us what we were supposed to do every minute of the day, our lives would be easier.

Is that the job of a preacher or religious leader, to tell us what to do?!? If they would do that, just lay it all out to us in some simple steps, the kind of steps that say if you do this or if you believe this, then you’ve got it. If we had that, then we would know the way. Then we would know and be living the truth. Because truth is always clear.

Truth is always this or that, one thing or the other, not this murkiness that we sometimes feel, not the messiness that we see in our lives.

You see, Jesus tries to tell the disciples the true truth, what is the real reality, what is the way they are to follow. But they don’t quite get it . . . ; and I’ll admit that sometimes I don’t either.

And that’s why when Jesus says that he’s going somewhere and that they, the disciples, already know the way there, well Thomas speaks up! Thomas says, “Wait a minute there Jesus! I don’t remember getting any map, any instructions. You say I know the way, but I don’t think that I do!”

And Jesus had just gotten out of his mouth, “Don’t let you hearts be troubled.” Don’t worry. Don’t fret. Don’t bother yourself with all the details right now. Because I know you are prone to worry, but don’t. Listen to what I have told you. Know that you know me, you know the Father through me. If you believe in God, then believe also in me.

Jesus says, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.” This was translated “mansions” in some versions, but that’s not a good translation. Because it is not about what type of house, what type of place you will dwell in, but that you are dwelling with God. It is not about the details, but about the relationship.

You see, that’s exactly where we let our hearts get in trouble. Maybe it is not our hearts at all really, but our minds that are the real troublemakers. Because in our minds we begin thinking about what that place is going to look like, this dwelling place with God. And we start worrying because some people say that it will be mansions, and I wonder what my mansion will look like. Will it be made of gold? Will it be made of sticks? . . . because for sure sometimes we don’t feel like we have done very much to deserve a mansion. We may not feel like we deserve much of a house at all. Maybe I’ll just have a little outbuilding to the back of someone else’s mansion. I mean who’s going to spend time indoors anyway in heaven, right?!? You want to be out and about . . . it’s crazy to think about really.

And part of the reason it is crazy is because it is our minds that begin thinking about this kind of thing. And Jesus said, “You believe in God, believe also in me. I am the way, the truth, and the life.” You see, it is not about what heaven may or may not be like. If it was then we might need a map to get there. Then the disciples would be right to say, “But Jesus . . . we don’t know the way. You forgot to give us a map; you forgot to show us the way!”

But Jesus says, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled.” Jesus says to them and to you and me, “You know the way.”

Do you know the way? I wish I knew the way in so many areas. My wife and I have two wonderful children, but they didn't come with instructions. I see a lot of families in my practice and we all wish we had individual instruction manuals for each child.

It does seem like it would be nice if this were a world where everything is laid out for you. Everything is in simple choices, either this or that.

But then children will mess that up in a minute. I remember when our children were smaller. We were brave enough to walk them, with our two dogs, Walter and Lucy, my wife and I. Our daughter, the older, once she learned to walk, she wanted out of the double stroller and onto the street. That worked for a while . . . but then she would become tired.

And then would come this little motion, this child walking like the Frankenstein monster toward us, “uuuuuuuuhhhhhhh, uuuuuuuuuhhhhh” arms oustretched, but really before she even did that, I knew that it was coming. She’s going to want to be picked up.

But the choices should be we either ride in the stroller or we walk. That’s it. Two choices.

The child psychologists all tell you not to give kids more than two choices, that’s all. And our two choices were to ride in the stroller or to walk.

So we explain that to our then two-year-old . . . crouching down, looking her in the face, telling her that she can walk or she can sit in the stroller. So what do you think happens? She wants option number three, to be picked up by Mommy or Daddy, which is near about impossible because one of us is holding the leashes for the dogs and the other of us is pushing the stroller with our one-year-old son in it. But that’s what she wants.

So we explain again how there are only two choices. It doesn’t matter.

So she fusses. She fusses because she knows what is next. We give her a chance to walk and when she doesn’t, it’s back into the stroller. Fuss, fuss, fuss. And even as she is crying for the half mile yet we have to walk, we say to ourselves, this is the right thing to do. She needs to learn that we can’t do everything we want. That’s what those books say right? This is how you should raise a child.

You see it feels nice to have those books that tell you what to expect, what you should do, how you should do it. It would be nice if Jesus handed a map to Thomas too that said exactly where he was going and what roads he was taking to get there. Because Thomas asked the honest question, “But Lord, I have no idea where you are going, much less how to get there!” That is honesty . . . that is telling the truth . . . that is being human.

Because it is our humanity that gropes around for some sort of certainty. And the only certainty that we have been given is this: our relationship with God through Christ.

Why worry about everything else? Because in the end, Jesus is our way, our truth, our life. When we see Jesus, we have seen God. When we see Jesus full of grace and love for everyone, we know that the same is true of God. That God too seeks relationship with all of us.

And in the end, it is really about relationship . . . about the heart. In the end, all that really has to happen is for our son and our daughter to know that we love them dearly; that we are their loving mother and father. Sometimes they won’t believe that. That comes when they are teenagers, right? But that’s why it is really about relationship. If I believed that it was really about belief, about understanding things about God a certain way, then we would need to close the Lord's Table. We couldn’t serve the children communion because they are not old enough yet to really understand . . . and since it is about understanding . . . well they couldn’t come.

And we couldn’t allow someone who had Alzheimer’s, or a mental illness, or maybe was slow developmentally because they might forget something important, or not understand the way that we understand . . . and the way that we understand is so all-fired important, so they couldn’t come either.

You see it doesn’t have to make sense. It really doesn’t. Jesus just says, “I am the way. I am the truth. I am the life. You come to God the Father through me.”

It is about relationship with God through Christ. This is what we seek. This is what we know. And this is why we all come to that table.

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