Sunday, May 10, 2020

The Way of Jesus - 5th Sunday of Easter

Today we say the name Ahmaud Arbery and lift up his grieving Mother Wanda Cooper Jones!
On this Mother’s day we stand with Mothers who have lost sons and daughters to racial injustice. Though there was an arrest in this case, we must remember hate crimes and racial injustice does not end with an arrest, it ends when no one has to live in fear!

Let’s start with three deep breaths and relax….

Opening Reflection

Psalm 23 for mother

Amen let us begin today’s worship

Call to Worship

Call to Worship (Psalm 31)

L: In you, Lord, I have taken refuge.
P: Let me never be put to shame.
     Deliver me in your righteousness.
L: Turn your ear to me.
     Come quickly to my rescue.
P: Be my rock of refuge,
     a strong fortress to save me.

L: Since you are my rock and my fortress,
P: lead and guide me,
     for the sake of your name.

L: Let your face shine upon your servant.
P: Save me in your unfailing love!

Christ is made the sure foundation #400

(All candles lit.)

Today’s Gospel reading is

John 14:1-14 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Jesus the Way to the Mother
Today’s Gospel reading has been changed to use inclusive language in the First Paragraph and to Honor Mothers in the second.

14 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe[a] in God, believe also in me. 2 In the Creator’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?[b] 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And you know the way to the place where I am going.”[c] 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to Amma/Abba God except through me. 7 If you know me, you will know[d] my Creator also. From now on you do know them and have seen them.”

8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Mother, and we will be satisfied.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Mother. How can you say, ‘Show us the Mother’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Mother and the Mother is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Mother who dwells in me does her works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Mother and the Mother is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Mother. 13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Mother may be glorified in the Son. 14 If in my name you ask me[e] for anything, I will do it.
John 14:1 Or You believe
John 14:2 Or If it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you
John 14:4 Other ancient authorities read Where I am going you know, and the way you know
John 14:7 Other ancient authorities read If you had known me, you would have known
John 14:14 Other ancient authorities lack me

The word of God for the people of God!

Sermon                       The Way; we are called!

The text today is well, it is a farewell speech.  Pretty much John 13-17 is Jesus saying goodbye to his disciples.  I think it is a little strange that we should hear Jesus giving a farewell speech and offering assurance to his followers after the fact, I mean after the fact for us, as in Easter Sunday, but this is what is happening.

Karoline Lewis, a preaching professor at Luther seminary, gives us:
A brief Johannine theological summary: Jesus’ farewell words to his disciples in this discourse anticipate and assume the events that lie ahead: the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the ascension. Each one of these realities is the result of the primary theological event in the Gospel of John, the incarnation. The disciples are going to be faced with the end of the incarnation, the end of Jesus’ presence on earth as God. Jesus needs them to know that there is more beyond the crucifixion which, for John, is the inevitable outcome of being human. That which becomes human must die.
At the same time, the resurrection and then the ascension are the next realities in store, for Jesus and for his believers. Note that even the resurrection is not the end all. The resurrection presumes that there is something even beyond itself, the ascension. The beginning of chapter 14, in fact, a good portion of the Farewell Discourse as a whole, describes not resurrected life but ascended life with God. Just as Jesus will ascend to the Father, so also will Jesus’ believers, where he goes to prepare an abiding place for them. It is from this particular theological perspective that we need to hear and interpret these introductory claims of the Farewell Discourse.[1]

John is writing for a particular set of Jewish believers who, have just been kicked out of their synagogue for believing in Jesus.  The temple has been destroyed.  There is confusion, fear and suspicion in the Jewish community and the ones on the margins are to be feared.  At the time of this writing that would be anyone in the Jesus movement.

So, if we look at the mindset of the people who John is writing for and the setting of the context of this story itself, we see similarities and may hear, the emotion, the promise and the love John is offering through Jesus words.

The disciples were incredibly confused.  According to the narrative of John’s Gospel starting with chapter 12, Jesus entered triumphantly into Jerusalem, only to immediately tell his disciples that the mountain top experience was a mirage and he was going to die a brutal death.  Then he takes the role of a slave and washes their feet, indicating that they are called to do the same.  Finally, he rebukes the favored disciple Peter in front of them by saying Peter will reject him three times.  The heads of the disciples must have been spinning.  In an effort to comfort them and bring them peace Jesus speaks to them in language of love.[2]

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.” “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”   Ahhhh that is comforting.

“I am the way the truth and the life…no one comes to the father except through me.”  these are words of comfort?

We Christians for so long used this text as exclusionary, to say who is in and who is out; “I am the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.”.  yet these are just a continuation of I am going to prepare a place for you… Listen to these words in this context.

In ancient Jewish times a man would bargain with a father for his daughter’s hand in marriage and then during a twelve-month waiting period he would return to his father’s house and make ready a room for her, sometime this was literally building a room onto the house for the married couple.  Jesus followers would have known and recognized this language of marriage and love.  He was reassuring them that he was true to them and that his love would reach way beyond the troubled future.

Throughout John’s Gospel are a series of statements that Jesus makes called the “I am” statements. Actually, what is interesting is after the opening of John’s Gospel we get to John’s I am not statements.  Basically, John the baptizer explains that I am not the messiah, I am not Elijah and I am not worthy to untie the sandals. (John 1:20, 21, 27)

After John has clarified who the baptizer is not, Jesus starting in John 6 starts making the “I am” statements.  He makes 5 statements referring to himself as the bread of life that came down from heaven.  “I Am the Bread of Life.” (John 6:35).  Jesus goes on to proclaim; “I Am the light of the world” (John8:12). “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58)  I am the gate as we discussed last week.

John is using these I am statements intentionally.  “It might help to note that the form of “I am” in the Greek of John is the exact form of the Greek translation of Exodus 3:14”[3] “God said to Moses; ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ He said further, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:14) “In effect, John is saying that the same God who was at work revealing himself to the Israelites in the exodus, is now again at work in human history revealing himself in Jesus who is the Christ.”[4]

These “I AM” statements now become something more than just a metaphorical saying or an affirmation of Jesus.  These statements “that the same God who has revealed himself throughout human history, and who has been known by those self-revelatory actions in history, is now revealing himself yet once again in Jesus as the Christ.”[5]

With all of this in mind “I Am the way, the Truth and the Light” (John 14:6) Not only are words of comfort but can also be a challenge to us. As Jesus the Christ, the I Am, is the way we must ask what is that way and how are we called to participate in the way.  How are we called to participate and honor Jesus’ way, the way of an active, participatory God who has been active in human history since the beginning of time and is still active today.

We do this by being good Christians and showing the world that Christianity is still relevant today. “Christianity matters because it reveals the deep mysteries of God and the meaning of all life. It shows us what life is for and when it is at its best. And what is this ultimate revelation? The answer is surprisingly and profoundly simple: Christianity reveals the life of God and therefore also the meaning of life as a way of love.”[6]

Kara Pearce writes;
Everyone is in favor of love. Great. But it is a word thrown about so much it barely means anything anymore. I love that movie! I LOVE that restaurant. We mean we appreciate an attribute of something else – the movie stirred up emotion, the restaurant’s atmosphere or salmon filled us. Media and television and movies are soaked with love stories, too often about warm fuzzy feelings or misplaced sexual expression. But these simple words, spoken and backed up, change the world. I bet many of us remember the first time we expressed our love to the person we would one day marry, or the first time it was really said to us. The vulnerability that is required to tell someone you love them is both thrilling and terrifying.[7]

Saying I love you is challenging enough but then living into that love.  Walking with someone and loving them though they just said something so stupid you cannot believe it even came out of their mouth.  Staying with someone when only one can work and finances and thus relationships become strained. Staying with someone even though now we can see their daily habits and OMG! Staying with someone and slowly watching them fade away as this journey comes to an end.

But the Way, the way we are called to, is more than that.

This way of Love that we are challenged into goes beyond the personal relationship.  We are called to try to find a way for all of us not only to live well together on this planet, but seek out the least of us, and figure out what we can do to make this a better place.

Our life together can be better.  Ours has tended to be a shallow and selfish age, and many are in need of conversion- from looking out just for ourselves to looking out for one another. It is sad that it took a pandemic for some people to shift.

 So now I wonder that many have heard a call to a different way of life, to reclaim a very old idea called the common good. Will it last? Will more see a better way of living as a way to always be?

Jesus issued the call and announced the kingdom of God-a new order of living in sharp contrast to all political and religious kingdoms in the world. That better way of life was meant not to just benefit his followers but everybody else too.[8]

All of Christ’s message was about breaking down barriers.  Seeking out those who had less or were marginalized and lifting them up. Inviting them to table or better yet he invited himself into the homes where no one of any reputation would be seen. Christ’s message and ministry was not some magic formula where one claims to be a Christian therefore they have a passport to heaven and a license to demean or alienate the other.

Christianity is not a religion that gives some people a ticket to heaven and makes them judgmental of all others. Rather, It’s a call to a relationship that changes all of our other relationships.  Jesus told us a new relationship with God also brings us into a new relationship with our neighbor, especially with the most vulnerable of this world, and even with our enemies. But we don’t always hear that from the churches.  This call to love our neighbor is the foundation for reestablishing and reclaiming the common good, which has fallen into cultural and political –and even religious—neglect.[9]

Now we are in a time when we should be trying to care for each other through safe practices of social distancing, wearing masks, sanitizing surfaces and meeting each other electronically or waving as we walk safely by. we see images of people who are insisting that we gather and work side by side as infections go up.  Toilet paper is still being hoarded.  Meat is being rationed so that everyone can have some and people get angry because, as I heard one woman in the grocery store say, “I really don’t care anymore!” It seems insane to me.

There is a deep seeded self-preservation that quickly becomes it is all about me the heck with the rest.

I believe we went through a radical shift on the occasion of 9/11.  Suddenly, more than ever in my lifetime, it was okay to make all things about us or them! I was living alone in downtown palm springs at the time and I awoke to watching the crash over and over again then the 2nd plane hit and I just watched for hours till the towers collapsed.  I was numb and decided to go to the local gathering place to be around some friends. Hoping to find comfort in our time of national grief. The first thing I heard someone say was we need to go bomb the heck out of them.  My heart sank.

This permission to hate has only seem to grow over the past few years as we have seen demonstrations of people proclaiming white supremacy with chants of they will not replace us.

Someone once said “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is a very quick way to a blind toothless world!”      

I think in many ways this world has not recovered from 9/11.  That tonality that it is either us or them.  In today’s culture the language is much the same.   We hear; It is a war on the middleclass and they are stealing your jobs.  It is the top 1% vs the 99.  It is the big city vs the small farm.  Our language our cultural way of looking at stuff has become so dichotic that everything is measured against the other.

We have forgotten the greatest commandment of them all. Love one another.  Jesus’ way is Love.  I think we need to start addressing some of these issues from a place of love.  I believe we have to find some ways to leave the us vs them behind and reach out in the purest and simplest and honest place of love. 

I see people realizing it is  about serving and caring for each other and that requires no comparison.

I am not sure this is coming out right.  I do not reach out to serve the poor.  Wait what??

The poor is an objectified term where one human is measured against another.  I am called to love my neighbor to serve my neighbor and in that we are all neighbors and the language of lesser than or greater than diminishes. I serve because I am called to serve period.  I reach out to the stranger, the marginalized, the person in pain because we are neighbors and I am called to act in the language of love.  This is The Way.

In the same way when I address some views that I know are harder for some than others I must approach it from a place of love.  I know this world is changing fast.  Faster than many can keep up with or may choose not to try.  I am not going to change their heart by forcing my version of the truth down their throat.  We change hearts and lives by living into what we believe, by living into who we are called to be.  Not by preaching but by acting.  In this way, we can be as a river is to a stone, slowly rounding out the sharp corners.

The Truth.  Jesus is the Truth.  The truth is we cannot do it without Jesus’ example.  The truth is we cannot do this work if we do not maintain an honest and constant relationship with God.  Jesus taught us to pray.  Jesus told us to pray.  Prayer needs to be a daily exercise that feeds you and inspires you and strengthens your resolve to love your neighbor.

I have said this before and now I am going to say it again, it is hard to love your neighbor.  What is even worse It is hard to love your neighbor as you love yourself.  Quite frankly you do not want me to treat you like I treat myself because somedays I am really bad about my self-care, and I bet you are too.

We allow ourselves to be over worked, we neglect our health or put off our own care till It’s too late. We allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by bad news, bad habits and bad posture.  I would not encourage us to treat each other as we do ourselves and that is why it actually says as you would be treated.

It is through a prayerful relationship with the other, the creator, with the one who cannot be named, with the great I Am, with God, with Jesus Christ.  That we can see how we should be treating and caring for ourselves. It is through prayer, a good relationship with God, that we can see how we should be treating and caring for our neighbor and even how we should be treating and caring for our most challenging enemy.

When we are frustrated with ourselves.  When we are frustrated, scared or even angered by the world we live in, by our neighbors or even when we are angry with ourselves we must turn back to today’s Gospel.  We must turn back to the most gentle and comforting words of Jesus.  “let not your Hearts be troubled.”

I find todays words even more comforting than “Peace be with you!” when I am hurting my silent prayer becomes Jesus words to us.  I listen to hear these words in my heart and encourage you to do the same.  The first words of today’s scripture I will leave with you as my final words in this sermon and my prayer to you and to the world. Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Amen.

[1] Karoline Lewis, Commentary on John 14:1-14, 05, accessed May 9, 2017,
[2] Scott Hoezee, ed., The Abingdon Preaching Annual 2017 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2016), 73.
[3] Dennis Bratcher, "I am" in John's Gospel, 10, accessed May 10, 2017,
[4] Dennis Bratcher, "I am" in John's Gospel, 10, accessed May 10, 2017,
[5] Dennis Bratcher, "I am" in John's Gospel, 10, accessed May 10, 2017,
[6] Norman Wirzba, Way of Love: Recovering the Heart of Christianity (New York, NY: HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2016).
[7] Karen Pearce, The way of Love as the way of Jesus, March 5, 2017, accessed May 10, 2017,
[8] Jim Wallis, On God's Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn't Learned about Serving the Common Good (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Brazos Press, 2013).
[9] Ibid.


A call to prayer
The early disciples devoted themselves to prayer,
The teachings of the apostles, and sharing the bread of life.
They were a people of prayer,
Who shared their joys and concerns,
Their passions and sorrows,
With one another and with the Lord.
For burdens shared and burdens lessened,
And joys shared and joys enriched,
Come, let us follow their example and lift our prayers to God

Please write your joys and concerns in the comment section and I will lift them up after this hymn

Be Still my Soul #488

Let us pray the prayer Jesus taught us

Our Creator, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kin-dom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the kin-dom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen

Invitation to the Offering (1 Peter 2)
We are better together.
When we join in music or mission,
or ministry or fellowship,
we discover that God makes us better,
being built upon one another
like living stones in the house of the Lord.
Let us join together now
as we receive the tithes and offerings
you have brought.
We have this common faith and common calling
to be in ministry—together.
if you would care to, you can mail in your offerings or go to the top of the webpage and click the donate now button


Offering Prayer
Receive these gifts this morning, O God,
author of every good gift.
Out of the bounty of our hearts,
we respond with faithful generosity and love.
May these gifts become blessings for others
as they have been blessing for us. Amen.

The office is open for regular hours
We are accepting donations for the kidz cupboard and the food pantry

I am available for one on one virtual visits or phone calls if you need any prayer we will be together again one day, but until then remember you are the hands and the feet of our lord in this world and in this world of no physical contact we can still smile, wave, chat , check in

Final hymn of blessings From All That Dwell below the skies #27

Monday Bible Study on Zoom

Rev. Dr. Joseph Shore-Goss is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Bible Study
Time: May 4, 2020 12:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
        Every week on Mon, until May 25, 2020, 4 occurrence(s)
        May 4, 2020 12:00 PM
        May 11, 2020 12:00 PM
        May 18, 2020 12:00 PM
        May 25, 2020 12:00 PM
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Meeting ID: 303 926 187
Password: Grace
Meeting ID: 303 926 187
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