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Rev. Baden Stanley

Rev. Baden Stanley

Each week we hope to post a blog on a Monday or Tuesday. These blogs will hopefully stimulate thought, discussion and even debate around key topic that are affecting our society at this time of great change and challenge.

David’s Sermon 10th May 2020

John 14 : 1-14

May I speak in the name of the living God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit Amen

We live in strange times. Most of us spend our time confined to our homes much of the time, with an occasional foray for food supplies or exercise. It’s a sort of monastic existence, sitting with a small group in contemplation following rules laid down for us by someone else. We are all keen to play our part in flattening the curve and keeping coronavirus contained, echoing a prayer that is doing the rounds, we want to be people who “protect our neighbours’ safety”.

And in this surreal world we inhabit, we make community. We do it by keeping our regular service like this morning. Only three or four people in the building, but input this week from Emily, Rachel and Julie, reaching out to you all. After the service there will be chatter on WhatsApp, text and by phone. Those pieces of virtual community go on through the week with prayers and messages. And those things are mirrored daily in virtual workplaces, schoolrooms, extended families.

Some of the earliest followers of Jesus Christ, before they were even called Christians, were known as “The Way”. The name had its origins in the reading which Julie gave us from John’s Gospel.

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life”.

You could draw some parallels between the people of “The Way” and our current situation. They too met in small groups, fearful of an enemy roaming abroad – although in their case it was imperial Rome rather than a new pathogen. Eventually, the disciples who fled Jerusalem continued to establish intentional communities of sharing, scripture study, participatory worship, and service to the poor.

We aren’t the first Christians to face a global pandemic. There is evidence of two pandemics in the first couple of centuries of the Christian era. The first was in 165, thought to be smallpox, in which up to one-third of Roman citizens died, and a second, possibly measles, came later.

In these catastrophes, Christians, who were then just a very small minority, had an extraordinary impact on their otherwise brutal societies. They spared no effort to care for those struck down. With their extraordinary acts of kindness, Christians became viewed as a caring community and their faith was taken more seriously.

Our reading from John’s Gospel forms part of what is known as “The Farewell Discourse” which runs over four or five chapters, and recounts the time between the Last Supper and the crucifixion. You could tweet it as Jesus saying to his disciples, in multiple ways, “I’m leaving … but everything will be all right”.

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.

The second part is an echo of last week’s reading. “I am the gate”. I don’t guard the gate or show you the way, “I am”. The question hanging in the air for the disciples was “Who are we to be as a community”? And the answer would seem to be “The Way”. You first have to walk the walk.

The late Eugene Peterson, who wrote The Message, said of this verse in another of his books …

“To follow Jesus implies that we enter into a way of life that is given character and shape and direction by the one who calls us. To follow Jesus means picking up rhythms and ways of doing things that are often unsaid but always <derived> from Jesus, formed by the influence of Jesus. To follow Jesus means that we can’t separate what Jesus is saying from what Jesus is doing and the way that he is doing it. To follow Jesus is as much, or maybe even more, about feet as it is about ears and eyes.”.

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life”.

It’s really an inclusive invitation to all. Come and walk in my way, then you will discover my truth, then all of us together will be able to live the life we are called to live.

The question for the disciples, even if they were still in denial about the impending crucifixion, was “who are we at the end of this”? The same question applied to the people of The Way under Roman persecution. And, as a community of faith, a parish, we should ask ourselves the same question.

If we do find time for monastic contemplation, we need to ask … Who are we, who will we be, at the end of this? How will we walk the walk? How will we be “The Way”?

Amen

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