The Fifth Sunday of Easter; Year A (5/14/2017)

Lessons:Acts 7:55-60 Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16 1st Peter 2:2-10 St. John 14:1-14

Prayer of the Day: Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. Give us grace to love one another, to follow in the way of his commandments, and to share his risen life with all the world, for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

14:1 [Jesus said,] “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’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? 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. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” 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 Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father 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 Father. 13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”

St. John 14:1-14, New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

An Untroubled Heart; the Way that Is Jesus

Don’t be afraid; let your hearts not be troubled. Have faith in God, and have faith in me. [Gary Ault, 1989]

The two lines above make up the second stanza of a song we sing often with our Catechism students at Saint Peter. They are the command of Jesus, and also the command of just about every angel who speaks in the Scriptures. So how is it that Christians are bold enough to live without fear? What is it that encourages our hearts to be untroubled?

Remember that Jesus speaks these words on Maundy Thursday. He gathers his disciples together to eat one last meal with him, girds himself with a towel, kneels before each of them, and washes their feet. He then commands them to love one another as he loves them. He informs them that he is going away, and when Thomas asks the way to where he is going, Jesus answers, “I am the way.”

What is the way of Jesus? Or perhaps to be truer to this week’s text: “What is the way that is Jesus?” It is an alternative way. It is not the way of the world. It is not the way of fame and fortune and achievement and victory. It is not the way of anger and violence and retribution – the ways that many in this world commend to us. No, it is the way of the cross. It is the way of love. It is the way of sacrifice. It is the way of service.

Saint Stephen is one of the seven men chosen by the early church to serve as a caregiver. He is described as “full of grace and power, [doing] great wonders and signs among the people.” (Acts 6:8) He is one who comes to know very clearly the alternative way that is Jesus. As he goes about his duties, caring for widows and others who are vulnerable, he is bold and articulate about his faith. So bold, and so articulate, that the High Priest and other leaders of the church (who do not believe that Jesus is Messiah) become enraged. Blasphemy is the charge, and in their rage (and desire to get “it” right) these noble leaders of the first century church drag him out of the city and stone him to death.

That day, a group of believers deal with blasphemy the way it had always been addressed in the church. But while they hurl stones at this first century diaconal minister and disciple of Jesus, he dies on his knees with words of forgiveness for them on his lips. Stephen understands the way that is Jesus. Stephen understands the alternate reality that Jesus commends to believers. Stephen understands that for those who live in faith, there is no reason to fear. Jesus is the way to a future with hope and joy and peace.

“I am the way,” Jesus says. Not the destination. Not the reward. Not the goal. The way. Holy Jesus, help us to see you as the way, and with Stephen, help us to walk the way that is you, no matter what the world around us chooses to do.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What causes the disciples of Jesus to be afraid during Holy Week?
  2. How are the words of Jesus a source of comfort and strength for them?
  3. What does the early church learn from the example of Saint Stephen?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What does serving others in the name of Jesus look like for me?
  2. How might a focus on my faith and my service allow me to live without fear?
  3. What fears do I need God to lift from my heart?