Sermon - 22nd May 2011
Trust in God
Scripture - John 14:1-14
Rev Andy Braunston
We all have had the experience of trusting another person – whether that person is a friend, a lover, a politician, a minister or someone in authority. We’ve all put our faith in different ideas – we do it every day – simply turning on the light puts our trust in modern technology. We flick a switch and don’t give a second thought about how the power is generated, how it gets to our home, what the consequences are of our use of so much power are or how we’d cope if the power went or was limited. We trust people and ideas every day.
We have also had the experience of that trust being betrayed. A friend laughs at us, a lover turns to another, a politician is found not to live up to the ideals and standards we rightfully expect, clergy bully and abuse destroying trust and, often, faith. Modern technology doesn’t answer all our questions and still can’t eradicate disease, poverty or injustice, the political ideas we once held firmly no longer seem to be the answer to our problems.
It’s easy, therefore, to become cynical. It’s tempting to stop trusting, to keep our hearts closed to the possibility of letting someone, or something, in so as to avoid the risk of being hurt.
These were the feelings swirling around Thomas and Philip in today’s reading from St John’s Gospel. The passage is from a long part of the Gospel known as the “Farewell discourse” and follows on from last week’s reading about the Good Shepherd. In the passage Jesus is trying to prepare the disciples for the time, coming soon, when he won’t be with them anymore. They are traditionally read in churches during Eastertide as they are good guides for our lives as Christians in an age when Jesus isn’t physically with us.
Trust in God
Immediately before this passage Jesus has said that he is going away and that his disciples cannot go with him. He has washed their feet, Judas has gone to betray him and Peter is told that he will deny Jesus. The disciples must have felt that their world was turning again. It had turned when they were called to follow Jesus and now the tectonic plates of their world are moving again. They are worried, their ideas are being challenged but they are told to trust – in God and in Jesus.
Then Jesus follows up this command with reasons to trust in him. Thomas and Philip are worried, they don’t know how to trust Jesus – he won’t be there. They don’t know how to trust God when they don’t know where to find God in their world where everything is changing. This anxiety about being left alone is clouding their vision, their perception, and their hearts.
Jesus moves away from talk about going away and returning (as this was just increasing their anxiety), to again asking them to trust (or believe) that he and the Father are one. Jesus is showing that to see Him is to see God the Father. And they have seen Jesus' face, heard his voice, and even more importantly, have seen what he did, his works. It should be enough. To know Jesus is to know the Father.
We can imagine Thomas and Philip and the others with them thinking back over the works Jesus has accomplished. What do they say about Jesus? About the Father?
- Water to Wine?
- Lazarus to life?
- Bread and fish to a banquet?
- Works that bring healing, delight, abundance, life itself?
These would be the works of God, Father and Son. But Jesus isn’t with us in the same way. It was easier, perhaps, for Thomas and Philip to trust as they had known Jesus in person. We know him by faith. We don’t experience him as they did.
But we do experience Jesus. We do have him at our sides. Not just in some spiritual way, but personally, in the face of each other, in the presence of the stranger, in the arms of a lover. Where there is love and charity there also is God. We believe that God is at work in our lives and in our church. When we do the things that Jesus told us to do we walk by his side. When we help the poor we do Jesus’ work. When we challenge injustice we do so in the name and power of Jesus. When we bring relief to those who are down we do the work of Jesus.
The passage ends with Jesus’ startling words that his followers will do greater things than he did. Greater than the miracles? Greater than those healings? It’s mind blowing. But then think of what we have achieved as a church:
- Simply being church in our world which distrusts religion is an accomplishment
- Simply having faith when so many Christians would deny that we could be so – and when we’ve battled feelings of guilt and unworthiness – is miraculous.
Forging a church out of so many different people with so many different perspectives is almost unique.
Together we’ve helped support, befriend and journey with five asylum seekers and helped them secure their right to remain in the UK. We’ve saved lives, and we’ve done it together.
And we have more still to do. God hasn’t called us this far to leave us or forsake us but continues to use our gifts, our skills, our time and our treasure. We still have work to do, we still have lives to save, we still have miracles to perform in Jesus name. We do these together, not so that we may be exalted, not that we may make a name for ourselves, but so that the poor and lowly will have their lives changed and transformed by the power of God working through us so that the Kingdom comes a little closer.