The Rev. Dr. James R. Wheeler

Show Me The Way

The Fifth Sunday of Easter – May 14, 2017

John 14:1-14
 
Father Jim Easter Sunday 4
 

A Gospel version of an old spiritual goes:

Blind man stood by the side of the road and he cried
Blind man stood by the side of the road and he cried
Blind man stood by the side of the road and he cried, Oh, O, O,

Show me the way, the way to go home.
 
Jesus hung from the cross and he died
Jesus hung from the cross and he died
Jesus hung from the cross and he died, Oh, O, O
Show me the way, the way to go home.
 
He is the way; he is the truth; he is the life
He is the way; he is the truth; he is the life
He is the way; he is the truth; he is the life, Oh, O, O,
Show me the way, the way to go home.

 

Where is your spiritual home? Jesus told his disciples that he was going to prepare a place for them and they knew the way to the place where he was going. Ever plain-spoken Thomas asked the question all the disciples must have been thinking. “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” And so Jesus told them “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

 

One of the names for the early Christian community was the way. We read in Acts 9 that Saul “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” (Acts 9:1-2) At a number of other points in Acts Paul (by then a follower of Jesus and a leader in the Jesus movement) speaks of “the Way” as one of the names he used for the early Church.

 

Thomas and the rest of the disciples at the last supper, were grief stricken that Jesus said that he was going to go away, going back to the Father. They would no longer see him. They would not share meals with him. They would not be able to hold him or question him or be in his presence. But following his death and resurrection they remembered what he had told him. They came to understand his words and celebrate them. Jesus – their Lord and master and friend –would be present with them in new ways. And through his living presence with them Jesus would be the bridge, the connection,

the way to God the Father where Jesus now dwelt.

 

We can easily get hung up on that phrase where Jesus told Thomas and the other disciples, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.” We tend to get hung up on the second half of Jesus’ answer to Thomas. The exclusivity of that claim, that Jesus is the only way has been much abused. This is one of the “I am” sayings we explored in the book I invited the parish to study together in Lent, The God We Can Know; Exploring the “I Am” Sayings of Jesus. I particularly like the question the author of that book, Rob Fuquay, asks about this phrase: “What if God’s path of salvation is as narrow as the person of Jesus Christ, but as wide as God’s mercy?” (pgs. 93-94). Jesus was speaking with his disciples – his most intimate followers. He wasn’t engaging in a theoretical discussion about who might be saved. He was telling his friends how they could stay connected with him and through him to God the Father. He was that way. And for Christians Jesus still is that way. If Jesus didn’t condemn others; it is certainly not our business to do so – that would hardly be following Jesus’ way.

 

Jesus established a pattern of living with his disciples – a way. That way became the basis for their ongoing life together and the way they taught to others. The way that Jesus invited the disciples into community with him. The way that he taught. The way that he lived. The way that he died. Once they fully realized that the way of Jesus was the way that triumphed over death, Jesus’ way became the disciple’s way.

 

In his chapter on Jesus as the Way Rob Fuquay suggests that there are “four ways in which the first disciples made Jesus their way.” (pgs. 95-97) First, they stayed connected to Jesus by being together in community. They continued to experience Jesus’ living presence as they broke bread and drank wine in remembrance of him. What had begun as the regular table fellowship with Jesus became the disciple’s pattern of life. They gathered in community, broke bread and worshipped together.

 

In our Epistle lesson Peter invites us to be built as living stones into a living temple, built upon the foundation of Jesus, who is himself the corner stone. That living temple continues to this present age. I love the phrase of our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, reminding us that “we are the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus movement.” The Jesus movement began in community and continues to be lived in community, albeit in different branches our houses.

 

The second way the disciples patterned their lives after Jesus was to develop practices that deepened their connection to God. One of the disciple’s first requests of Jesus was that he teach them how to pray. Jesus himself was always going off to pray. The disciples learned to practice habits that brought them into the presence of God. They prayed as Jesus taught them. They gathered regularly to break bread and worship. They practiced special care for those in need. They practiced loving and support for one another. Gradually, over time, a variety of good habits or disciplines came to be recognized as ways to draw closer to God, such as regular time of prayer, Bible study, meditation, journaling, fasting and tithing.

 

A third way the disciples adapted to Jesus way was the way of sacrifice, the way of the cross. Jesus showed them the way of sacrifice, of giving his life as an offering for others. “Greater love” he taught them has no one than “to lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus’ sacrifice was to be the basis for their lives as well. Giving to others, serving others, putting others first, giving one’s self away in love: this was the way Jesus taught and lived.

 

“Fourth, the disciples of Jesus showed compassion to people… all people. Making Jesus their way meant that they had to release their prejudices. They reached out to people who they otherwise would have avoided.” The early Jesus community took care of orphans and widows. They welcomed the untouchables: lepers and sinners. They fed the hungry. They provided for any who were in need.

 

In other words, the way to Jesus was none other than the way of  Jesus. This was the way that the disciples practiced and passed on. Furthermore they recognized that Jesus was the living embodiment of God, the Father’s love. If they lived and followed Jesus’ way they would be… with Jesus in the Father’s love.

 

We need to ask ourselves, how is Jesus’ way my way? How can I better practice Jesus’ way so that I won’t be lost like Thomas at the beginning of today’s Gospel, not knowing where Jesus was going nor how to get there? How can I better practice Jesus way so that he might lead me to his Father’s house?

 

I am the way the truth and the life,” Jesus told his disciples that night of his Last Supper with them. He is the way to our spiritual home, the way to the Father’s house with many dwelling places where he promised to prepare room for us. I am the truth that will be lived in your spiritual homes. I am the life of that spiritual house. In other words Jesus is our spiritual home. And his way of community, discipline, sacrifice, service and compassion is the way to get there. Amen.