Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Through Stained Glass: A Mid-Week Reflection-Comfort, Confusion

"Do not let your hearts be troubled."

What a thing for Jesus to say to his disciples. Especially since Jesus just revealed to them how one of the twelve would betray him and then another would deny him, all of which is necessary for his apparent imminent death.

"Do not let your hearts be troubled."

The audacity.

In his farewell address to his disciples, Jesus's words hang heavy like a wet sweater on a clothesline. They offer both words of comfort and confusion.

Comfort in that Jesus reminds the disciples and us to hang our burdens and our worries on God and not on the world. God is big enough to handle even our deepest pains.

Confusion in the teaching about Jesus going to a 'mansion in the sky' with many rooms. If he is going to God, why must we wait? And a room by myself sounds kind of lonely.

Comfort in that Jesus assures us he has not and will not abandon us, though he may physically be gone. Despite the separation that death will cause, the bond of love and community between Jesus and those who love him will not break.

Confusion in that "we know the place where [Jesus] is going." Thanks be to God for Thomas and his honest inquiry for directions. "We have no idea what you are talking about, Jesus. How can we join you? Will we need to check our baggage? How much will that cost us? Reimbursement?" Honestly, many of us have asked similar questions in different seasons of our faith. Like Thomas, sometimes we want need geographical directions. "On the corners of Pekin and Ottawa, I'll meet you and tell you everything you wish to know about life." ~God [if only this would happen!]

Comfort in that Jesus promises to go ahead of us, his beloved siblings, traversing the chasm between the ‘temporal and eternal.' Jesus identifies himself as the point of access to life with God and the embodiment of Love. John's whole purpose is to remind his community that God is with us, not against or without us.

Confusion in that Jesus says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." Which, okay, makes for a cute sign, but what does this mean? Sadly, these metaphors have been coopted by many Christians as ways to prevent the human community from existing. Does anyone else find this to be ironic since they are a part of a story explaining God's spacious mansion, which has enough rooms for everyone?

Comfort in that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. And this is my favorite part of this memorable goodbye scene. When the anxiety in the room becomes as thick as the humidity in the Midwest in August, Jesus reminds this eclectic group of misfits that the entire purpose of his life was to bring life to the world, not to squelch it.

So perhaps what this text can do for us is provoke us into a position of contemplation, asking the question, "How does this passage grow us in the way of love?" 

Jesus reminds us of God's drawing near to us, again.

Feeling like Jack Shephard from Lost? 


Wish there were fewer words to read or simpler words to digest?

You're not alone in confusion.

Philip [following in the footsteps of Thomas] is as confused and lost as well. "Just show us, man. Stop speaking in code and metaphor. Can't you use emoticons for what you're saying? Give us a children's sermon, and we will be satisfied."

Perhaps recognizing the growing frustration and desperation of the disciples, Jesus responds with his thesis statement:

"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."

Confusion and comfort, all in one sentence.

But here is the good news, this is what we must hold on to:  God's love is revealed in Christ. By the Spirit, we have become little Christ's, image bearers of God. To know God means to know one another. To love one another is to love God. In loving God and one another, we will do greater things. What is greater than to live in peace with one another?

So what does this have to do with us?

Where is the comfort in all this theological confusion?

It is here:  In Christ, the Word made flesh, we are made known and are known by God. We no longer need to remain in the darkness of our troubles, but instead, we can live in light of the self-giving, self-emptying love of Jesus. And in this person, we come to know how God has chosen not to be God without us. God gathers us into God's self, and in turn, we experience life eternal—that is, participation in the very being of God.

And it's there, in that place, in our room at the heart of God, where we discover how God's promise to love us, to welcome us, to know us and be known by us, never ends.

Thus, our hearts ought never be troubled knowing we are never unknown to God because the secret of our identity hides in the love of and mercy of God.

And let's be honest, to be unknown to God would be altogether too much privacy!