Monthly Sermon Series: Sermon Offering for Sunday, May 10, Fifth Sunday of Easter
By: The Rev. Canon Heather L. Melton, Staff Officer for the United Thank Offering
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’? 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. 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. 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. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”
Today’s Gospel lesson is a beautiful statement of connection from Jesus at a moment that could feel disruptive, disconnecting, and lonely for the disciples. Jesus says to this group, whom he has been in close contact with for such a long time, that he is going ahead of them now to prepare a place for them. My guess is that this was received with a great deal of sorrow, because who wouldn’t prefer to be in constant contact and connection with Jesus? But for those of us who haven’t had the experience of walking on the paths of Jerusalem with a living, breathing Jesus, the profoundness of the moment could be lost on us. But what isn’t lost on many of us is the feeling of distance from someone you love, or maybe even the distance that we sometimes feel from the presence of Jesus. Those moments can feel hopeless, bleak, lonely, or anxious. And Jesus knows all of those very human feelings, which is why, I think, we find him sharing this last bit of good news with all of us today. Jesus names the reality of his departure but also names that he is always just up ahead of us, preparing a place for us. And when the disciples push back and ask how they will know the way, Jesus says, hey people, not only am I the destination, I am also the way there. I have always found this Gospel lesson to be incredibly comforting. There is something reassuring in Jesus’ letting us know that he is not just off in heaven building a place for us to end up, but regardless of whether we can sense him or not, he is in the midst of our lives, he is the path we are walking.
The United Thank Offering encourages every Episcopalian to practice a daily personal spiritual discipline of gratitude. UTO asks us to stop and notice the good things that are happening because that moment, when we stop and notice, we are in fact noticing the presence of the holy in our lives, we are noticing that the path is Christ and we are not alone. When we notice, we see that the other people on the journey around us are also signs of the love of Christ, and that through loving each other, we get to know something of the love of God because for those that believe, when we stop and notice, we will see Jesus. Gratitude acknowledges the presence of God in the good things happening all around us. Gratitude is also a reminder that even in the darkest of moments, when we feel lonely, anxious, abandoned, and lost, Jesus is in the midst of that moment AND, perhaps even more importantly, beckoning us to follow him, blazing a path forward. Today’s Gospel is an imperative to stop and notice and give thanks because Jesus has not given up on us and will not give up on us. Jesus has placed good things in our path if we would only stop and notice. Jesus is waiting for us, if we would only keep going.
Today, I invite you to consider where Jesus has shown up for you in the past when things seemed at their darkest. Maybe you couldn’t see it then, but can you see it now? When has Jesus shown up for you in ways that you were grateful for because you didn’t expect it and it was a surprise? When have you shown up as a sign of Jesus’ love and hope to others? I invite you this week to take time to stop and notice, look for the good things happening around you, look to see Jesus as the path in your heart and life, and give thanks. I invite you to remember that today, Jesus has promised us that we are never alone, never lost, and always loved and hoped for, as long as we believe and live as signs of Jesus’ hope and love in the world.