Saturday, 13 May 2017

Do not let you hearts be troubled

John 14:1-14

The disciples were still in the upper room.  Jesus had washed their feet.  They had shared a meal.  Judas had gone out to betray Jesus.  And Jesus had just told Peter that Peter was going to deny him.  The room was filled with apprehension, unease, distress!  It is a liminal space, a space in which life seems to be on a knife’s edge. Things were out of control as the disciples leaned in and listened to Jesus.  It is into this moment of uncertainty and fear that Jesus speaks.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.”

Facing his own demise.  Aware of the disciple’s confusion, their fear and the impending desertion Jesus offers to them hope.  Jesus always offers to them and to us hope.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.”

In the face of uncertainty, confusion, doubt and fear: “Believe in God, believe also in me.”

I must admit that when I went away to the Centering Prayer retreat last year I was confronted by the tumultuous nature of my life, its business, and the concerns I was carrying.  It was there in the silence, not seeking to control God, but emptying myself before God that I was reminded deeply and truly that seeking God’s presence and way in my life needed to be rekindled. 

As I prayed at the retreat a strong sense of the words pf Psalm 121 came to me:

I lift up my eyes to the mountain from where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

I have shared this story with you a number of times since because of its importance not only to me but to each one of you.  As many of you are aware this retreat set me on a personal journey to refocus my own spiritual development and to invite others to share that with me in the Sunday evening prayer group.

To believe in God and believe in Jesus has me letting go.  Letting go a sense that I can control things.  Letting go of things that are not mine to worry about.  Letting go some of the responsibilities I carry.  I have had a great sense of peace and direction developing in my journey and no doubt this all fed into my decision to accept my new role as a Chaplain.

I realise though that my decision has for some of the congregation taken you back to the upper room with the disciples encountering some unexpected emotions uncertainty, confusion, doubt and fear.  What happens next for St Lucia?  What happen next for me?  We are in that liminal space as a congregation; a space of change and uncertainty.

But when you think about it so much of our lives is lived in this way personally, day by day, and as communities.  The community of this congregation, the community of Brisbane, the community of Australia and the broader community of humanity.

Week by week as we come here, we come as people who live in liminal spaces, with all of the thoughts and emotions that brings I would echo Jesus words to you: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.”

Believing in God and in Jesus means turning to God as a community.  It means devoting our gaze and attention to Jesus who helps us to know what to believe. 

Jesus, who, as he reassures the disciples declares those famous words: “I am the way, the truth and the life”.

“I am the way, the truth, and the life.”

He does not tell the disciples that they have to do anything apart from trust in this - it is Jesus himself who is the way, the truth and the life.  It is Jesus who faces the rejection of the cross, who also rises from the grave and lives to pray for us forever.  It is Jesus in his earthly fleshly body, as the eternal Word made flesh, who bridges our journey from the liminal space of uncertainty and fear into the hope of God.

I was reminded of this good news this week as I participated in the space for grace conversation run by the National Assembly of the Uniting Church.  In that space we were invited to share with around 30 other people our deeply personal life stories and in the process to come to know one another.

As an outcomes focussed person this process of listening and sharing was not that easy for me.  I like to know at the end of our time we have something to show for it.  But in this time I was reminded that surrendering control to deepen relationships with the people with whom I gathered was just as important.  Or to return to the notion of devoting myself to God in prayer I was given the opportunity to devote myself to listen for God’s presence in the lives of others.

The conversation was grounded in four principles: openness, responsibility, awareness and confidentiality.  The confidentiality means I cannot share the stories but I can share a glimpse of the experience. 

After 2 days the insight I felt that I was given, or maybe reminded of, was that in our lives lived in liminal spaces in which all of us miss the mark and others around us do too.  To be a bit more specific about this I mean we all sin.  In the sense that in the Greek the word sin has its origin in the word ἁμαρτία (hamartia).  It connotes the notion of an archer missing the target.

Although we may seek to live a good life, a life of discipleship, a life responding to God the reality is that we miss the mark, we err.  When we listen to each other’s life stories we discover that this truth that all of his miss the mark and fall short of the glory of God and this has consequence for us and for those whom we travel with in community.  Sometimes we realise that we have missed the mark and sometimes it takes another person to reveal this to us.

I am also reminded of this truth on days like today which is mother’s day.  My mum was not perfect and I was not the perfect son.  Each of us missed the mark in our relationship.  I am thankful that we were able to work through this and to continue to love one another.  Not all mothers and children are able to achieve this so mothers days comes with a mix of emotions for a range of reasons.

All of us miss the mark, all of us err.  But as the saying goes, "to err is human but to forgive is divine."

Just as we all miss the mark, ἁμαρτία (hamartia), so too the promise of Jesus to his disciples is that thought we miss the mark God remains alongside us.  God shows mercy and grace.  God forgives.  There is the opportunity for many of us to encounter and experience this divine grace in our daily journey of faith.  In the midst of the liminal spaces of life when we are missing the mark, or we are filled with fear and uncertainty, we are reminded that Jesus is the way the truth and the life for us.  We hear the comfort of the words, “Do not let your hearts be troubled”.  Peace breaks into our existence and the coming kingdom of God comes close to us.

All of us, personally and communally, are people who miss the mark.  All of us, personally and communally, are therefore people to whom Jesus words of grace apply.  “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Believe in God believe also in me.

As we sit on the precipice of change I am reminded that most of us have been here before.  As we enter liminal spaces in life, spaces of uncertainty, and even fear I am constantly reminded that in my own life I miss the mark, but I am also constantly reminded that despite this Jesus is the way the truth and the life and it is he who guides us home.

As you consider this moment in your own existence, personally and as a community, hear the good news and be strong in faith for on the night those disciples gathered full of fear and apprehension Jesus words came to them as good news of hope for them and for all people:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

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