During the suspension of Sunday services, I plan to post a reflection for each Sunday on the main reading of the day, and in the case of St George's this is the completion of our series on John's Gospel. Here is the one for Fifth Sunday of Lent:
‘‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me […] Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.’’ John 14:1, 5-6a
We find ourselves in even stranger times than we did last Sunday. Everything seems to be changing so fast; just as we come to terms with one set of rules, they change and we have to adapt all over again. The world it seems is in turmoil and who knows when it will stop spinning. We are glued to our TVs for the daily briefing or we unplug the TV and hope it will all go away. At times like these, when everything is topsy-turvy, it is easy to let doubt kick in, it is easy to blame God for everything, give up on Him, and search for something which looks more certain. ‘I thought God was meant to be in-charge’ we scream; ‘I thought God was meant to take care of us’ we grumble; ‘I thought He was all powerful, how could He let this happen?’ we moan. Much of our nation has a view of a god who is a lot like a kindly grandparent, or a gentle genie, one who is meant to protect us from harm, make sure the WiFi works, and that we get treats from time to time. When trouble comes, the people with this type of god, understandably, question his use or even his very existence. But for those of us who read our bibles we already know that our God, the real God, is totally different from the popular-level grandfather god. The God of the Scriptures, the God of the Church, the Christian God, never promises us an easy ride, or an easy life; in fact quite the opposite. For most of the New Testament the Apostles are telling Christians that trouble WILL come, and in the midst of it we are to keep trusting, we are to keep the Faith. But even when people have read the New Testament you often find people saying that this pessimistic view of the world is all down to St Paul, and that Jesus was far more positive, far more gentle. But once again, those of us who having been studying John’s Gospel would have to disagree. Jesus is pretty direct, and says some pretty hard things, but it is precisely in these sayings that we find His love and care.
Our reading toady is often read at funerals, and rightly so, for it is Jesus comforting His disciples. Jesus knows that the future is bleak, and His disciples will be tempted to fall away. Jesus looks at the world as it really is: a world which can be hard, a world which can throw us off our game, and a world where troubles come. Jesus does not pretend life is easy; if He did what use would He be? Rather, He looks at the troubles of the world, including a world where disease and death can get out of control, and He says this: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me’. In other words, says Jesus: ‘Trust me when the world seems to be spinning out of control. Trust me when you fear for your safety and for the safety of your love ones. Trust me when you’re sick and when you’re dying’. Why? Why would we trust Jesus? For as we have seen from our studies in John’s Gospel, Jesus is God the Son, the one who controls all things and created all things, but also the God who came to earth, entered into our suffering, and died so that we might live. The Christian God is not one who sits safely on a cloud, but rather one who hangs suffering on a cross. ‘But He is gone, now’ we say, ‘why can’t He be here with us?’ But it is in His going away, says Jesus, that we can take comfort, for when He goes He will prepare a room for us in a place with no more pain, or viruses, or suffering. ‘How do we get there?’, cries out Thomas, as we too may cry out. ‘Simply trust me’ says Jesus ‘trust me in the difficult times, trust me when all hope seems gone, when everyone around you is losing their heads’, and v3: ‘I will come back and take you to be with me’. There is only one way to get to this place where there is no suffering, and it’s not by hoping there is a genie in the sky, or that the PM has his Covid-19 strategy just right. No, the only way to get there is to trust the one who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Trust Jesus and He will see us through this time of trial, through the rest of our lives, through death, and out the other side. Bothers and sisters, keep trusting, keep praying, keep serving, and keep believing. Our God is with us, He will never leave nor forsake us. One day He will come back and take us to be with Him in a place with no more tears, viruses or death. Amen. (from Rev. Mike)