Easter 5 A : I am the Way, Truth and Life: Do not Worry

The Peacemakers Dawne Olson, a South Dakota mother of four, was preparing to give a talk on unity at her women's Bible study. She woke up early to type out the scripture verses. She wasn't quite finished when her four children began coming downstairs asking for breakfast. She could hear the children just around the corner in the kitchen as they rummaged through the refrigerator and cupboards for something to eat. At some point they discovered half of a toaster pastry on the counter from the night before. They all began screaming and fighting; each claiming the half-eaten Pop Tart. 

As Dawne made a couple of futile attempts to quiet them down, she finished typing the verse in Matthew 5:9 that says, "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God." Taking her cue from scripture, she hollered into the kitchen above the noise, "Would somebody PLEASE be the peacemaker?!" 
There was a moment's silence and then Garret, age 6, piped up, "I'll be the piece maker, Mom!"

Then to his brother and sisters he said: "Here's a piece for you and you, and a piece for you and one piece for me." 
Needless to say, Dawne had her opening illustration on unity and peace for that evening's Bible study! 
Billy D. Strayhorn, I Go to Prepare a Place for You 

Andrew Greeley: Another Irish immigrant story:

A young father decided that the only way he could support his wife and their three children was to leave for America. He would get a good job there, save his money, send most of it back to his family, and save the rest so that eventually he could buy them a house and bring them to the Land with the Golden Door. His wife, his children and his parents begged him not to leave. We’ll perish without you, they said. You’ll perish with me here, he said. I must go to America to earn a decent living. Well, they had an American wake for him, a sad party for a man they never hoped to see again. He survived the journey across the Atlantic, though many of his fellow passengers died. He survived a long trip to Chicago and his first days in the Stock Yards. It was a terrible bloody, smelly place to work, but he could earn more money in a couple of days there than he would in a whole year working his miserable farm. He sent home a letter every month with money that would keep his whole family alive. He stayed away from the pubs and ate very little in the crowded boarding house in which he lived. He went to night school to study accounting and eventually found a job which paid even more money than the slaughter house. Only a few letters came from home, because his children were too young to write, his parents didn’t know how, and his heartbroken wife would break down in tears when she tried to scribble a letter. After five years and several promotions, he had saved enough money to pay their first class passage to the United States and to buy a cozy house in which his family would live. While he waited for them to come – hoping that they would – he decorated and furnished the house.  
 Back home the wife’s mother was urging her not to go to America. People died on the trip, she said. You’ll be taking my grandchildren away. He’s a real yank now and he won’t want country folk like you living in his house. The wife was torn between two loves, but she finally decided after much delay to risk everything on the trip to America and to the husband she still loved, though she couldn’t really remember what he looked like. The trip over was easy in first class as was the train ride to Chicago. At first none of them recognized the prosperous gentleman in the business suit that welcomed them when they got off the train. They were astonished by the house – running water, gas lamps, inside heating. Isn’t worth waiting for? The husband asked. You were worth waiting for, his wife replied. 
Fr. Tommy Lane
Sometimes we say, “It’s impossible.” But Jesus says in Luke 18:27, “Things that are impossible for men are possible for God.”
Sometimes we say, “I’m too tired.”
But Jesus says in Matt 11:28 “Come to me all you who labor and are overburdened and I will give you rest.”
Sometimes we say, “Nobody really loves me.”
But in John 3:16 we read that God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.
Sometimes we say, “I can’t go on.”
But Jesus told Paul, “My grace is enough for you: for power is at full stretch in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9)
Sometimes we say, “I can’t do it.”
But Paul wrote in Phil 4:13, “I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.”
Sometimes we say, “I can’t manage.”
But Paul wrote in Phil 4:19, “God will fulfill all your needs in Christ Jesus as lavishly as only God can.
Sometimes we say, “I’m afraid.”
But in 2 Tim 1:7 we read, “God’s gift was not a spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of power and love and self-control.”
Sometimes we say, “I feel all alone.”
But in Heb 13:5 God says, “I will never fail or desert you.”
In our Gospel today Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.” (John 14:1) 
From Fr. Tony Kadavil’s Collection
1)    ”My Father’s house.”   
When St. John Chrysostom was summoned before the Roman Emperor Arcadius and threatened with banishment, he replied, “You cannot banish me, for the world is my Father’s house.”  “Then I will kill you,” exclaimed the Emperor angrily.  “No, you cannot,” retorted Chrysostom, “because my life is hidden with Christ in God.”  “Your treasures shall be confiscated,” the Emperor replied grimly. “Sir, you can’t do that because my treasures are in heaven as my heart is there.”  “I will drive you from your people and you shall have no friends left,” threatened the Emperor.  “That you cannot do either, Sir, for I have a Friend in heaven who has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’”  In today’s Gospel Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life, gives us the same assurance.  “In my Father's house there are many dwelling places.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.”  

2)    Surprises in Heaven:   

A few years ago, a minister of the United Methodist Church was forced out of his congregation and the ministry because he had the “audacity to preach heresy” during his Sunday sermon:  "I'm in a church,” he said, “which acts as if God has a very small house, with only a few rooms and only one door.  But thanks be to God, God's house, according to Jesus, has many rooms, many places to dwell.  If it were not so, he would have told us."  To add fuel to the fire, he explained his theory with a story.  A good man died and was ushered into heaven, which appeared to be an enormous house.  An angel began to escort him down a long hallway past "many rooms".  "What's in that room?" the man asked, pointing to a very somber-looking group of people chanting a Gregorian Mass.  "That's the Roman Catholic room,” said the angel.  “Very high church.”  "What's in that noisy room?" the man asked, pointing to a group of white-clothed people dancing, clapping and singing and occasionally shrieking out loud.  "That's the Pentecostal group," said the angel.  "Very lively."  "What's in that room?" asked the man, pointing to a group of bald-headed people meditating to the sound of an enormous gong."  That's the Zen group," said the angel.  "Very quiet.  You would hardly know they were here."  Then the angel stopped the man, as they were about to round a corner.  "Now, when we get to the next room," said the angel, "I would appreciate it if you would tiptoe past.  We mustn't make any sound."  "Why's that?" asked the man.  "Because in that room there's a bunch of very fundamentalist Christians; and they think they're the only ones here."  In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives a true picture of his Father’s house. 

3)    The tremendous claim by Jesus

The sages of India prayed the “Guru mantra” in Sanskrit language every morning centuries before Christ:  “From falsehood lead me to truth, from darkness lead me to light, from mortality lead me to immortality” (“Aasato Ma Sath Gamaya, Thamaso Ma Jyothir Gamaya, Mrtjyor Ma Amritham Gamaya”). Centuries later Jesus gave the answer to their prayer through his tremendous claim: "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life."  In fact, Jesus took three of the great basic concepts of the Jewish religion, and made the unique claim that in him all the three found their full realization.  This means that he alone is the surest way to God.  He alone can authoritatively and flawlessly teach us truths about God and he alone can give God’s life to us. John’s central message is that Jesus is both the revealer and the revelation of God. If we wish to know who God is, what God thinks and what God wants of us, we must attend to Jesus the Word of God.

4)    Jesus is the Way 

We go to God the Father who is Truth and Life through Jesus and we call Jesus the "Way" because he is the visible manifestation in human form of all that his Father is. To those who teach that all religions lead us to God or that religion is immaterial provided man lead a good life, Jesus has the answer that he is the safest and surest way to God because he came from God and he can lead us to his heavenly Father.  The founders of other religions had either wrong ideas about the way to God or they were not sure guides.  Lao-Tse (604-531 BC), the founder of Taoism said: “Get rid of all desires, you will have a contented life on earth, but I am not sure about the next life.”  Buddha taught people to reach self-realization through total detachment and “nirvana”, but he was not sure if these would lead one to God.  Confucius confessed that he did not know of an eternal life or the way to attain it.  The founder of Islam, Mohammed Nabi, admitted that he had no hope of the future unless Allah should put His mantle of mercy on him.  However, Jesus claims that he is the only way to God. When a Person is a Way for us to get to the Father and everlasting life, that Way is found only in our relationship with Him, that is, in our union with Him in mind and heart, in will and action. But Jesus’ sure way to God is the narrow way of the cross.  It is the least-traveled way of humble, loving, self-giving and committed service to others. To follow the Way of Jesus is to become a special kind of person, a person whose whole being reflects the Truth and the Life that Jesus reveals to us.  It is to be a person of Truth and Life who is totally identified with the vision and the values of Jesus.  The medieval monk Thomas à Kempis the author of Imitation of Christ explains Jesus’ statement, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life” thus: "Without the way, there is no going; without the truth, there is no knowing; and without the life, there is no living.” 

5)    Jesus is the Truth

Gandhi said, “God is truth.”  Jesus is the truth because he is the only one who reveals to us the whole truth about God.  He teaches us that God is a loving, merciful, providing and forgiving Father.  He also teaches us the truth that our triune God lives in each one of the believers.  Jesus is the truth also because he has borne testimony to truth, demonstrating through his life and death the love of God for human beings. Truth here is that complete integrity and harmony which Jesus himself revealed, not only in what he said and did, but in the total manifestation of his life and person.  Jesus is the truth, the word of God. To seek the truth elsewhere is to stumble and fall, to deal in falsehood and lies. So we pray the 86th Psalm, "Teach me thy way, O Lord, and I will walk in thy truth." For us to live the Truth in that Way is also to be fully alive, to be a "fully-functioning person,” responding totally to that abundance of life which Jesus has come to give us.

6)    Jesus is the Life 

As God, Jesus has eternal life in himself.  In addition, he is the one who gives us his life-giving Holy Spirit.  Jesus is the Life also in the sense that he allows us to share in God’s Life through the sacraments. Christ rose from the dead for two reasons: first, to give us eternal life; second, to make us fully alive now. His Spirit animates every moment of our lives. To be fully alive is to be in God. Thomas a Kempis of The Imitation of Christ fame wrote, "Without the Way, there is no going. Without the Truth, there is no knowing. Without the Life, there is no living."

Eric Clapton, arguably the greatest living rock guitarist, wrote a heart wrenching song about the death of his four year old son. He fell from a 53rd-story window. Clapton took nine months off and when he returned his music had changed. The hardship had made his music softer, more powerful, and more reflective. You have perhaps heard the song he wrote about his son's death.  
It is a song of hope:  
Would you know my name if I saw you in heaven?
Would it be the same if I saw you in heaven?
I must be strong and carry on,
'Cause I know I don't belong here in heaven. 
Would you hold my hand if I saw you in heaven?
Would you help me stand if I saw you in heaven?
I'll find my way through night and day,
'Cause I know I just can't stay here in heaven. 
Time can bring you down, time can bend your knees.
Time can break your heart, have you begging please, begging please.
Beyond the door there's peace I'm sure,
And I know there'll be no more tears in heaven.  
Jesus has just had the Passover meal with his disciples. He has washed their feet in an act of servanthood. He has foretold his betrayal which Judas will soon perform. He has predicted Peter's denial. He has told them he is leaving. But he adds this word of hope: Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house there are many rooms. I go to prepare a place for you and will come again and take you to myself. So that where I am, you may be also.  
Hardship has a way of getting our attention. Pain slows us down. Very few us, after facing a trial, come out the same way we entered in. Jesus understood this and attempted to prepare his disciples for the road ahead.
The difference between learning a language and living a language is shown by how well we understand the unique idioms of our new TGiF world (Twitter, Google, instagram, Facebook). Living languages change and adapt to the worlds they are living in. So there is a constant invention of new words, and even new dictionaries, like Urban Dictionary, that tells us daily what these new words mean.   
Ancient Latin and Koine Greek are beautiful, expressive languages. They speak of love in a language of love that is unsurpassed in beauty and vibrancy. They are languages that speak about our greatest desires for spiritual connections too. But these ancient languages have not been spoken for millennia. And they do not have any special words for new designations like the internet, or robots, or string theory, or sushi.  
English has always been "on the move." What is most familiar to you today? Words like "Facebook," "Twitter," "iPad," "Face Time," "Fandango," "Snap Chat," "Apps." These would have been gibberish a decade ago. In March of 2014, some of the words added to the definitive and prestigious Oxford English Dictionary included: crap shoot, honky-tonker, selfie, twerk, wackadoodle, bestie, bookaholic, scissor-kick, do-over, DIYer, to name just a few. Today these strange new words are guideposts to our daily lives. That is the way a "living language" keeps alive. It keeps changing. It re-invents itself all the time. A fossil language does not communicate. A fossil faith does not communicate, much less change the world.   
In the first century, there were lots of words being revisited, reframed, and reinvented. As the disciples and first followers of Jesus encountered the reality of the cross, and then the shock of the empty tomb, the whole concept of "Messiah" was looked over and under in a fresh way.  
From the Hebrew tradition of Isaiah (28:16), God is identified as a foundation stone. God is an immovable rock, the primordial solid stone. Peter himself had been identified as "petros," the movable stone as opposed to petra, the immovable bedrock. Peter knew his own weaknesses all too well and chose to write about a new kind of "rock." The image Peter offers is even weirder than the identity Jesus had given him as a "stone," as a petros (me stone), and upon this petra (we bedrock) Jesus promised to build his church. The Me is built upon the We. In Christ Peter's insecurities will be made solid, as will ours...   
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What's With the Fork?  
A woman was diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. As she was getting her things in order, she contacted her pastor and asked him to come to her house to discuss some of her final wishes. 
She told him which songs she wanted sung at her funeral service, what Scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in. She requested to be buried with her favorite Bible. 
As the pastor prepared to leave, the woman suddenly remembered something else. "There's one more thing," she said excitedly.
"What's that?" said the pastor.
"This is important," the woman said. "I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand." 
The pastor stood looking at the woman, not knowing quite what to say. 
The woman explained. "In all my years of attending church socials and potluck dinners, when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, 'Keep your fork.' It was my favorite part of the meal because I knew something better was coming-like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. 
"So, when people see me in that casket with a fork in my hand and they ask, 'What's with the fork?' I want you to tell them: 'Keep your fork. The best is yet to come!'"
Alan Carr, Biblical Facts about a Place Called Heaven
One Way Out  
The year was 1275 BC, before Christ. The land was Egypt. The ruler was Pharaoh. The leader of the Jews was Moses. The Jews had been in slavery for four hundred years to the Egyptians, building their cities and pyramids. But God had sent the plagues, and now the Jewish nation was beginning their exodus from slavery. And at this particular moment, they were stopped by a body of water, the Red Sea, the Red Sea, and the Egyptian chariots and horses were rapidly coming to attack and bring death and extinction. It seemed there was no way out and then a miracle. Suddenly, before them, the Red Sea opened up and there was only one way. Only one way out. Only one way to avoid death and extinction and that was through the Red Sea.
That paradigm, that visual image of only one way out of death and extinction is deeply woven into the theology of the Old Testament and New Testament. I still can clearly see a picture poster from a Bible Series that I used to teach of a high piece of land on the left, a deep chasm in the middle and a high piece of land on the right. The high piece of land on the left represented Earth; the high piece on the right represented Heaven; and then there was a bridge in the form of a cross that went from Earth to Heaven. It was only on the cross of Christ that we moved from Earth to Eternity. It was the only way. It is the only way. 
Edward F. Markquart, Only One Way Out
The Perfect Church 
Those of us who are part of the Church know we are not what Jesus called us to be. We spend too much and share too little; we judge too many and love too few; we wait too long and act too late. Perhaps you are saying, "Show me a church where ministers aren't self­-serving; where hypocrisy has been purged away; where church members don't waste time and energy squabbling over petty details; where love is genuine, and I'll become a member." You'll wait a long time, my friend, for such a church takes up no space on this earth. It has floated up, up, up and disappeared beyond Oz.  
Or perhaps, such a church lives as a memory -- a time when disciples believed, when faith could move mountains, and motives were pure. 
Barbara K. Lundblad, The Body of Christ Takes Up Space on Earth
The Wednesday Worry Box 
Sometimes, if you will just wait, problems take care of themselves. J. Arthur Rank had a system for doing that. He was one of the early pio­neers of the film industry in Great Britain, and he also happened to be a devout Christian.   
Rank found he could not push his worries out of his mind completely; they were always slipping back in. So he finally made a pact with God to limit his worrying to Wednesday. He even made himself a little Wednesday Worry Box and he placed it on his desk. Whenever a worry cropped up, Rank wrote it out and dropped it into the Wednesday Worry Box.   
Would you like to know his amazing discovery? When Wednesday rolled around, he would open that box to find that only a third of the items he had written down were still worth worrying about. The rest had managed to resolve themselves.    
If you have a troubled heart, ask God to give you a new perspective. Also ask him to give you patience so that you do not jump ahead and worry about a problem that may never come. But most important of all, ask God for more faith. Faith in God is the best remedy for all our problems. Jesus put it plainly, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me."  
King Duncan, Collected Sermons, adapted from Daily Bread, 11 December 1999. Cited by David Jeremiah, Slaying The Giants In Your Life (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2001), pp. 67-68.
Making Anyone Laugh 
The great American humorist, Will Rogers, had the reputation that he could make anyone laugh. President Calvin Coolidge, on the other hand, had the reputation that he never laughed. Want to know what happened the time those two met? Rogers was invited to visit the White House and as was the custom, the president's assistant brought Rogers into the Oval Office. As was the custom as he entered, the assistant said, "President Coolidge, this is Will Rogers. Mr. Rogers, this is President Coolidge." To which Rogers leaned forward and said, "I'm sorry. I didn't catch the name." With that, President Coolidge cracked up and started laughing. 
Don't you wish you were as quick on your feet as he was? Quick with a comeback, quick with just the right thing to say. Well, of all the things that Jesus said, some of the most significant are the words in today's Gospel reading, when Jesus says, "I am the way and the truth and the life." 
Lee Griess, Return to the Lord, Your God, CSS Publishing Company, Inc
An Evening Prayer 
A century ago John Henry Newman wrote an evening prayer which expresses well the whole spirit in which we see the present in the light of that place which Christ has prepared for us:
Support us, O Lord, all the long day of this troubled life until the shadows lengthen, and the evening comes, when the busy fever of life is hushed, and our work is done. Then in thy mercy grant us a safe lodging, a holy rest, and peace at the last, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen 
Dean Lueking, From Ashes to Holy Wind, CSS Publishing Company
When We Glimpse Paradise 
In 1816, Lord Byron wrote a narrative poem that has become a classic. The poem is titled, "The Prisoner of Chillon," and it is the story of a man incarcerated in the dungeon at the Castle of Chillon near Lake Geneva, Switzerland. 
The prisoner was in a narrow, cramped dungeon cell for such a long time that he began to think of it as home. He made friends with the spiders, insects, and mice that shared his cell. They were all inmates of the same dungeon and he was monarch of each race. 

The years in the dark dungeon cell had taken their toll. He was no longer unhappy or uncomfortable. He had grown accustomed to his environment and came to think of his chains as friends. 
One day a bird perched on the crevice of the ledge above and began to sing. It was the sweetest music he had ever heard. Suddenly, the desire to see the outside world overwhelmed him. He grabbed the walls of his cell, and began climbing and struggling up the wall so that he could look out of the little window. In that moment, he saw a world that he had forgotten. There was a crystal blue lake ... and some tall green trees ... and the beautiful little white cottage that he called home nestled against the green hills ... and an eagle soaring majestically across a blue sky.
He saw them all for one magnificent moment and then he fell back into his cell...