Fifth Sunday of Easter Yr A May 10 2020
Acts 7:55-60, 1 Peter 2:2-10, John 14:1-14, Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16
These have been some hard days. On one level, being healthy and happy at home is a great thing. We’ve gotten some things done, cleaned some drawers, thrown some stuff out, gotten a good start on yard work, finished the Doctoral Thesis -- but, we all know that we are beginning to fray, our edges are beginning to show, our patience is thinning, our hair is getting wild, we want to get back at our lives. And in and among all of that is grief, sadness, and loss. Our hearts break for the doctors, nurses, and front-line workers who put their lives on the line each day. Our hearts break for the service industry workers who have lost so much income but are afraid to go back to work. Our hearts break for missed rites of passage, graduations, 16th birthday parties, getting a driver’s license. Our hearts break for loved ones whose people have died in this time, those who have died from COVID-19, and those who have died from something else, we can’t have funerals that are so very important as a place to put our grief. I have a great nephew to be baptized, we’re actually considering doing it on Zoom.
This is life with all the feels amplified, we cry tears of joy when people say thank you, we cry tears of grief when we see the faces of the nurses, we cry tears of gratitude when we can see the people we love, we cry at all the montages on tv inspiring us to stay connected in all this – well at least I do.
And yet, into this very peculiar time we are living, we hear these words of Jesus, do not let your hearts be troubled. Jesus’ assurance to the disciples is an assurance to us as well. John reports this exchange in the midst of the grief the first followers of Jesus are feeling as it is become real to them that Jesus will be leaving them. Let’s remember some things about John’s gospel.
The central event of John’s gospel is foot washing. There is no Lord’s supper or last supper. We wash feet here, at Trinity, on Maundy Thursday of Holy Week. We bring our dirty, smelly, funny looking feet forward for someone we may or may not know, to wash, and dry. It is an amazingly vulnerable act. This is what Jesus does. Jesus gets down on his knees and washes the mud, dirt, the dust, the crap, off of the feet of his friends. I’m not sure we can understand the intimacy of this act, this is the service of a true friend, a relationship that has been built as Jesus and the disciples have shared everything together for the last three years.
Do you have a friend like that? A friend you have known since childhood. A friend for whom you would give your life. A friend who tells you the truth. A friend who knows all your secrets. This relationship, this friendship, Jesus and those who followed him them, and those who follow him now, is a deep and abiding relationship.
Jesus washes his friends’ feet, and the whole time he knows that Judas has already sold him out, and that Peter will deny his own friendship with Jesus. We must picture this foot washing with this in mind, we must feel the poignancy of the moment, in order to understand the depth of betrayal, denial, and the shattering of relationship.
But despite all of that, Jesus says, do not let your hearts be troubled. They are having an awful time accepting the fact of their separation, accepting the fact that Jesus is going away, and accepting Jesus’ promise that they will always be with him. Thomas voices their confusion; how do we know where you’re going Jesus? Thomas wants a map, he wants geography, but what Jesus has for them is not a map, but a relationship. A deep, abiding relationship where there is room for all of them. A deep, abiding, expansive relationship that is wide enough for all to enter.
Early in John’s gospel Jesus has said, I AM, which means your God is present. Jesus also says, I am the bread, I am the light, I am the door, I am the resurrection and the life, I am the good shepherd, I am the vine you are the branches, indicating a deeply intimate relationship. And here Jesus says, I am the way, I am the truth, and I am the life. These are words of comfort and description; they are not conditional. These are words that help the disciples know about relationship, Jesus and God, Jesus and them, Jesus and us. These are words that assure us of a relationship, they are particular in that way. This is a relationship that is deep, abiding, and intimate. These words invite, they do not exclude.
The disciples were living in a very troubling time, and they were afraid to let go of Jesus. Jesus assures them that he is already preparing a place for them, already preparing to be with them in a new way, a way of comfort and spirit.
At the core of John’s gospel is relationship, deep, abiding, ongoing. Everything in John’s gospel shows Jesus pursuing that relationship, and it shows the very much human disciples betraying, denying, and bungling. And in our time of uncertainty, our time of disconnection, our time of grief, our time when we cannot do anything that we have always believed to be at the center of connection, Jesus does not ever stop calling to us, being with us, holding us up and holding us together.
Community and relationship look different today, they look like love from a distance. But relationships are no less strong, and community no less resilient. In fact, we are being called to a new way of love today, a way that demands more from us, not less. More commitment to love one another from a distance, more commitment to be connected. Jesus invites us to follow the way, be the truth, and live as if everyone is related. Amen.