Welcome to worship on this 5th Sunday of Easter, landing on May 7, 2023!
The bulletin for this service can be found here. You may download and follow along with the bulletin if you wish, but all the words that you need to know will also be on your screen and the sermon is on this page after the actual video.
If you would like an enhanced worship experience at home, you are encouraged to have a lit candle in your space for most of the service, that can be extinguished after the sending hymn with the altar candles. And you are welcome to participate in communion with something small to eat and drink, ready for the appropriate time in the service, when further instruction will be given.
May God’s wondrous love and welcome be apparent to you, now and always!
O Lord, by the power of your Spirit may our hearts be opened to your Word, calling us out of the darkness and leading us into your marvellous light, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
I had an interesting interaction with an elderly woman the other day at the salon where I get my hair cut. If you remember from a couple weeks ago, you’ll know that this place is closing down, and the lady that cuts my hair will no longer be cutting my hair, and I’m kind of distressed about it. This woman that I was interacting with is also a long time customer, and quite a colourful character. Funny thing is that she gets her hair cut on almost the same exact schedule as me as I was told, but we’ve never crossed paths before.
Anyway, I was paying for my final cut at this place, and the lady says to me, “excuse me young man, were you here for a cut?” And I responded “yes”. And she said in a longing sort of way, “well, what are you going to do now?” As in, where am I going to get my hair cut now, not what am I actually doing at that moment and if I’m free to grab a coffee or something.
We shared a half-hearted and knowing chuckle, then the conversation turned into how the powers that be never make the right decision because those decisions always inconvenience her, but that’s a story for another sermon. It was her, “what are you going to do now” question that got my sermonic juices flowing.
I mean, she looked at me and somehow knew that I was a regular at this place. Maybe she actually had seen me there before but I just don’t remember. Maybe it’s how my hairdresser and I were talking more like friends who knew each other for a while rather than just two strangers who have just met. Or maybe it’s because I knew how to operate their very confusing credit card machine. Whatever it was, she knew that I was going through what she was going through in losing the place where we got our hair done on a regular basis, a place where we’d frequent every couple of weeks, a place where we might even, in some shape or form, call home.
So, what are we going to do now?
I’ll admit, it’s kind of distressing. Having to look for a replacement for what we’ve known for so long isn’t easy. Finding comfort when suffering loss is hard. Learning to live with change, especially when feeling a bit displaced, isn’t exactly a favourite thing for anyone to do. So I very much resonate with and echo her question to me, “what are we going to do now?”.
And yes, we are just talking about hair cuts, but this comradery that this random woman and I shared, this common plight, this connection in our distraught feelings is something that I found interesting. Yeah, we didn’t like what was happening, but there was a sort of comfort in going through it together. And while it’s highly highly unlikely that I’ll ever see this woman again in my life, and honestly even if I did I doubt either of us would recognise each other, this sense of kinship over our shared difficulties will not be lost. At least, it won’t be lost on a preacher looking for some way to tie today’s texts to real life.
See today’s gospel story out of John talks a bit about distress and the comfort that can be found in community. It is the start of what is known as Jesus’ farewell discourse. Essentially, Jesus is telling his disciples that he’ll be leaving them soon and things will be different. He’s preparing them of what is to come, albeit a bit fruitlessly. He’s basically warning them of what will happen and simultaneously comforting them in it, which is a bit confusing I suppose for the disciples, as they don’t really understand what Jesus is saying, where he is going, and what the whole point of it all is yet.
But they do understand that something is up.
See, right before this chapter, Jesus was telling his disciples that he’ll be with them only for a little longer, and where he is going, they cannot follow. And Peter was like, “Nah Jesus, I can follow you, I’ll follow you anywhere.”
Now this sounds like words of a super faithful and devoted guy, ready to go anywhere with and do anything for his mentor. But Jesus drops the hammer on Peter’s bubble here and is like, “You sure, Peter? Because really, before the rooster crows in the morning, you’ll deny even knowing me three times.” Mic drop.
This would be a blow to anyone’s ego. And right before this Jesus was telling them that he would be betrayed and called Judas Iscariot out for being the traitor. At this point the disciples would have been bewildered at the thought. Maybe Judas as traitor was plausible because of the whole “sell the perfume to help the poor but really to line his own pockets” thing. But Peter? Sure, he was kind of a dunce at times, but he was the real devout one, part of Jesus’ inner circle, the one that even tried to beat science and walk on water to follow Jesus. If Peter can fail Jesus, any one of them can as well.
So they were probably feeling distressed, distraught, disillusioned. And even if they weren’t, those that this gospel was originally written for way after all these things took place very likely were. Those in the early church were told that Jesus would be back and were waiting impatiently. Those who witnessed the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension that were promised that Jesus would be with them until the end of the age but he wasn’t really in the way they wanted. Those that were there at the time and were looking forward to Jesus doing all the things that they thought he was supposed to do but were instead feeling a bit frustrated because nothing happened so far, not that they could tell.
But then they get this writing from John, the alleged disciple whom Jesus loved, reminding them that Jesus asked them, specifically said, and was so reassuring in his “Don’t let your hearts be troubled.” In their fear and distress, Jesus asked don’t let your hearts be troubled. In their distraught feelings of loss and loneliness, Jesus said don’t let your hearts be troubled. In their misunderstandings and misgivings of what they were taught, Jesus reassured them don’t let your hearts be troubled.
See, Jesus reminded them that their hearts needn’t be troubled because Jesus will be preparing a house for them. While many preachers and funeral sermons will tell you that this house is in heaven, I actually think that this house is here, now, in God’s kingdom on earth, in this very church to which we belong. This house is us, this community, what we might call the body of Christ, where we can all gather even in our difficult times, and be with others who might be feeling the same way, have gone through the same things, and can lean on each other for care and support. This house where all are welcome.
You know, the beauty of this reminder from Jesus is lost in translation. The Greek word for “your” is actually in the plural. In English we only have the one word for both singular and plural so I guess in the vernacular it should be translated as “all y’all’s”. Beautiful, isn’t it? “Don’t let all y’all’s hearts be troubled… y’all”. Actually the beautiful part is that while “your” is in the plural, “heart” is in the singular.
So it’s actually “Don’t let all y’all’s heart be troubled.”
This one shared, common, communal heart. This one unifying, inclusive, harmonious heart. This one joining, inspiring, and divine heart. It needn’t be troubled because it isn’t alone, but surrounded by community in this house of God. It needn’t be troubled because it isn’t abandoned but held tightly by God’s arms of love and grace. It needn’t be troubled because at the center of it is Jesus, the Messiah, the risen Saviour, our Lord.
Friends, this heart needn’t be troubled even in the most troubling of times, because God continues to be with us in the unseen, lifts us up from whatever shame and guilt hold us down, and forgives us and redeems us and saves us. This house that Jesus prepares is the house for this heart, where love resides, where we are saved, where all are welcome. This house with many rooms is the house of God, where we are invited, belong, and have our home.
So while life continues in its ups and downs, while we find ourselves facing trouble of different shapes and sizes, while we might feel alone or disconnected, we can rest assured that this house of God continues to stand with Christ as its foundation, bringing us all in with a welcoming grace, granting us an identity as children of God that share a heart that is full of peace and love.
In this season of Easter, may we reflect on and draw strength from this heart that we all share, that we might find peace in all that life brings, now and always. Thanks be to God. Amen.