Our worship service for the 5th Sunday of Easter is ready to be premiered at 10am on May 10, 2020. Of course you can watch it any time after that, but just not before. Also, if you wanted to watch during the premiere at 10am on that date, there will be a live chat on YouTube. Just click the title banner in the video itself or the link directly below the video window.
The bulletin for this service can be found here. A manuscript of the sermon is found below the video.
May God be with you during this worship service and always!
Sermon for Easter 5 | May 10, 2020
O Lord, as we listen for your Word, open our hearts to the power of your Spirit, call us out of darkness, and lead us into your marvelous light, through Jesus Christ your truth, way, and life. Amen.
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled” Jesus says as he prepares his disciples for his impending death. “Don’t let your hearts be troubled” Jesus says as he tells them that they will, not might, but will betray him. “Don’t let your hearts be troubled” Jesus’ comforting words of comfort have, unfortunately, fallen on totally deaf ears and completely and utterly failed. Because let me tell you, their hearts were troubled, they were troubled hard. The loss of their mentor and friend sent them into all kinds of frenzy, and they started to act like they never knew Jesus at all.
But the thing is, our hearts are troubled all the time too. In fact, I’m relatively certain that our hearts are troubled now. It’s been like 9 weeks since we’ve been together in this space, for some of you even longer as we all know we don’t have the most regular of attendance here. I’m not judging, I’m just saying. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen each other, since we’ve seen our families, since we’ve been able to go for a casual drink with our buddies. It’s been a while since we’ve been able to take our kids to the playground, to go swimming, or even to school. I don’t even remember the last time I saw my mom or gave her a hug, mostly because I don’t normally hug her but I often give her very hearty thumbs ups. She knows what I mean by it.
So yeah, if you’re like me, your heart is troubled. Even with the good news that we heard this past week that we’ll be allowed to hang out in groups of 6 in our homes and that hair salons might be opening soon, we still aren’t happy with the way things are. We aren’t happy that we still can’t gather in groups larger than 50. We aren’t happy that shopping still isn’t the pleasurable experience it once was. We aren’t happy that bars and casinos remain closed, even though I don’t condone such pasttimes… We aren’t happy that we still can’t gather inside the church and sing together, and you know me and singing. So yeah, ours heart is troubled, for these reasons and many others because of this pandemic. And to be honest, all the words of Jesus telling us to not let that happen isn’t going to help at all, because you know what Jesus? We aren’t letting our hearts be troubled, this pandemic is forcing them to be troubled. We can’t do anything about the situation. We’re powerless to stop it. We are at the mercy of our government and health officials to tell us what we can and can’t do and that just quite honestly troubles our hearts in ways they have never been troubled before.
And so this is, as it was for the disciples, new territory for us. We don’t know where we are going so it’s hard to know what we’re doing. We can’t see the end of this thing so we grasp for hope and look for comfort. And seemingly above all, we can’t control it so that has caused the majority of people to do one of two things: get depressed over the lack of control, or work even harder to regain that control over something they so obviously cannot.
It is between a rock and a hard place, and what we have to go on is “don’t let your hearts be troubled.” Oh man.
But Jesus doesn’t stop there. In fact, he’s just getting started, like literally in this passage that was like the first thing he said. Jesus goes on and talks about his father’s home and the many dwelling places it has. Now, many people probably have told you that Jesus is talking about heaven here, but if we take a short trip down history we’ll see that might not be entirely accurate. See, in those days, they didn’t have hotels or AirBnB’s or even inns in spite of what the nativity story tells us, but rather travellers had to rely on the hospitality of strangers for room and board. You would knock on a random house and hope that they would have room for you. And if not, you moved to the next house and so on. And because travelling on foot or donkey or camel or whatever wasn’t super efficient, you would imagine that you’d have to hit up a lot of strangers for their hospitality if you didn’t want to sleep on the side of the road.
And the idea of staying with strangers would always be just for a night, maybe two if they were particularly friendly. But it was just expected that it’d be a temporary situation. It wouldn’t be like your deadbeat brother-in-law sleeping on your couch for indefinite periods of time, it was an intentionally brief, passing through, even fleeting guest/host relationship. That was just how things were.
But in the context of travelling or journeying, a “father’s house” what have a totally different meaning. At a “father’s house,” you didn’t have to rely on the hospitality of strangers. At a “father’s house”, you didn’t have to worry about what your next move would be. At a “father’s house”, you’d know that you’ll have lasting companionship and relationship, that you’ll well be taken care of, well fed, and well housed whenever you needed to be. This, according to the historical and cultural context, was probably what Jesus was talking about.
So you can imagine that would sound way better than the regular run-of-the-mill travel itinerary. Jesus has the hook up in town where they could stay to their heart’s content. And this, well, not literally this, but this sense of security, this sense of community, this sense of belonging is what Jesus is promising to his disciples. Because in tough times when our hearts are troubled, we need to feel some semblance of stability and comfort, or those troubled hearts just might feel a lot more troubled.
And here Jesus reveals how he is the way, the truth, and the life in that he is the example of how we can find ourselves that stability, security, and belonging. It is through how Jesus treated others, how he regarded the less fortunate, how he loved all people, even to the point of asking for his enemies to be forgiven, that we see how we are welcomed into this father’s house. It is through our own welcome to strangers, our own ministry to the other, and our own inclusion of the outcast that we see how we actually become this house, how this church universal to which we all belong becomes the dwelling place where people can find security, how this body of Christ that God has graciously joined us all to become is the way, the truth, and the life that feeds us, nourishes us, and leads us onto the path of salvation.
Yes, these are troubling times, but our hearts needn’t be troubled. For through our relationships, our community, our very belonging to God’s kingdom and welcome into the father’s house gives us strength, gives us confidence, and gives us faith. Faith to be God’s people in the world, faith to be God’s children welcoming others in love and community, faith to be God’s beloved serving God and neighbour and calming our hearts and the hearts of others.
And although Jesus wasn’t talking about literal rooms in his father’s house, we all have rooms in our homes that we like to welcome people in, host parties perhaps, or just feel that sense of comfort and belonging. This was the theme of this week’s photo challenge and I hope all of you will be able to see the strength that is given to us through our welcome to each other into our homes, even if only virtually. Here are the submissions:
May we all in this Easter season, follow the way, the truth, and the life, that we might be built up and rely on each other for security and comfort, dispelling the trouble we feel in our hearts and be recreated God’s eternal and welcoming house, with Christ as the cornerstone. Thanks be to God. Amen.