Read John 14.1-14
As I write, lockdown drags on, and we have now held that silence at 11.00 on Tuesday 28 April in tribute to those who have lost their lives to the virus. Meanwhile, the Thursday evening applause is now well established. Commemoration and thanksgiving, both of which are uniting the nation.
Today’s reading begins with that apposite phrase, ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled’. That strikes a chord because even if we are not frightened for ourselves then we are concerned about family and friends, especially those who are making themselves vulnerable through their jobs or their volunteering.
Jesus speaks about ‘preparing a place’. In our context we could think of a safe place. Our world was that safe place until a few weeks ago. We came and went freely, could greet others as we wished, give a hug to those who were feeling down, we could make plans, we had so much to look forward
In other words, we were confident about the way ahead and when illness or infirmity came our way then we had the NHS, the care system, support from family and friends to trust in. At present those ways are not as clear, bringing us back to that phrase about ‘troubled hearts’.
Trouble and trust. Are they opposites so that we are either troubled or we trust? It is more likely that the human experience is a mixture, for example if we find ourselves walking along a narrow path with a steep drop on either side we need to take care and to trust in ourselves. It is all the better if we have a guide to trust in. Christian experience is also human experience, it is not something other-worldly something super-spiritual. As such then it is a mixture of trouble and trust in line with what type of personality we are, some of us are naturally more anxious, some of us naturally more optimistic.
Perhaps the thing for Christians to think is that we do have a guide Jesus Christ. It is not all simply down/up to us.
One thing that this passage reminds us of is the simple fact that we are not going to ‘get out of life alive’. We all know this, we simply don’t know when ‘our time will be up’, many of us have already had ‘close shaves’. Many of us would not be here but for the wonders of medical science, and for that we are grateful. Most of us have had to trust ourselves into the hands of those who we now count as heroes. It is exactly 20 years since I was granted an extension through the skill and persistence of the heart specialist -two stents (since you ask). Christians see those as delegated skills, ways in which God’s healing purposes are carried out today.
Yet we also know that things do not always work out, we can all think of people for whom things went wrong, inexplicably wrong. In some ways that is one way of looking at what happened to Jesus – he went to Jerusalem- and ended up on a cross. Christians do not think that was the end but our point at the moment is to return to our passage and those words ‘I am going to prepare a place for you’. Going through suffering and through death. Through.
Where to? Thomas’s question is perfectly reasonable. ‘How can we know the way?’ The answer Jesus gives can echo down the years to us. We focus on the first part, ‘I am the way’. Imagine yourself back on that narrow path with the danger of slipping down, yet we have to keep moving. We long to reach safety. Imagine also our guide, thank God! – we can trust him to bring us through.
‘Do not let your hearts be troubled’ -not because we should not be anxious, that is natural. Rather because, whatever happens, we have someone we can trust in, one who has said that he has gone to ‘prepare a place for you’. Trouble and trust.