May 14, 2017

John 14:1-14

About ten years ago, I was entranced into the candidacy process for the ELCA. I did not know what God had in store for me in the future. In the present, I sensed a call to ordained ministry and had been affirmed by many people in my congregation. There was one thing left to figure out, how was I going to pay for seminary. Imagine my joy when I received a call from the admissions office at Trinity Lutheran Seminary and they told me that I had received a partial scholarship from the ELCA Fund for Leaders, and the seminary was going to pick up the rest of my tuition.

If we fast forward a decade now, my seminary that guided me, shaped me, and sent me into the world is facing drastic changes. In the midst of changes across the country in theological education, Capital University will take over Trinity Lutheran Seminary. What that has come to mean is that nearly all of the staff that I came to love during my time there have been given their walking papers.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled,” Jesus tells us. My heart has been troubled since I heard the news more than six weeks ago.

When Jesus speaks these words to the disciples, they have to be thinking, seriously Jesus. You have just told us that you are going to die and one of the twelve that have been journeying the country side with us, appears to have left to betray you in some manner. “Do not let your hearts be troubled!” You’ve got to be kidding me!

Jesus can and does speak these same words to us today. “Do not let your hearts be troubled!” We are bound to respond the same way. Not to mention the struggles that happen within our own inner circles, have you seen the news lately, scrolled through the headlines on your computer or smartphone, or even picked up a newspaper?

There are enough bad things happening in the world, not to mention in our own country to trouble our hearts all day long. Jesus is aware of the troubled hearts, otherwise he would not have said it. Through Christ, our troubled hearts are even felt to this day. In the words of Jesus, we should be comforted as we learn to walk with one another.

As the disciples lob many questions and requests at Jesus, it is only natural. First, Thomas, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” After Jesus responds that he is “the way, the truth, and the life,” Philip wants some visuals. “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”

We have the habit of doing the same thing when we are not quite sure of what is going on. When we are struggling with what is right in front of us, we quite often will ask, why is this happening? Or, we will look to blame someone, who did this? When someone’s life is cut too short, the question is often asked, why did they have to die so young? When a relationship is broken up, why don’t they love me anymore? When faced with a diagnose, we want to know what caused it. We look for answers in the midst of our troubled hearts.

I am not sure if it is really the answer that we are looking for though. We want to make sense of what has been placed in front of us, yet we also want to know that we are not alone. We want to be reassured that we are going to be surrounded by people that love us and care for us.

Questions are not a bad thing. To ask why, draws us into a deeper understanding of what it means to be human. To question and doubt is at the heart of our humanity. Society has been transformed over thousands of years as we have asked how, what, where, when, and why. Sometimes for the good, and sometimes for the bad.

However, people start getting a little nervous when you begin to question the church. All we have to do is look back in our own history as Lutherans. As Martin Luther turned to scripture and studied and prayed, he started asking questions. He wanted to know why the physical church seemed to have a greater importance over and against the grace of God. He was persecuted for his teachings and had to disappear for a while. We still witness it today. If someone starts asking questions of the church and wondering if there is by chance a different interpretation, they are chastised and persecuted.

Honestly, how are we going to delve into a deeper relationship with God? Just like we get to know others better by asking questions, we get to know God and be in relationship with Christ by asking questions. In the midst of our questions, Jesus answers the most important one.

Who? Who is this Jesus that walks among the disciples? He is God in flesh, walking with us, guiding our way with his light. He is the one that loves us unconditionally. He is the one that longs and desires to be in relationship with us, even when we don’t think we are worthy. He is the one that calms the troubled heart. He is the one that went to the cross to defeat death, so we may have life eternal and walk with the saints. It is in the who, that our whys can begin to fade away.


By Alex Steward

I am a husband, father, and pastor within the ELCA. I did not grow up in the church and thus come at this pastoring thing with an unique perspective.

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