"then wilt thou not be loath to leave this Paradise, but shalt possess a paradise within thee, happier far. Let us descend now therefore from this top of speculation; for the hour precise exacts our parting hence" Paradise Lost, Book XII, lines585-590

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sermon for May 22nd

"Show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” 
Poor Philip,
After the feeding of the five thousand
After seeing Lazarus raised from the dead,
After seeing the whole of Jerusalem welcome Jesus like a king,

Philip still doesn’t understand Jesus

He’s given up his life to follow him
And he’s still not clear exactly what it is he’s given up his life for

Philip is with Jesus and the rest of the disciples,
In the upper room,
On the eve of Passover.
Philip is eating with Jesus at the Last supper,

And he says:
“Show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” 
Jesus, he seems to say,
Jesus, after all that I’ve seen
And all that I’ve heard,

I just need one more thing,
Just one more thing and I can be really, really certain.

I imagine Jesus cocking his head a little to the side
With sad eyes
Slowly shaking his head as he says;

“Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me?”

If you have ever struggled with your faith
Or doubted God’s existence
Or God’s goodness
You have a friend in Philip

Of course, Philip hasn’t seen the whole story play out yet
In this story, he hasn’t known the crucifixion
And most importantly,
He hasn’t known the Resurrection.
But even with his doubts
Even in his ignorance of what is to come.
Philip has dedicated himself to Jesus.

He’s made a choice with his heart and with his gut
And even though he yearns for more
And wants assurances,
He's still trying to follow Jesus,
He’s still a disciple.

For too long,
The “church” has often looked at faith
As a set of propositions
that you have to accept.

To be a Christian you have to believe x, y, z…
As if faith lived in your mind
As though God were some kind of rational argument you could prove
Like a mathematical formula.

And we have spent so much time and energy
As Christians
And as church
Arguing over our God formulas,
That we sometimes fail to see God right in front of us.

“Have I been with you all this time, and you still do not know me?”

Now please,
Don’t misunderstand me.
I don’t think doctrine is unimportant
Or unnecessary

It is important,
Critically important for us to begin to work out
Who and What God is
How God acts
And what God expects.

Doctrine is essential for faith,
But doctrine and faith aren’t the same thing,
And I would be willing to bet
That not a single person in this place
Is here because someone
gave you a neat tidy argument
that proved

once and for all,

without ever a second thought,

That God and Jesus
And all that goes along with it
Are real.

The opposite of faith isn’t doubt,
It’s certainty
If we were absolutely certain,

Beyond all doubt,

We wouldn’t need faith.

“Have I been with you all this time, Philip,
and you still do not know me?
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”

It is Jesus’ love that has bound the disciples to him,
not his logical analysis

And, of course,
Philip knows that Jesus isn’t like other people

Philip knows,
from the evidence of his own eyes
and his own experience
that Jesus has unimagined power

and Philip even thinks Jesus is the Messiah,
“He is the one foretold by Moses and the prophets”

That’s what Philip told his friend Nathaniel
on the day he met Jesus for the first time!

Philip has all the right beliefs
But he is struggling with his faith

Because what drives his question,
His demand for just one more thing

Is the question:
Why should I invest my time and energy with you?

And Jesus answers;
Believe me that I am in the Father
and the Father is in me;
but if you do not,
then believe me because of the works themselves.

Why should we trust Jesus and follow him?

Well, Because he is God,

but if you are struggling with that idea,
Then believe and follow Jesus
because of the things he has done.

A little further on in the story,
Jesus tells the disciples that those who would love him
will do the things that he has done

And in the doing of those things,
they will be united with Jesus.

And being united with Jesus
Means being united with God.

Following Jesus isn't easy, it can be downright hard,
But Jesus says we don't have to do it alone 

Jesus promises a helper,
The Holy Spirit.

the blind see,
the lame walk,
lepers are made clean,
the deaf hear,
the dead are brought back to life,
and the Good News is preached to the poor.

Those are the things that Jesus did

But more than that,

Jesus prayed
And worshipped
And sought to do God’s will at all times.

Jesus broke bread with sinners and outcasts
He loved the marginal ones
And called into account the powerful
And those who would use God
To oppress the powerless

God has given us the ability to do all these and more

Jesus told Philip,
“Very truly, I tell you,
the one who believes in me
will also do the works that I do
in fact,
will do greater works than these”

Jesus' call to us isn’t to believe for the sake of believing.
It’s a call to doing
It isn’t about agreeing with every word of the Nicene Creed
It isn’t about never having doubts
It certainly isn’t about blindly accepting what the “Church” says

It is about getting to know people
And helping them where you can
And allowing yourself to be helped when you should

It’s prayer and worship and practice and reflection

And the promise given to the disciples,
Is a promise given to us as well…

That in following Jesus, and
Doing what Jesus did,

We meet God

No comments:

Post a Comment