July 3, 2016 / IN TUNE / Sara Wolbrecht / John 14:1-7
My friends, as we get settled in to this time together, let’s ask (bring up the question again) when we think of God, what images come to mind? Underneath this question is the question: What is God like? Today, we’ll begin a journey that will take us through the summer. And beginning with this question about the nature of God is a fabulous, epic question to start with. And how would you, my friends answer it? To take us into discovering more about this, we’ll listen to a piece of scripture, ask a few questions about it, then engage with a video. You ready?
Our reading is from John’s gospel. Jesus says A LOT in John’s gospel, he is very chatty. John’s gospel is known for many things, including the “I am” statements. Where Jesus says, “I am…” which includes the Good Shepherd, the Bread of Life, the Light of the World. And Jesus is particularly chatty in chapters 14-17. This is known as Jesus’ Farewell Discourse. We read it almost as a monologue, though I am sure there was more of a conversation, as Jesus addresses his 12 disciples, laying out the final farewell, the key teaching and most important things for his disciples to hear and remember before Jesus sets his face toward the cross. The beginning of this Farewell Discourse is our reading for today, to frame our discussion. Notice how Jesus begins with a word of comfort, and he finishes these seven verse with one of his “I am…” statements – notice which one, for this is our verse for today.
John 14:1-7Jesus said: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
Jesus says: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 Is this verse familiar to you? Do you happen to know: how is this verse most often used? It is used as a line drawn in the sand. A line to mark who is in and who is out and one must be on a certain side of the line. And to be on the correct side, you have to believe. Believe the right things, believe Jesus is who he says he is. And you must believe in him as the only way to God. Have you heard that? And do you agree: do you think that is what this verse communicates to us? That this verse is saying one has to believe Jesus is the only way to salvation. (Thumbs up, down, unsure, mostly sure…).
It is easy to see how someone would read that in this text (and many people do). And yet, when we look at the larger narrative of scripture, to read Jesus’ words that way may not actually be what Jesus intended. I think to read this pivotal, well-known verse from John’s gospel that way is to miss the point of what Jesus is saying.
And to unpack that point, we’re going to turn to a video made ten years ago now. I love when we have a chance to hear from voices other than just me. I could say a lot of the content from the video myself, but it is much more fun to let someone else do it. Have you heard of Rob Bell? He did a series of artsy, interesting videos on faith and Jesus and spirituality called “Nooma” videos. Nooma in the Greek word for “Spirit” and for “Breath.” Rob Bell was a pastor for years in Michigan, who has done some great creative work in communicating the gospel, written a few controversial books in recent years, and even traveled around with Oprah Winfrey. I happen to like a lot of what he has said over the years about Jesus, including this take on some of these questions we have brought up today.
This video is called Rhythm. And you’ll see why. It’s about 11 minutes. It goes in a few different directions, and we’ll hear questions asked and observations made. I invite us to try and answer and engage with those questions, and to notice when Rob names his observations to really consider whether we agree with what he’s saying, to consider whether we have thought of it that way before. In other words: chew on the stuff that comes at us. And look for at least one nugget that gets your attention to walk away with. Sound good? Then we’ll make some points together on the other side, Ok?
VIDEO: Rhythm, Nooma, Rob Bell 2006
Friends – any word or phrase or idea that stuck with you? That challenged you, that made you mad or relieved or made you say YES, I’m not the only one!
What I love about this video is how it addresses our question: what is God like? God is like Jesus. And God invites us not into a list of rules to follow, but to step into the flow, to listen for the song and live our lives in tune with the rhythm that has been happening across the world for thousands of years.
When Jesus says: I am the way, the truth and the life. He is not drawing a line in the sand, nor making an ultimatum. Jesus is saying: “I am showing you what the song is like (I am the way), I am showing you what the flow is like. The way to find it, and to see who God is and connect with God is through me and this flow that I am showing you.”
So faith in God, faith in Jesus then, is less about asking the question “Do you believe or not?” The question is really: “Would you like to enter the flow?” Jesus’ whole life shows us this song, this flow.
Today we begin a series that will take us through the summer, a series on the rhythms of God in our world and lives. And we begin here – with this understanding that Jesus offers us an invitation to step into the flow, the song. And we’ll spend the next weeks exploring more about what this flow is, how we can be in tune with it, and hearing stories of what happens when we are in the flow, in tune with that song.
This feels like such a great way to embrace this summer season – a season where we find ourselves up late sipping beverages on patios after the sun goes down. Sitting poolside or lakeside, with sand in our toes or hiking boots on our feet. With the grill fired up and mosquitos getting the best of us – what better time than summer to think about the song our lives are in tune with.
And so that’s where we begin. …Friends, does this resonate with us? (Pun intended).
As we move into a time of response, we ask God the two questions we here at Salt House always come back to: God,
What are you saying to me?
What am I going to do about it?
As the band comes back up, we are going to sing in response to what we have heard, but as always, this is also time to be quiet, to pray, to notice, to hold these questions if that is the kind of response we need right now. As we create this kind of response space together, let’s pray…