Sunday 10th May

May 10th - Fifth Sunday of Easter

Part 1 - John 14

Do we stay or do we go?

 

We waiting for tonight’s instructions from the Prime Minister, the first ‘unlock down’ rules.

 

A schoolteacher with a class of five-year-olds suddenly felt faint and dropped to the floor. As she went down she called out, ‘Go and get the caretaker.’

    Lying on the floor she was dimly aware of a crowd of young faces looking down on her, and a tiny voice saying, ‘Which one of us do you want to go?’

 

‘Do we stay or do we go?’ ‘Which one of us do you want to go?’

 

In John’s Gospel the disciples were children longing for direction from their Master Jesus.

 

In chapter one two disciples, like young children, asked Jesus ‘where are you staying’. To which he replied ‘come and see’.

At the end of chapter 13, after Judas goes out on Maundy Thursday, Peter, like a child to his teacher, asks Jesus

‘Master, where are you going?’ Jesus replies

‘Where I’m going you cannot follow me just now. You will follow later, though.’

So Peter says

‘Master, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you…”

To which Jesus foretells Peter that he will let him down when the cock crows.

 

At the beginning of chapter 14, Jesus preparing to die, this is the night he is arrested, says mysteriously

‘I’m going to prepare an abiding place for you’….

‘you know the way where I’m going, after all’.

 

This time Thomas asks Jesus

‘Actually, master,’ we don’t know where you’re going, so how can we know the way?’

 

‘How can we know the way?’

We are wanting to know more tonight.

In an anxious time of pandemic, we want to know ‘what next?’ We look to politicians, and particularly to scientists, for guidance.

 

To which Jesus says to us

‘I am the way, and the truth and the life!’

 

1/ Jesus is the “way”, because he the one by whom and in whom disciples must travel, the way that leads to life.

Today we long to be on the way to life with Jesus.

 

2/ Jesus is the “truth”, because, in seeing Jesus, disciples see the Father, the Father who knows every part of us.

Today we long for someone to tell us ‘is there something wrong with me?’ And for Jesus to forgive and heal us and makes us completely me.

 

3/ And Jesus is the “life”, because when we participate in his resurrection, we enjoy the Father’s abundant life.

Today everyone longs to be released, we long for freedom in God.

 

With 30,000 people dying in the UK since March, Jesus says to everyone

‘Let not your hearts be troubled…”

 

Jesus comforts us as we live through mass bereavement, saying ‘Believe in God, believe also in me’.

 

Our troubled, anxious, even panicking hearts are comforted through our belief in God,

a God who looks very much like Jesus.

 

Jesus’ call is troubling for the self-reliant amongst us. We are used to finding our own way.

Jesus, our crucified and risen Lord calls us to die to self, so that he may be our way, our truth, our life.

For the part of me that strives after personal goals this is tough. To follow Jesus, we must learn to die to self, and live within the liberty of God’s love.

 

………………………….

Part 2 – 1 Peter 2.2-10

 

For the second half I shall be reflecting upon God’s ‘abiding place’.

C.S. Lewis, twentieth-century writer and academic wrote this:

The moment you wake up each morning, all your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals.

And the first job each morning consists in shoving it all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.

 

We are, in other words, wanting each morning, to enter Jesus’ abiding place.

In John chapter 15, Jesus says ‘abide in me as I abide in you’… ‘those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit…’

 

Here in chapter 14 Jesus is speaking of ‘preparing a place’.

 

This is the ‘abiding place’ with Jesus, the stopping place, the travel lodge; on the journey through death and resurrection Jesus has prepared an ‘abiding place’ for us.

 

This ‘abiding place’ is translated ‘topos’. The ‘topos’ is the priest’s place, the temple.

 

In John 11.48, the chief priests and the pharisees were worried, lest Jesus take away their ‘topos’, their abiding place, their temple.

 

I want to tell you a story of preparing an ‘abiding place’, a temple.

A while back, before Southern Sudan came into being, the Muslim government of Sudan pushed displaced peoples far into the mountains.

Christians were not allowed to build permanent churches.

They would be a threat to the government.

Very early every Sunday morning, local men erected a scaffolding structure which gave some shade for everyone. It took hours to build an abiding place, a church.

Then after the service, it was all taken down again.

What a picture of God’s people in Sudan being servants of the church.

We discover in this story that the church is not a structure; it is God people on the move.

 

Let’s turn to 1 Peter 2.

As an old man Peter reflected on ‘topos’ , abiding space, God’s temple.

In the world we are living through right now, we can’t do Church in an old stone building on a Sunday. We do church, scattered all over, at home. Yet Jesus has prepared an ‘abiding place’.

 

Now the Jewish world was turned upside down, when in AD 70, the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by Emperor Titus. No temple. Jews learnt to worship at home.

 

We too have turned home into an ‘abiding place’.

In AD 70 the Jerusalem temple became a heap of very large stones.

 

Reflecting on all this, Peter the old man, recalled a passage from Psalm 118.22

‘Look! I’m setting up in Zion a chosen, precious cornerstone; believe in him! You’ll not be ashamed!’ Here is God putting up a new temple, with Jesus the cornerstone.

 

And the elderly Peter reflects that ‘ the stone which the builders rejected has become the head cornerstone…’ (1 Peter 2.7)

 

Peter writes… ‘Come to him, to that living stone. Humans rejected him, but God chose him and values him very highly! Like living stones yourself, you are being built up into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood…’ (1 Peter 2.4)

 

In other words on Jesus, who died and was raised, a new temple and a new priesthood is being raised. And Jesus is in our homes.

 

The chief priests and the pharisees who were worried, lest Jesus take away their ‘topos’, their abiding place, their temple; had been kind of right. Emperor Titus did take their temple away, however Jesus had built a new temple, built of living stones. Jesus is in our homes.

 

Did you know that the word ‘stone’ in ancient Hebrew is like the word for ‘son’?

A bit like in English three letters of ‘stone’ spell ‘son’. Hebrew ‘eben’ means stone. Hebrew ‘ben’ means son.

 

How do the two words join up?

 

In 2 Samuel 7. 12-14 God promises David that his son would build a temple.

Jesus promises us that the Father’s son will prepare an abiding-place, a temple.

 

Who are the stones of the Father’s son temple?

 

Us!    How come?

 

Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, that’s how.

 

To become part of God’s abiding-place, we simply need to believe in the Father’s son, the stone who was rejected. And the corner stone aligns us in the right direction.

 

No matter how scattered we are in homes across our benefice, in fact in homes across the world, as Peter reflects, together we are a ‘chosen race; a royal priesthood; a holy nation; a people for God’s possession’ (1 Peter 2.9).

 

We are living stones.

So where is the church?

 

It’s certainly not the buildings shut in this season of plague.

 

God has built something new where he abides.

 

The Father’s son abides in his Father, and also amazingly is abiding in us.

 

We are God’s living stones, he has built his living temple in us. God in us, in lockdown at home, is the hope of glory.


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