April 20, 2008 V Easter (RCL Year A) Acts 7: 55-60; John 14: 1-14
Thou art the Way: to Thee alone
From sin and death we flee;
And he who would the Father seek
Must seek Him, Lord, by Thee.
Thou art the Truth: Thy Word alone
True wisdom can impart;
Thou only canst inform the mind,
And purify the heart.
Thou art the Life: the rending tomb
Proclaims Thy conquering arm,
And those who put their trust in Thee
Nor death nor hell shall harm.
Thou art the Way, the Truth, the Life;
Grant us that Way to know,
That Truth to keep, that Life to win,
Whose joys eternal flow.
George Washington Doane, 1799-1859
In John, Chapter 10, v. 7, which we read last week on Good Shepherd Sunday, Jesus tells his disciples, as I would read from the familiar King James translation, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door; by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”
And then this morning, which I know and most of us might know more or less by heart. “In my Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go and prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
The Shepherd of the Sheep. The gate, the door, the way. The truth. The life.
I hear, read, preach on this text from John 14, the first part of our reading this morning, have done so, I believe at just about every Burial Office or graveside Committal or Memorial service in my years of ordained ministry. Sometimes six, eight, ten times a year. There are other options offered in the Prayer Book, but I hardly ever use them. These words from Jesus just seem to echo around me, rise up from deep within. Pastorally, sacramentally. The good news of Easter in a few words. The executive summary of the long story of salvation history. The profound generosity of God. A place prepared, and life abundant. Pasture. Mansions. The re-ordering of the cosmos. The death of death. Not a brick wall, not the prison of the grave, but a glorious entry. Gate, door, way. Truth. Life.
When everything else falls away, at the end of the road, he is there. Will be there. The Cross replaced by a Crown, as in St. Stephen’s vision at the beginning of our reading from Acts this morning. Radiant, standing in the midst of the Father, at his Right Hand, in glory. Christ victorious. Jesus our friend, our Companion in the Way, the Physician of our Souls. Healing and reconciliation and renewal. Restoration. Transformation. The essential message and promise of our Christian life and faith, our words and our actions, holy living and holy dying. And it is Easter, and the first morning of the world. That we live in this at one and the same time as our present reality and as our hope for the future.
The present illuminated, the future made present. And Jesus our friend right there at the crossroads, him and him only. And he will be, is and will be, the only song, the one and only.
Easter. When morning gilds the skies, my heart, awakening, cries, may Jesus Christ be praised! When evening shadows fall, this rings my curfew call, may Jesus Christ be praised! (Hymnal 1985, #427)
That we would know the extent of his love for his own, for us. All of us, near and far away. Mary in the Garden, the Disciples of Emmaus, the friends gathered in the Upper Room. Stephen as he drew his last breath. Paul as he would leave that place of murder and ride out on the Road to Damascus. And on and on and on. For you and me, all of us. Beyond words. The good that he has in mind for us. Blessing and peace and joy. To dry every tear, to change sorrow to laughter. To lift us up.
The gate, the door, the way. The truth. The life. The Alpha and the Omega, beginning and end, first and last. Be still my heart. Be still, our hearts. At the best moment of this Eastertide the voices of our earthly Choir blend into the voices of the Choirs of Heaven, Angels and Archangels, the living and the dead, and our love-songs become one love-song.
Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God.