Saturday, April 23, 2005

Fifth Sunday of Easter, April 24, John 14:6


Fifth Sunday of Easter, April 24, 2005

St. John’s, Burt ~ Our Savior, Swea City
(Thanks to Rev.
Michael L. McCoy)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Jordan and Glen; It is an exciting day for you. Confirmation day is the day you publicly stand up before the congregation and promise to remain faithful to what you have been taught, and that you would rather die than give up your faith. Over the past few years we’ve talked a lot about Jesus, about who he is and what he has done for you. You’ve learned all about it and you’ve learned it pretty well. You are ready to make this step toward Christ’s altar and receive his body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins.

But first…

I want your confirmation to be a memorable one so let’s talk about today’s Gospel lesson just a little bit. Especially verse 6.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, ESV)

Now this text is one of the most beautiful statements of the Good News of Jesus that there is. And what’s more these words come from Jesus himself. He’s packed a lot in those two little sentences. Unfortunately, these words have been very often misused by Christians.

Like I said I want your confirmation to be memorable so listen carefully: in his 26th evening on May 1st, 1885 Rev. Dr. C. F. W. Walther stated in Thesis XV: "In the eleventh place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when the Gospel is turned into a preaching of repentance." Now Jordan and Glen, it should be noted that this thesis rightly follows Thesis V which was part of his 9th evening lecture of November 21, 1884 during which Dr. Walther stated that the grossest confounding of Law and Gospel occurs when Christ is represented as a new Lawgiver and the Gospel is turned into a doctrine of meritorious works. Got it? Yes? No?

Ok maybe not. Let’s try it another way. Imagine that I have stick… no let’s not imagine lets look at this stick. This stick is a John 14:6 stick. What does it look like? A sword. See it has a handle, that’s called the hilt, and a blade, and on the blade is written the reference to the bible passage “I am the way the truth and the life…”

Now how would you use this sword? Well, let’s imagine now that you have a whole pen full of chickens, hundreds of them. You job is to get the chickens into the chicken house through a small opening in the side. So you take this sword here and you wave it around at them and try to get them to go in. You can swing the thing at them, and shout the words of John 14:6 at them. You can even beat them with it. Of course, you know what’s going to happen. Mayhem and panic. You’ll chase those chickens around that pen all day with your sword and you’ll never get them to go trough the door.

Now this is church, and you know that in church we aren’t really worried about chickens. What we’re really talking about is people. We’re not trying to get people into a chicken house, but into the place that God has prepared, an eternal home with God forever. God’s desire is for all people to be with him now and forever. God wants you and me and all those billons of people scattered across our planet to be with Him now in His church, and forever in heaven.

That’s what Jesus is talking about in the text. He says that he is the way to God. He is the way that people like you and me, and all people everywhere can get from here in this sinful, broken world into God’s eternal and prefect world. Our problem is (everyone’s problem is) that we when we are born our relationship with God isn’t a very good one. In fact, according to the bible we are God’s enemies. We are born in the sin of our parents. It’s called original sin. Do you remember how we talked about that in class? Original sin is “not living in a perfect relationship with God.” That’s how we are born. Sinful people apart from a relationship with God. Jesus came to earth as a human being to restore our relationship with God. He came to be the Way to God. He was…

…conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.

In the Gospel reading for today he talks about it, too. “And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the Way were I am going" (John 14:3-4).

You know the way. Glen and Jordan you know the way. You have known it for many years. It’s been taught to you over and over again in Religion School. You’ve heard it over and over again in church. You confessed “the Way” last Wednesday night, too. Jesus has been the way for you ever since your parents brought you to baptism here at this font. Right here God gave you the gift of faith through the work of the Holy Spirit. And all these years he has worked through the Word of God, spoken right here in Church, to keep you in the Way. Over all that time you’ve been taught that Jesus is the only way to the Father, that there is no way to heaven except through Jesus. It’s Good News. Good News for you and for me because we don’t have to worry about what we have to do to get right with God. We don’t have to worry about what we have to do to restore our relationship with Him. God has done it all for us in Jesus. He’s made the way for us already. And through baptism he made it our way.

Now think about this sword again. All these years you haven’t been chased with this sword, poked and prodded, or forced to believe in Jesus. The way to heaven isn’t through the sword of John 14:6 it isn’t the law to beat you over the head. The way to heaven is the Gospel, the Good News about Jesus. You see if you turn the sword upside down, You’ll see that it’s also a cross. Jesus made the way for you to get to heaven and be with God forever through his death on the cross.

The thing is it’s very easy to get it all turned around again. That’s because there’s a whole world out there that’s trying to tell you exactly the opposite. The minute you step outside these walls you’re bombarded with the idea that there are many paths to God and that any one is as good as any other. You’ll be told that if you’ll just allow for the idea that there are many valid expressions of faith you can believe anything you want. If you don’t you are unloving and intolerant. And what’s more, you’ll even hear the same thing said in the name of God in churches that claim to be part of the Christian church. “We’ve got to be careful not to offend people.”

The reason is that people don’t want God’s way of salvation. They want to make their own way. One of my Seminary professors once said that the essence of sin is that we want to kill God and take his place. We want to be in control and take the credit for our own achievements. Really, it makes the most sense to us. Our way of thinking about God is the same way we think about every other part of our life. Every day we have to earn our way along in life. It only makes sense that we should have to earn our way to God, too.

God’s Way of salvation goes against everything we think and feel. God’s Way of salvation takes our efforts completely out of the picture. And that’s why it’s such Good News because God’s Way of salvation is the only way that we can be sure of because it’s not found in our weak will and our imperfect good works. The Way to God is through Jesus. He had a perfect will. He always did what God the Father asked of Him, even when it meant death on the cross. Jesus whole life was full of perfect good works, too. His relationship with God is perfect, so when he died to take away our sins, He was raised to life again. Because you are a Baptized Child of God, Jesus perfect life, death and resurrection are yours. In other words, you have a perfect relationship with God through Jesus. Did you hear how it’s all God’s work in Jesus? Did you hear how you and I don’t have any part in our salvation? That’s the Good News. That’s the wonderful gift of faith. And that’s the hardest thing for us to accept, and why it’s so important that we hear the Good News over and over again. It goes against our nature.

That’s why God has given us this place to gather. He knows how hard it is for us to hold on. That’s exactly why he gives us his Word that he promise will work in our hearts. That’s why he attaches His Word to water in baptism. So that we can see what it means to have our sins washed away. That’s why Jesus comes to us in his very body and blood in the Lord’s Supper. He connects to us through the forgiveness that comes though the same body and blood that hung on the cross for you.

That’s what you’ll promise today. To hold on to Jesus and all that he did for you in faith. It’s just a promise to open up your arms and mouth and heart and receive the gifts that he gives here. Jesus has already done everything you need. Hold on to him in faith. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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