"If it's Worth Doing at All...": Sermon for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year A

"If it

May 14, 2017

Passage:John 14:1-14

Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Robert Pace

Series: Easter

Category: Love, Discipleship, Belief

Keywords: anxiety, comfort, discipleship, easter, love, relationship


Jesus tells his disciples: "Let not your hearts be troubled." This may sound either comforting or rather trite depending on one's situation in life. What's important is to understand the context. For Jesus, and for us, it's all about the relationship...


In the Gospel of John we read today, we hear Jesus talking to his disciples.

He tells them: "Do not let your hearts be troubled."

Many of us probably hear this as comforting words from Jesus.

Quite often, this portion of the Gospel is chosen to be read at funerals.

"Do not let your hearts be troubled."

"Don't worry."

"Don't have distress."

"Don't be disturbed in your being, in your thoughts, in your presence."

"Let your anxiety about the present and future fall away."

This sounds great! We should all do just that!

But what if it's not that simple?

What if it feels more complicated than "don't worry, be happy?"

The truth is, I believe that Jesus wasn't simply saying, "don't worry, be happy." Instead, he was providing a bigger picture.

Jesus was talking to his disciples about some pretty difficult times ahead.

Judas had just left to betray him. The crucifixion was about to occur. Jesus knew that it would soon be time that he would depart these most beloved of his followers. He knew they would feel distraught.

He knew they would have worry and anxiety and distress. Their "hearts would be troubled."

His connection to them was going to be the key.

I got to thinking as I reflected on this Gospel that today is Mother's Day. Of course, that made me start thinking about my mother, Joyce. About twenty years ago, she wrote a series of autobiographical essays to my daughter Catherine. My sister, Joy, put these essays together into a little book she entitled "Growing Up in Black and White."

Of course, I love reading the chapters about mom's childhood in Sonora, Texas, with my aunts and uncles--reading about her dreams and hopes. But I think my favorite chapter is one mom wrote on Catherine's fifth birthday. It's about her own mother (my grandmother Audrey), who died when mom was a teenager.

Mom starts: "Happy Birthday!! I thought I would tell you some things about my mother. One thing I especially remember is what a happy person she was. Everyone liked to be around her." Mom goes on to talk about her mother working hard in two jobs--one at the drug store and the other as a cook in the school cafeteria during World War II. She describes the different dishes her mom made as a cook--being most famous for her seven-layer chocolate cake. But what I really love is that my grandmother had a saying for any occasion to keep the kids in line: "if it's worth doing at all, it's worth doing right." And "stand on your own two feet" when she wanted the kids to take responsibility.

I never knew my Grandmother Audrey, but I feel as if I did. I grew up eating chocolate cake my mother made, and hearing her say "if it's worth doing at all, it's worth doing right." And I am comforted by the idea that this bond... this tie... this connection continues to my daughter and on and on.

I have been shaped and molded and prepared for a whole host of difficulties in life because of the relationships of those who have loved me and formed me in life.

But this does not mean that my life is always easy or without trouble or sorrow.

It does mean that I have resources to help me in the midst of those difficulties.

Jesus tells his disciples that he is going to prepare a place for them. They, clearly have anxiety and fear, as exhibited by Thomas' question: "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?"

Jesus says: "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

Thomas and the disciples are looking for a roadmap... They want directions to the magical kingdom.

Jesus tells them they already have the map in front of them.

They've been living the way of the kingdom.

The way is simple... Follow what Jesus sets out for them...

Jesus is the incarnation of the creator of the Earth...

If they want to see what that the Father looks like, see what Jesus has done...

Do what he commands us to do.

Love one another as he loves us.

There have been many, however, who take this statement from Jesus--"No one comes to the Father except through me..." and make it a statement of exclusion rather than a statement of hope and love and inclusion.

They say: "aha!... You see, if you are NOT a born-again Christian, then you are going to hell. Jesus says so right here!"

But that's NOT what Jesus says here.

There's certainly no mention of hell in this discourse. In fact, Jesus is working to calm the fears of his most beloved friends. They are in relationship with him. They know and love him.

They want to know the way to the Father. They're scared. This is a trying time for them. Jesus knows the way.

Grandmother Audrey told the kids, ""if it's worth doing at all, it's worth doing right," because that's how you "stand on your own two feet."

They trusted her because she raised them. She fed them. She loved them.

Jesus said, "Do not let your hearts be troubled." Jesus was their friend... Their Rabbi... Their Messiah.... Their Lord...

Philip asks: "show us the Father, and we will be satisfied."

Jesus says: "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father..." and "the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do, and, in fact, greater works than these, because I am going to the Father."

Here in Eastertide, we live together having celebrated the joyous resurrection of Jesus.

We know God. We know that "God is love" because Jesus has shown us that love. No one gets to the God except through love... Jesus says...

"If it's not about love, it's not about God!"

And here we are today as we continue on the path--the way--of Christ by loving one another. Our relationships with each other are what sustain us and fulfill us. We renew these bonds with each other and with our creator in the sacraments. We sustain these connections when we take that love of God out into the world.

"Do not let your hearts be troubled..."

"Love one another as Christ loves you..."

Because, "if it's worth doing at all, it's worth doing right!"