Gospel: John 14:1-14
[Jesus said to the disciples:] 1“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. 4And you know the way to the place where I am going.” 5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” 8Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” 9Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”
“Preparing a Place”
P Good morning, Munchie.
M Good morning!
P Good morning, Beaky.
B Boy, it sure is! … I mean… Good morning!
M You seem pretty excited.
B I am. But I’m also kinda scared.
P Still? What do you mean, “Still?”?
M I mean, the virus is scary and all, but we’re kinda used to what we have to do now. We’ve all got our masks, and we’ve found stuff to do by ourselves, and we know how to stay six feet away from people out in public…
(Beaky is becoming visibly agitated.)
P Whoa! Slow down. I think we need to give Beaky a minute to tell us what’s changing.
B THANK YOU!
M Oh. Sorry…
B It’s okay.
P I’m pretty sure that means Beaky forgives you.
M I know that! But what’s the deal? Why won’t Beaky just come out with it?
P Sometimes it’s hard to put things in words… right, Beaky?
B Yes. Really hard…
B Remember when I was really sad, about a month ago?
P A whole month ago?
M I remember! I remember! You were sad because you couldn’t go see your grampa. And you were scared because your grampa’s really old, and your mom said he might not get through all this!
P I remember, too, now that you mention it. Apparently your grampa must be doing pretty well, or you’d be sad rather than excited.
M and scared.
(Beaky glares at Munchie.)
B Yes, Grampa’s good, but Mom thinks he’d be safer with us than where he’s been.
P Really? How’s that going to work?
B We’re making a new room for me in the attic, and my room is going to be Grampa’s room, because it will be safer for him on the ground floor.
P Is the attic scary?
M No! Beaky and I have played up there lots of times. There’s even a stairway so Beaky doesn’t have to fly up there.
P (To Munchie) …to say nothing about your being able to get up there, either… (Munchie “blushes.”)
B What’s scary is that we were apart to keep Grampa safe, and now that we’ll be together, we’ll have to be so much more careful…
P What will that mean?
B I won’t be able to even go into the room I’ve had all my life for at least two weeks, and Grampa won’t be able to come out.
B And Mom will have to be so careful taking in food and stuff.
M Will things be more normal after that?
B About as normal as things can be for now.
P Sounds like you’re doing a good job, both preparing a new place for yourself in the attic, and in preparing a special place for your grampa to come and stay with you.
B Uh huh.
M Is that like what Jesus meant when he talked about preparing a place for us?
P It’s at least a little like that. Jesus knew that he was going to die, and then receive new life in the resurrection. He was trying to prepare his disciples for a new kind of normal.
M And that can be both exciting and scary!
P Yes, it can, but Jesus didn’t say that in order to scare the disciples, but to help them NOT to be scared. That’s what it means when he says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”
B So I don’t have to worry so much?
P You still need to be careful, but you don’t need to be scared. You’re doing things the best way we know how.
B But what if Grampa dies… in my room?
P Everyone dies, sometime, and Jesus promises to bring us all together again in the resurrection.
M And your grampa probably won’t die for years and years.
B And I’ll get to see him every day, even on those days when I can’t go in the room.
P That’s right, and we can be excited, even while we’re careful, and there’s lots of good we can do, like your giving up your room for your grampa.
M Yeah! That’s the best!
P Let’s pray: Dear Jesus, thank you for promising to make things ready for us, and help us to do whatever we can to make things good for others. Keep us safe and in your care. Amen
Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
The words about preparing a place for us are very comforting, and today, they feel like the easy side of this Gospel reading.
It’s tempting to focus on the easier side of things, particularly when so many other things are so hard: in a time when some feel stir-crazy, stuck at home; and others are challenged with providing goods and services to people who may be infected with this new virus, at risk of becoming infected themselves.
How many people are praying today that the novel Coronavirus be defeated, and that the restrictions sparked in attempts to fight this pandemic just go away? How many are praying for isolation and the dangers to end? How many are praying for cures for their loved ones on ventilators or in ICUs? How many are praying that doctors and nurses receive needed personal protection equipment? How many people are praying for things in Jesus’ name that just don’t seem to be happening?
At the end of today’s reading, Jesus says, “If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”
That’s today’s title: I Will Do It.
That’s today’s title not because it’s easy, but because it seems impossible. It seems like Jesus is promising something that actually doesn’t happen, because my mom died of her cancer forty-three years ago, and my sister’s beloved former pastor Craig Breimhorst died of Covid19 on April 16 of this year in southern Minnesota.
“If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.” Really, Jesus? How does that work, when people die while oodles of people are praying for them to recover? How does that work when people seem to insist on not getting along, divided either by race or political party or the ways they recreate or by some kind of invisible (or maybe obvious) class system? How does that work in a world of “haves” and “have nots,” “tainted” and “privileged,” “special” and “gifted”? How does that work when nearly all of these people are praying for at least some semblance of the same thing, and it still doesn’t happen?
I have several friends who have gleefully reported the death of a man due to this virus literally one month after very publicly questioning the validity of the threat in light of the shut-down restrictions ordered by his governor. So many who respond to this story are calling it karma, saying that he deserved to die. Few are willing to note his change of heart, and the safety measures he soon put in place to try to protect the workers at his business. None of whom I’m aware have said outright that his family members and friends deserve their suffering, but don’t you imagine that there were at least some who were praying in Jesus’ name for his recovery?
Some people claim conspiracy, and a concerted effort to promote the spread of this virus to specific people, along with a lack of empathy for any collateral damage experienced by the non-targeted. I sincerely doubt that Pastor Breimhorst or his family would agree. I believe Jesus himself would probably insist that we misunderstand, that we take his promise out of context. So let’s explore a bit more of the context.
Here’s more of what Jesus said, “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”
Let me repeat part of that: “…the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do…”
You see, Jesus isn’t alone in all this. Jesus still has to deal with regular people, people like you and me, and people like the guy who suffered what so many are calling karma.
In answering the prayers of people who want an end to this pandemic, an end to the restrictions on gathering, an end to the isolation, Jesus uses people like you and me. Jesus uses people like you and me to sew or create masks for those who need them. Jesus uses people like you and me to research ways to create treatments that help our bodies to heal, and vaccines that may protect against infection. Jesus uses people like you and me to help support those who have lost their jobs, so they can continue to live. Jesus uses people like you and me to mitigate the isolation suffered by so many.
Jesus uses us to keep others from dying. Jesus uses us to help people live. Jesus uses us in ways that will probably not result in accolades of individual praise and recognition, in ways that might not even be noticed, but are nonetheless vital—life-giving!
Know this: because of what people much like you and me are doing, some are living who otherwise would have died. Because of what people like you and me are doing, researchers are coming closer to creating working vaccines and treatments.
We are the body of Christ. Jesus is doing miraculous things, today and always. We may not always recognize the answers to our prayers, but God is working through you and me and countless others during this trying time… and always. God’s love rises just like wheat coming up each spring. For this we give thanks. Jesus promised, “I will do it,” and it is done. It is done, maybe not as quickly as we desire, maybe not in the specifics we demand, but it is done, in Jesus’ name. Amen.