Well we are still here after 6pm yesterday; the end of the world didn't happen as predicted. Did anyone here prepare for the possibility?
Remember Y2K when everyone was encouraged to go and buy gas cookers, lots of bottled water and prepare for our computers to crash when we switched from 1999 to 2000. Eleven years later and we are still doing well. If anything the nation is probably a little bit more prepared for possible earthquakes and natural disasters than it has been in recent years. We have been warned and we have the front of the yellow pages to remind us what to do in the event of a nature disaster, what to pack, and where to go.
Then of course there is the other advertisement on television with Keith Quinn reminding us to be prepared for that inevitable time of life when we die. The preparedness is probably more about leaving our loved ones in the lurch financially, so we are encouraged to take out insurances that will cover our funeral expenses at the time of death.
Our Gospel reading from John is really about the next phase of our preparedness, are we prepared for our next dwelling place? Do you feel confident that there is room for you in God’s mansion? Rewi and I went for a country drive yesterday to Puhoi, we have driven past it so many times on our way up to Russell but have never had time to stop and visit. So yesterday we decided to go there for lunch. On our way we stopped off at Waiwera beach and took the dogs for a walk along the beach and admired a few houses along the shoreline. Couldn’t see any real estate agents to see what was for sale and also how much it would cost to live there. We came away having decided that either nobody wanted to sell or that there was nothing there and no reason that anybody would want to buy, apart from the seaside of course. But then the new added perspective when viewing houses on the shoreline is “will this house withstand a tsunami or is it earthquake proof”?
Should we be worried about finding a place? After all Jesus said to his disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
This is the Christian guaranteed passport into that hotel of eternity, knowing Jesus and knowing God through him. This is that special visa that will get us through customs and through to the waiting courtesy van to take us straight to this 5 star hotel that God has built especially for us. Christianity prides itself in this exclusive access to God’s mansion because the only way one can attain a visa is by going through his Son Jesus Christ to get your passport stamped. John is quite specific here he says “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the father except through me….” How do you feel about that, the requirements don’t seem too difficult to attain or achieve, many of us have had all our lives to work towards our visa applications, and if you want all your friends and family around you in this place then we all have to start marketing Jesus and showing everyone the way to the Father. That’s the road to eternity in a nutshell.
Non Christians have often argued that this is exclusive access to God what right does Jesus have to claim that “no one can come to God except through him?” Is the Christian faith elitist? Is that a fair question?
If Jesus has claimed through our reading from John that he is the way the truth and the life then what is he claiming? I believe Jesus is claiming that it is not just a belief in him that will get us that visa stamp but a belief in his truth and that truth is a lifestyle change. I am the “way” a new process for living that is founded on justice and integrity not only for ourselves but for those we are called to serve and live amongst. The “truth” that we live with honesty and integrity, we treat others as we ourselves would like to be treated, we live knowing that our neighbours are not starving and homeless and we feed the widow and the orphan. The “life” that Jesus has come that we might have life and life in all its fullness. Last week I tried to sum up what this fullness might be “Fullness of life in the spirit of Christ allows us to live peaceably and fully knowing that we are thankful for everyday that God gives us to live and breathe on this planet earth. That regardless of how much money we may or may not have, what car or scooter we drive, what clothes we wear, we are here for a purpose and that purpose is revealed to us each new day.”
I was watching secret millionaire last week where a billionaire and his wife left their huge gated mansion to go out into the poverty stricken streets to look for projects to sponsor and support. You could see how uncomfortable they were at the beginning to be working amongst HIV positive people; slowly you could see their confidence building. By the end of the program they were hugging one another and feeling confident in each other’s company. The program returned to the huge gates of their mansion and the husband utters these closing words “I realized that these gates were built to shut the world out.” He realized that his life was so much fuller without the gates, he learnt love and grace and compassion by living in the midst and in the heart of the city that he tried to shut out. That is our calling too. I believe that this is what Jesus means when he calls us to go through him to God. Many religions claim to know God without having to go through Jesus Christ and that is the freedom of choice and freewill. This passage of scripture although exclusive is not a just a stamp on a passport, it is a stamp that in order to get through customs you have to do the hard yards. Attached to that visa is check list and that checklist is made up of questions for you to fill in yourself. Are we people of integrity who have served our fellow human being in the way that leads to fullness of life?
If you want to guarantee a visa stamp it’s not just about being able to say “oh I’m a Christian I’ve been born again, I’ve accepted Jesus Christ into my life”. That is so easy to say and do; we do it and think that that is all we need to do. If that was all it required then, yes, that is exclusive access to God. But I believe the exclusivity comes with huge responsibility and that responsibility is Love in action.
I think that the guaranteed stamp for your visa application is found in Matthew 25 ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ You never know when you have missed your challenge to serve and be the presence of Christ in your life today. Who knows, when you arrive at customs you might be confronted with these facts…” 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ Our reply might ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you? ‘and Jesus will reply 45 ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ I know that when I get to customs I want to hear these words ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Well done good and faithful servant enter into the glory of God. Auauna lelei e ma le faamaoni ulufale maia I le fiafia o lou Alii. Go now and do likewise. Amen.
April 2011 to June 2012