THE KIRK OF KILDAIRE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
A sermon preached by Joseph Welker, Jr.
When Hearts Are Troubled
May 14, 2017
These notes are intended for distribution to members and friends of the Kirk of Kildaire Presbyterian Church family. While effort is made to give credit for work done by others, the notes may use material for which appropriate credit is not given. Also, the notes may differ from the actual sermon as it was delivered. Remember, sermons are meant to be preached and are therefore prepared with the emphasis on verbal presentation; the written accounts occasionally stray from proper grammar and punctuation.
“When Hearts are Troubled”… I wonder if my sermon title brings something to mind? It is the name we use for our special service we hold every December as Christmas approaches. It is a season of joy and yet we acknowledge that it may be a very difficult season for some people… especially those who have lost loved ones during the year… especially that first Christmas when their absences felt at such a deep, painful and emotional level.We call that service, “When Hearts are Troubled”… with the prayer that God will speak to the pain felt by so many.
So I find it interesting that Jesus seems to be trying to do the same for his friends… he is anticipating the pain they are about to endure. The loss.
His first words in our text today,
“Do not let your hearts be troubled, believe in God, believe also in me. In by Father’s house are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you… And you know the place to where I am going.”
“Do not let your hearts be troubled…”… I think he says them because he knows their hearts are about to be troubled… But if he thought simply saying those words would be enough, he was wrong.
Almost as soon as those words roll off his lips, we find two of his friends not finding those words comforting but confusing. Creating questions… Questions you and I might have been asking ourselves given the circumstances.
Jesus has just told them he is about to leave them… Jesus knows that in the coming days they will see him undergo unjust treatment, immense suffering and death on a cross as part of his trip home to God. But the trip home will be hard for him and for them.
So no wonder they are confused… Maybe they didn’t understand that his time with them was temporary…
Let me put it this way. Did you ever consider that Jesus time with us was more like a mission trip? (A sort of ASP or Guatemala Mission trip on steroids) Basically, Jesus comes to earth as part of a 33 year mission trip from God….
When he says these words, the time has come for him to go home and get things ready for them to join him.
But the leaving will be hard… and confusing.So he is trying to comfort them. He knows they will miss him not being there day in and day out.
You understand. On this Mother’s day, I miss my Mom even though she died 21 years ago… She was only 71 years old… I have no call to make… no card to send… just some pictures and memories. I miss Mom and sometimes miss talking to Mom about things we still go through. The early years were hardest… and I know some of you are missing your Moms as well.
You understand why those disciples might have troubled hearts once Jesus is gone. Whenever someone leaves us there is a little trouble in the heart.
When Amanda told me that Henry had accepted a call to Illinois and that she would be leaving. I didn’t want to hear it. I told her I was going to live in denial for a while. At a professional and personal level we will miss her.
And then who is going to do what she did… what will happen? How will the youth and the leaders do in the transition. Her leaving is a reason for a troubled heart…
So I understand why the disciples may feel more than a little troubled and confused at the thought Jesus would be leaving them.
And I can understand why Jesus wants to reassure them… that’s what we do when we leave.
When my Mom would tell me as a child that she and Dad were going out to dinner, I would ask, “Can I come too?”… No, honey… But Miss Penny will be with you. And she will serve you mashed potatoes and chocolate ice cream. (not together) Okay. Don’t’ worry.. we will be back after dinner. Okay.
Jesus seeks to reassure the disciples but Thomas and Philip need a little more from him. After telling them where he is going (back home to God)… Thomas, honest Thomas says, “ “Lord, we don’t know where you are going? How can we know the way?”… And Philip asks, “Show us the father…” Will you show us where you are going? If you show us where… “to the Father”… we will be satisfied.
They ask because they are looking for security… for answers… they think if only they have the answers, they will be comforted. They think that if they can get the answers, then their hearts will not be troubled.
So Jesus answers their question but not in the way they expect:
To Thomas, who wants to know the road map… Jesus says, “you don’t need GPS… or a map”… What you need is me… just trust me… I’ll get you there.
To Philip, who still is wondering about God… after all of those years of being with Jesus… he has questions about God… Jesus says, Look Philip… look at me… what you have been looking for has been here all along…
Brian McLaren helped me understand what was going on in this story and it is not what most people think and not what I used to think was going on in this story.He says, this story is not meant to be an instruction book about how to get to heaven (as we often hear it)… but it is a word of comfort to friends who are troubled… He says,
“The force of Jesus words seem to go like this: ”Don’t worry, I am going somewhere you cannot go, but the purpose of my going on ahead without you is so I can prepare a place where we can be together again. I will return to you and bring you to be with me. You can’t go with me now, but be assured you’ll be with me soon in that place, that territory, that home or kingdom of God- and there will be a place for you there. You will be welcome there because of what I am about to do. In this reading, “I will come again” refers to Jesus’ resurrection and all it entails.
‘You have been with me every step of the way, but I am going to go alone to suffering and death. But after my suffering and death, I will come back and will bring you into my Father’s house or kingdom so we can be together for them…
(So that when) Thomas asks, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, how can we know the way?” it if we don’t understand the question, we will miss the answer.
He is not asking anything like, “Will people who have never heard of you go to heaven?” It’s clear he’s not thinking about Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, people living in the middle of Africa… Thomas is talking about himself and his fellow disciples. “We” don’t know where you are going… and he asks because He wants to know…
And what Jesus wants to offer is reassurance… “Don’t be troubled… trust God… trust me… Thomas, you don’t need to understand all this. You simply need to trust me. Don’t look for a route or destination—or a system of thought that gets you there… I’m not trying to give you information or instructions so you no longer need me and can instead depend on the information or instructions. No- just trust me. I am the way… I am these things you are looking for… Trust me…”
John’s story reminds me of a very formative story I heard in 1979. I’ve shared it with you before but it is a story that often comes to mind to me when the heart begins to get a little troubled… when the road ahead seems unclear or unsure.
I heard him tell the story… to graduates of my seminary in 1979. I was stuck in Richmond because of a water pump failure in my car. I’m so glad I was stuck. Because I got to hear Frederick Buechner tell this story that has shaped my life especially when my heart has been troubled.
He was telling seminary graduates a story that has often been repeated by others for good reason:His daughter was dealing with anorexia… and it was just throwing him off. He worried about her… He had not coped well… how whether she ate a bite of toast in the morning either made or destroyed his day. His own anxiety was making her sicker.
He told us, “I was sitting by the side of the road one day last fall. It was a dark time in my life. I was full of anxiety, full of fear and uncertainty. The world within seemed as shadowy as the world without. And then, as I sat there, I spotted a car coming down the road toward me with one of those license plates (with a word on it)… And of all the words the license plate might have had on it, the word that it did have was the word T-R-U-S-T: TRUST. And as it came close enough for me to read, it became suddenly for me a word from on high, and I give it to you here as a word from on high also for you, a kind of graduation present.The world is full of dark shadows to be sure, both the world without and the world within, and the road we’ve all set off on is long and hard and often hard to find, but the word is trust. Trust the deepest intuitions of your own heart. Trust the source of your own truest gladness. Trust the road. Above all else, trust him. Trust him.”
I love that story and love telling it. It sounds like what Jesus was trying tell his friends: “Thomas, Philip, the road ahead of you is going to be long and hard… and confusing… but trust that I am the way… the truth… the life… trust that I will show you the character and way of God… trust me… I will get you there.
I’m thinking that in the years to come as they were facing their own trials, difficulties (persecutions) and wondering where the road would lead,
I’m thinking John’s story is the one they remembered and retold. I’m thinking they remembered Jesus telling his friends:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me…”
Trust me… trust the road I’ve put you on… Trust me. And you will find peace for your troubled hearts. Amen.