Sermon for May 14, 2017

Sermon for the Fifth Sunday of Easter

May 14, 2017, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas

Sermon Text:  John 14:1-14

Sermon Theme:  “So What’s the Question?”

(Anderson’s Cycle A Preaching Workbook; Emphasis Online Commentary; Emphasis Online Illustrations; Online Christian Jokes; Concordia Pulpit Resources, Vol. 27, Part 2, Series A; original ideas; Greek/Hebrew Key Bible; American Heritage Unabridged Dictionary; Life Application Study Bible footnotes)

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Quite a few years ago, our sermon hymn, “Jesus Is the Answer,” was widely sung by evangelical Christians all over America; it was the most widely sung Christian song in churches, at tent revivals, and on the airwaves.  The cynics and skeptics who made fun of fundamental Christians in those days would show up at Christian rallies where “Jesus Is the Answer” was being sung with great fervor and emotion, and would hold up signs which said, “What’s the Question?”  Or they would shout sarcastically at the worshippers, “What’s the question?”

Even in today’s world, to say that “Jesus is the answer for the world today” seems absurd to some people, — but it’s absolutely true.  Jesus IS the answer.  Maybe not all the questions are quite clear as of yet, but whatever they are, today’s preaching must get to this great declaration of faith!  Jesus IS the answer.

There are a number of reasons why Jesus is the answer, and today’s sermon text from John’s gospel begins with the ultimate, bottom line answer, ‘There are many rooms in my Father’s house, and I’m going there to prepare a place for you.’  The King James Version of the Bible translates this as “In my Father’s house are many mansions.”

I have to tell you this story.  An old Christian man, very devout but very stingy, died and went to heaven.  He was met at the Pearly Gates by St. Peter who led him down the golden streets.  They passed one beautiful mansion and huge stately home after another, some as large as palaces.  Then they came to the end of the street where they stopped in front of an old, rundown cabin.  A shack.  The old man, disappointed, asked St. Peter why he got a hut when there were so many mansions he could have lived in.

St. Peter replied, “I did the best I could with the money you put in the offering plate over the years!”

You notice our ESV translation uses “rooms” rather than “mansions.”  The original Greek word is “mone” (mon – a ), which simply means residence, dwelling place, or abode.  That doesn’t mean the King James Version is faulty; — in the 17th Century, the ancient word “mansion” still meant “abode” or “dwelling place.”  It didn’t come to mean a manor house or stately dwelling until a century or so later; it did not have the ameliorated connotation at the time the KJV was translated.  “Mon-a” meant simply “rooms.”  What Jesus means by His statement is that heaven is big enough to hold everybody who comes, and He has offered heaven to everyone.

These are powerful words of comfort which Jesus gives to His disciples on the night before He died.  He gives them to us, too.  Jesus is the answer.  Maybe not all the questions are quite clear as of yet, but whatever they are, the answer is the same.

The comfort is the knowledge that we are not orphans in the universe, for Jesus is going “home” to bring us “home” one day with Him.  In His brief dialogue with Thomas in the text, Jesus declares Himself to be “the way, the truth and the life.”  He is the ONLY way, the ONLY answer.

It is awesome to have the confident hope that someday we will go home to heaven, and that’s the main reason Jesus is the answer.  Yet, in addition, Jesus is the answer, here and now, before we make the final trip home to Him.

Jesus says in our text, “Let not your hearts be troubled.”  He is saying to His listeners, and to us, “Don’t worry.”  He saw troubled hearts everywhere, worrying about food and clothing and disasters, and He wanted to help them.  He fed the hungry and healed the sick.  Times have not changed, — worries and anxieties are even greater today than back then, with life situations bringing much pain, losses which cause loneliness, a body that grows old and malfunctions with a mind that has youthful needs and desires.  At times, it’s a struggle to survive.

Studies show that one person out of ten now living in the United States will have some form of nervous breakdown, in most cases, caused by worry and emotional conflicts        .  The famous Mayo brothers declared that more than half of the hospital beds are occupied by people whose main problem is anxiety, and that 15,000 patients treated for stomach disorder at the Mayo Clinic had no physical basis for their stomach illness.

You see, we worry about things that will never happen, and we WANT things we can never attain and probably shouldn’t get.  Into the midst of our human condition, Christ comes with His cure for worry:  fill your life with spiritual values.  “Believe in God, believe also in me,” He says in the text.  To rid your life of anxieties, put it in the hands of Jesus.  Let your heart be filled with His presence and it will not be troubled.

Some of the most powerful words of Scripture you will ever read are found at the end of today’s text, where Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do, and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.  Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask me anything, in my name, I will do it.”  Wow!

When Jesus says we can ask for anything, we must remember that our asking must be in His name – that is, according to God’s character and will.  God will not grant requests contrary to His nature or His will, and we cannot use His name as a magic formula to fulfill our selfish desires.  If we are sincerely following God and seeking to do His will, then our requests will be in line with what He wants, and He will grant them.

Most of us were taught this by our mothers, or our grandmothers, — I know I was, by both mother and grandmother.  Today is Mother’s Day, and a good mother, or grandmother, has the Spirit of Jesus in her.  When I was out of control and demanded a new bicycle for my birthday, it was Grandma who set me straight and told me I must not try to force my desire and will on God’s will; and it was my mother who forgave my temper tantrum and bought me a bicycle A YEAR LATER, on my next birthday.  It was for God to decide when I could handle a bicycle, both physically and emotionally, and He worked that decision through my mother.

Both my mother and my grandmother have died and are at home with Jesus, and I’m sure that’s true of many of your Moms.  I can never go back home to Dime Box and see either one of them again, but, because of God’s promise in today’s sermon text, I have the hope and the assurance that someday I will go home and see them in heaven.  What a beautiful Mother’s Day thought that is!

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” Jesus says in our text.  Many folks today are lost.  They don’t know the way to go home.

There’s an old drinking song that goes, “Show me the way to go home.  I’m tired and I want to go to bed.  I had a drink about an hour ago and it went straight to my head.”  This silly song has a serious side to it.  Many people are lost.  They don’t remember the way to go home.  In an attempt to override their anxiety, they have drunk deeply of the world’s pleasures, which has further muddled their sense of direction.  Someone needs to show them the way to go home.  Who?  Jesus is the answer.

No matter what the question, Jesus is the answer.  And those are my thoughts on this day to remember our mothers.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.