Fr. Bill Carroll – Fifth Sunday of Easter, May 7, 2023
Jesus said, “Have I been with you all this time…and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
This sermon is, more or less, what I said in school chapel this week. We used the same Gospel, and so my message is the same. But first I’d like to share a couple of quotations I didn’t have time for then. Both help explain what it means for Jesus to be “the way, the truth, and the life.”
The first comes from William Temple, who was Archbishop of Canterbury during the Second World War:
If the Gospel is true (he writes), and God is, as the Bible declares, a Living God, the ultimate truth is not a system of propositions grasped by a perfect intelligence, but a Personal Being apprehended in the only way in which persons are ever fully apprehended, that is, by love. The Incarnation…is the only way in which divine truth can be expressed, not because of our [weakness] but because of its own nature. What is personal can only be expressed in a person.
The second quotation comes from St. Augustine of Hippo, the North African bishop at the turn of the fifth century. After the authors of the Bible, he is the single most influential Christian writer in the West. And he says, in a famous sermon, that Christ is the way in his humanity; he is the truth and the life in his divinity.
As followers of Jesus, we find strength and comfort in the Word of God. From start to finish, the Scriptures tell us about God’s mighty promises for us. Above all, they speak to us of Jesus, who is our hope. Everything he says, everything he does, everything he is—all of it shows us who God is and what God is like.
And so, we see Jesus breaking bread with sinners. Or, as he once summed up his own ministry, we see the blind receiving their sight. We see the lame walking, lepers being cleansed, the deaf getting their hearing back, the dead being raised, and we see the poor having good news brought to them. Throughout his life, we see Jesus befriending sinners and strangers and those in need. We see him showing God’s love to those who are deemed untouchable, or unclean. Jesus is the Word of God. He reveals who God is. The God that Jesus shows us is generous, forgiving, and kind. In order to save us, he comes and joins us in our flesh.
The lesson we just heard from the Gospel is being read in many other churches this Sunday. Jesus has just celebrated the Last Supper with his disciples. Then, he washes our feet and gives us the Great Commandment of love.
Now, in the fourteenth chapter, it’s beginning to dawn on the disciples that he really means it. Jesus is going to die on the Cross. And so, he begins to speak to them about resurrection and eternal life: “Do not let your hearts be troubled (he says). Do not be afraid. I will not leave you comfortless”
“Believe in God (he says). Believe also in me.” Do you not know me yet? Have I not shown you the goodness and mercy of God? “Whoever has seen me, has seen the Father…In my Father’s house (he says), there are many rooms…I will come to you and take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.” A little later, Jesus goes on to promise us the Comforter–the Holy Spirit of love living in our hearts–to help us share his mission to the whole world, and to lead us into all truth.
Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life.” He is both the road we must follow and our final destination. When we get to heaven, he is the one we will see. He has shown us God’s boundless love for sinners. He has shown us how to love each other. And he has given us his Spirit (his very own Spirit), so that we might follow the Way and learn to live as God’s children.
It has been a hard couple of weeks around here. Yesterday, we laid our brother, Jeff Thorpe, to rest. Today, we lift up Mark Horner and his family in prayer as his funeral service is celebrated in the congregation he pastored. And then, of course, there’s the news of the nine people, shot and killed in a mall in Allen, Texas.1 As Christians, we find strength and comfort in the living God who loves us. In times like these, we have no words. And so, we turn to the Word of God. We ask God to speak to us. We ask God to be with us. We turn also to prayer and song and sacrament—all that we do in Christian worship. We sing together. We ask God to help those who are hurting. And we share the Lord’s Supper together. God gives us words, when we have no words. But, more than that, God gives us his presence. In the end, he gives us Jesus–to be our Savior, our Lord, and our friend.
I’d like to close with a prayer to Jesus, in whom we find God’s gifts of love and eternal life. The prayer is based in part on today’s lesson from John. In the seventeenth century, George Herbert, the Anglican priest, wrote this prayer as a poem. It has been set to music (by John Wesley, by Vaughn Williams, and others). It has become a beloved hymn in several different branches of the Christian family, and it is our sequence hymn today.
Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life (it says):
such a way as gives us breath;
such a truth as ends all strife;
such a life as killeth death.
Come, my Light, my Feast, my Strength:
such a light as shows a feast;
such a feast as mends in length;
such a strength as makes his guest.
Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart:
such a joy as none can move:
such a love as none can part;
such a heart as joys in love.
As it is written in the Gospel: “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, to the end that all who believe in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
Come, Lord Jesus. Be our way. Be our truth. Be our life.
Come, Lord Jesus! Come!
1. It was not until after Sunday services were over that we heard the news of the man who killed several people, most of them immigrants from Venezuela, by running them over with his SUV in Brownsville, Texas. The driver is facing charges of manslaughter and reckless driving. Additional charges may be forthcoming if investigators determine that this was an intentional act.