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    May 14, 2017

    Fifth Sunday in Easter, Year A, May 13/14, 2017, Deacon Ted Foley

    Preacher: The Rev. Ted Foley Deacon

    Series: Deacons

    Category: Weekly Sermon


    Happy Mother’s Day to everyone. And by “everyone” I mean those who are mothers, and grandmothers, and great-grandmothers, and in fact everyone, male or female, who has provided maternal care and comfort to those around you. Because by doing that, providing that kind of care and comfort, whether you are male or female, you are doing God’s work in this world.

    Earlier this week I was at a meeting at another church in the Diocese. This group meets on a regular basis and it is customary for them to start their meetings with a kind of bible study that is called “African Bible Study”. It’s where you read a scripture passage three times, from three different translations, and then answer a few questions such as, “how is this scripture calling you in terms of ministry?”

    The passage that the group was looking at is the Gospel reading we have for today. So, the first person read the New Revised Standard Version, which is the translation we use in our liturgies, and I was cool with that.

    But then, as the second person read I started to run into a problem. As he read his translation, I was struck (and I confess somewhat distracted) with the terminology used to describe God.

    Every time Jesus said something like, “No one comes to the Father except through me” that person read, “No one comes to the Father/Mother except through me.” And, when he read the verse, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me” he read “I am in the Father/Mother and the Father/Mother is in me.” In the short Gospel passage we have for today, the term “Father” is used 13 times. So, you can see that I was quite distracted.

    After the meeting, I asked the rector which translation it was and she said that it from an inclusive language bible.

    Now, even though I was distracted by this terminology, I of course agree with the premise for using such language. After all, God doesn’t have a gender and, therefore, whenever possible, we shouldn’t be assigning one.

    But, I think that God may have had a reason for me to attend that particular bible study. Because, after hearing this inclusive language translation of today’s Gospel, I began to look at today’s readings quite differently.

    It’s interesting how today’s Gospel reading opens with the words of Jesus saying something very maternal to his disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me.”

    As I look at today’s Gospel, I see a great deal of maternal comforting going on. But, if I was to pick one verse that best represents this message, it’s this first verse. It’s almost like Jesus was saying, ‘Don’t worry. Everything will be okay. Trust me. I’ll take care of you.’ These words of love, and comfort, and trust are like a thread that’s woven throughout our Gospel passage.

    I think that, no matter what stage of life we are in, these are words that we need to hear quite often. These are certainly the words that the disciples sitting around the table needed to hear that night. They needed to be mothered for a time. They needed to hear how they can trust in God. They needed to be consoled by the Father/Mother standing before them.

    But, why were they in such distress?

    In reading today’s Gospel passage, we may have the feeling that we have just stepped into the middle of a movie. In order for us to get a better understanding of why the disciples needed hear such comforting words, we need to place this Gospel passage in context.

    The passage that we hear today is actually part of a longer passage that is sometimes referred to as, “Jesus’ Farewell Discourse.” It’s a discourse that lasts over several chapters of John. The text that comes just prior to today’s passage is actually the text we hear on Maundy Thursday – the night before Jesus’ crucifixion.

    So, here’s the setting.

    Jesus has brought everyone to the upper room to get ready for Passover. As they were sitting around the table, Jesus starts saying some things that must have been very confusing, and likely very disturbing to his disciples.

    He tells them that he soon will be leaving them. That this life that they had enjoyed together for the last 3 years with Jesus as their teacher and friend, is coming to a close. Can you imagine how disturbing it must have been for the disciples to hear this news?

    On top of that, he next tells them that one of them will soon betray him. How can that be? They all love him. But then, they notice that Judas has left the room. Could our brother Judas be the betrayer? This doesn’t make sense!

    And then Peter swears his allegiance saying that he will never abandon Jesus. But Jesus tells Peter that he will deny him three times before morning comes.

    All of this news must have felt like an emotional fire storm. Hurt. Worry. Confusion.

    And then Jesus says the words we hear today, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me.” Jesus is mothering them, protecting them from the pain that they were about to experience. “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Trust in God. Trust in God’s love for you. You know that God loves you because you know that I love you. I am in the God and God is in me.

    Jesus continues to mother them and reassure them. He talks about his unique relationship to God and how they can trust God because they trust him.

    He tells them that his love for them will never end - even after his death. He reassures them that he will go ahead of them to prepare a place for them. He says that, when it is time, he will come and bring them back to himself.

    All of these words must have been a great comfort to his disciples. In a sense, Jesus was a good mother to them.

    Today is the 5th Sunday in the Easter season. The Easter message that we have in today’s readings is in this first verse, ‘don’t worry. Everything will be okay. Trust me.’

    Our God is a loving Father/Mother God. And God’s love us will never end. We will never be abandoned. The message for us this week is that, “everything will be OK”. Even after these mortal bodies cease to exist, Jesus will be there to take us back to himself.

    In a few weeks, I will be celebrating my 5th anniversary of serving as your deacon here at Christ Church. Over the years, I’ve had the privilege to get to know many of you. I’ve also had the privilege to walk with some of you as you endured some of life’s challenges. I’ve stood alongside some of you when you needed to hear the words of Jesus mothering you, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also” in Jesus. Happy Mother’s Day to each of you who provides care for those around you. And in thanksgiving, let us say happy Mother’s Day to our Father/Mother God whose love for us will never die.