God In the Every Day: The Pathway
The Season of Lent
April 7, 2019
A group of over twenty of our church members just returned last night from our Spring Mission Trip to Allendale, South Carolina. We have been going to Allendale every Fall and Spring now for a number of years. Every time that a group sets out either going to or coming back from Allendale a regular question arises. The question is this: which way are we going to go?
Allendale, just like virtually every other place any of us have ever been to, is a place that you can travel to taking more than one route. And, truth be told, there are advantages to each. Some routes are more scenic than others. Some routes are a bit quicker than others. And, some routes include better restaurants along the way – I mean we are Baptists after all and it is all about the food!?! The question of which route we should take is really a way of asking is this the best route? Of all of the ways we could travel, which is the best one for us at this time?
There is a similar question, however, that while similar is quite different. Besides the question of which is the best route, we can also place the question of which is the right route? This question is not so much about the fastest or most scenic way to go. This question is much more focused on simply ensuring that I am going to end up in the right place and about the need to have the peace of mind that we are heading the right way.
Just the other day, I found myself deep in the interior of Greenville Memorial Hospital. I was there to make a visit and on the way out of the area where the patient I was visiting was located, I got lost. As I tried to regain my bearings, I spotted a nurse and ask her for help. I said, “how do I get to the Atrium from here?” This was her literal response, “you get there by following me.”
In that moment, I wasn’t interested in a philosophical debate about all of the best routes from ICU to the Atrium. I didn’t care which routes included the most interesting hospital scenery. Instead, I had a more basic, pressing need – I just needed some help and some assurance that I was headed the right way.
Again, her response, “you get there by following me”.
My experience in the hospital, not our Mapquest debate about best routes to Allendale is more at the heart of what Jesus was trying to communicate in John 14 when he said these famous words, “I am the way, the truth and the life”. He says this in response to the disciples and his inner circle of friends as they all move ever closer to Jesus’ death. Jesus says this between their last meal together in the Upper Room and his arrest in the Garden.
Contextually things were tense, they were worried about where all of this was headed and to a person they had to have wondered if they were even on the right track at all. Was Jesus really the way?
Again, it really wasn’t a debate about Jesus as a good way among many other options. Instead, it was a way of reassuring them that they were not on a fool’s errand or a wild good chase. Instead Jesus simply wanted them to know his was the way, the right way.
If you haven’t noticed by now, virtually all of these I am statements have a pastoral tone to them. What I mean in saying this is that by and large, they are words of comfort and encouragement that despite the challenges, the frustrations, the questions and the unknowns, that with Jesus they are headed in the right way and things were going to be okay…
I am who I am…which we said is a way of saying “I will be there”.
I am the bread of life…which we said is a way of saying “I am enough”.
I am the light of the world…which we said is a way of saying “I will guide you”.
I am the good shepherd…which we said is a way of saying “I will get you through”.
And today, I am the way, the truth and the life…which is a way of saying “I am the right path”.
These statements are all similar and yet different, nuanced and unique in their own ways.
It is as if Jesus is saying to us, “I know that sometimes you wonder if being a Christian was the right decision… Or, “I know that sometimes you look at your friends and the good times they are having and you wonder if choosing a different lifestyle is worth it… Or, “I know at times when you choose to get up and come to church rather than going to the lake you ask yourself if this was a wise choice.” Or, “I know that when you choose what seems to be the ethical thing in light of your faith rather than doing the questionable thing despite what it costs you professionally that you wonder if all of these does and don’ts are really that important?”
“So let me remind you. I really am the way. You really are on the right path. So take a deep breath, regather yourself, renew you spirit and just remember that you get to where you want to go by simply following me. So stay on the path, keep at it, don’t grow weary. Again, don’t doubt it, you get to where you want to go by simply following me.”
Have you ever gone to someone’s home for the first time and wondered if you are in the right place? You drive onto the street, pull into the drive and get out of the car with a mixture of confidence and uncertainty coursing through your body all at the same time. Based on what you have been told it looks like the right house and it feels like the right place but you’re just not 100% sure. Even as you knock on the door and wait there remains a degree of uncertainty. And then, there comes that moment of relief when the door opens and the person on the other side offers a familiar face and you let out a sigh of relief. It is a simple thing and yet it is a glorious feeling.
This is the life of faith. And, one day, it is the Lord who will open the door, welcome us in and say to us “well done thou good and faithful servant” and at that time, we’ll feel that warmth in our hearts that we have arrived in just the right spot.
For now, we must trust Jesus, the one who says “don’t loose heart, I am the way.” And we must listen to Holy Spirit whisper to us what the good nurse said to me this week “you get to where you want to go by following me”. So, have faith. Amen.