The Parish Church of St John-at-Hampstead
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Worship at Home 10.30      10th May 2020
Jesus the Way
Jan Rushton

Readings: Acts 7.55-60 Stoning Stephen; 
1 Peter 2.2-10; 
John 14 Jesus The Way
Locked down at home it’s far too easy to get hooked on watching the TV - 
in my case, as my son would say, I am a ‘news junkie’!
Recently, we have been shown repeated harrowing scenes of distraught bereaved relatives 
encouraged by reporters to expand on the heartbreaking details 
of not being able to be present at the time of their loved one’s death.
I have mixed feelings about this.  
At one level I’m not sure that being led to focus in the starkest terms possible,
on the devastating loss of a loved one, is in the long run helpful.
At another level I am reminded of the astonishingly selfless messages 
that came pouring out of the blighted twin towers in New York, 
messages of assurance and love from those inside
to those whom they knew they were soon to be separated from for ever.
Likewise, what a commemoration of those who have died 
in these last weeks, to hear of the love, they have so profoundly inspired. 
Love which can carry us over stormy seas, carry us to the far shore - 
on both sides of the separation that is death.
As we also remembered on Friday in the 75th anniversary of Victory In Europe.
We are in Eastertide, a season of seven weeks 
when we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead!
And today our gospel is the famous text from John’s gospel 
of Jesus’ promise to his disciples - that is us, by the way, 
that there are many mansions in heaven - to quote an older translation!
We are promised that Jesus is preparing a tailored dwelling-place for each one of us!
But first we have heard of Stephen’s astonishing witness to Jesus, 
and his death, where, as Jesus, Stephen prays for the forgiveness of his executioners.
How we die matters.  Matters for us.  Matters for those we leave behind.
Matters not because of what happens on the other side of death, 
matters for this life.    As Jesus himself acknowledges in his story 
of the rich man and the beggar at his gate, the story of Dives and Lazarus, 
on this side of death we simply cannot know what life after death will be like.   
What we do know is that we are creatures, created,
and in the life and death of Jesus, is revealed to us 
that we are creatures embraced by an all-loving and infinite God.
In our gospel Jesus is preparing his disciples for life after his death. 
He is, he will be, with them always. 
They have no need to worry about what lies ahead.
Why?  Because he, Jesus, is ‘the Way’.  And they know him!
He is going to prepare that place for us - and we know the way to get there!
Our old friend Thomas - ever the realist! 
straightforwardly tells Jesus that they don’t know the way!
We then have a convoluted discourse from Jesus about how he and the Father are one. 
That those who believe this will find understanding - and power!  
Will find their prayers answered.
Those first converts were known, not as ‘Christians’, 
rather as ‘followers of the Way’, the ‘way’ of Jesus.  
It is the transformation of our lives of which Jesus speaks!
Our lives here and now!  We, the precious blocks built into God’s Temple.
Jesus’ thinking about life after death was very different from ours.
He and his followers were expecting his imminent return to this earth, 
followed by a transformation of this life!    
A transformation of society such that our living conforms to the pattern of the reign of God.  
A reign of justice and mercy.
The reign of God where neighbour loves neighbour; 
where, as described by the prophets: the lion shall lie with the lamb,
swords shall be beaten into ploughshares, and every man - and woman! 
shall sit under their own vine, their own fig tree, 
no one shall make them afraid - and a little child shall lead them!
Peace without - and peace within.  Here and now!
How do we follow this Way?  The way of peace we are all seeking?
We are Peter’s newborn infants longing for that spiritual food!
Come, taste and see that the Lord is good!
At the Eucharist, at the Lord’s Table where we receive his life into our lives
in this sacrament as we open our hearts to receive Jesus, 
we are filled with the power of  the Holy Spirit to transform our lives.
Separated from the Eucharist at this time 
we are not separated from the love of Jesus waiting to embrace us.
Jesus the cornerstone, foundation of our living, embodies the contradictions of love.
That in losing our lives for the sake of others, we gain our life.
That as we receive God’s amazing gifts with open hands, 
as we keep our hands open, then even when all that we receive departs from us, 
the blessing these things have brought us will remain with us always.
If we choose justice, compassion and mercy, we shall know peace.
And when we come to our own place of death, 
having drawn close to Jesus, having followed his Way, 
enfolded in his love, we may discover that our lives too 
are filled with the courage and the love demonstrated by those in the twin towers 
who phoned their loved ones as they understood what was about to happen.
And those we love will have grown an inner strength -
even as we and they approach death’s door, even alone.  Amen.

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