the shortcuts and The Way / John 14:1-14 (1 Peter; Psalm 146; Acts 7) / Pr. Lucas A. Albrecht/ Sunday May 10th 2020 / Season of Easter / Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Text: John 14; 2 Peter 2; Acts 7; Psalm 146
Theme: “The shortcuts and The Way”
Intr – Tell me, do you think two weeks would be enough for you to train and prepare to participate in one of the Tennis Grand Slam’s tournaments? If you are going to build a house from the floor up, from scratch to full development, do you think you could do that in a week – except for those TV programs with limitless labour and budget? When it comes to those 20 extra pounds insisting on hitchhiking around your waist, could you take a shortcut to melt them in 3 days?
The answer to these three questions is "no". There are no shortcuts to take you to the place where only the way can take you to.
The same answer applies to many other things in life as well, especially the most important ones. Healthy relationships, maintaining good health, good scores at job, keeping up principles; there are no shortcuts available for that. What we have is the path to be followed, as hard and long as it may look. It takes effort, perseverance, patience, a lot of other virtues, and also eyes on the final goal.
So it is also for the most important thing of all in our life: faith, salvation, eternal life. There are no shortcuts, no cutoffs, no detours which can be taken to a better experience on how to win you way to eternal life, how to win God’s favour, how to help yourself to help God, how to be a better version of yourself. There is one way; The Way. The One Way.
Jesus makes it very clear in the Gospel of John chapter 14. When asked by Thomas, “How will we know what the way is?” Jesus answers: “I am”. Shortcuts and cutoffs may offer momentary solutions, satisfaction, even a sense of superiority. Jesus is the Only and One definitive way though. The Truth is: Life is in Him, for He is the Way.//
As sinners that we are though we may get ourselves trying out those shortcuts every so often, because they look so attractive, so helpful, and the most attracting thing of all – they look best rewarding than what the Word says. Think only about those words of Jesus saying to the disciples; “when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants;5 we have only done what was our duty.”(Luke 17:10) We just can’t stand those ego-shattering words, eh? We like to feel good about doing good. We like to be praised for saving water, helping abandoned dogs, wearing masks or not hoarding things. Especially, how good do we feel when by doing things, resorting to those magical solutions we feel a little better, we are a little better than others or we are contributing, even with 0,0001% to such a spectacular thing that is entering heaven for eternal life?
That is too much tempting of a cutoff not to take it. Jesus’ proposed way is harsh, dry, difficult, unpleasant. Let me take the shortcut to my own wisdom to reprieve that dryness and indulge in the good feeling that comes thereof.//
The readings for today present us with some other seductive shortcuts on our road to life everlasting:
_Psalm 146 – warns against trusting in Princes. We like to be friends of the King, pals of the Powerful, be in the selfie with the boss. We might die and kill for people who would guarantee us a good position down the road. We are warned however that there is a limit to what human princes and people of power can do - and that one is very thin.
_In Acts 7 we see another danger: religion pride. Stephen is stoned to death by people who thought they already had it all figured out on how to be in good shape before God. They forgot only one thing: God were among them, and had already provided them with the true religion: The Messiah, Christ. And that is the very reason why Stephen is stoned. He defies their shortcut of “self righteousness” by pointing to the Only and One Way – Christ.//
_In 1 Peter, the taste of the world is contrasted with the taste of the pure spiritual milk. Sometimes we think we are fed up with God’s milk and we go after all the juicy, junk spiritual food the world has to offer. How we may end up in life, as we face troubles, great problems, tempest and storms then?
A well known artist in Brazil revealed an interview in 2016 that he became an atheist early on in his life. In another interview he commented one of the most common shortcuts about religion: “You can be religious without having a religion. I love my neighbour, I am connected to nature. When I am in great trouble I try to analyze things and then solve it through nature. If you are sad, go for a walk in the beach with the wind in your face and that may cure you” .
Now, this past week he was found dead at the age of 85. A farewell handwritten note said, among other things: “Humanity has failed. I am left with the impression that it were 85 years wasted away in a place like this”. How far do you need to go to come to this type of conclusion; and at the same time, are we surprised? Nature, wind, our own thoughts and reflections, these shortcuts pale and vanish before the promises, comfort and salvation that come from Christ. Those are cutoffs. This is the Way.In a sharp contrast we see Stephen, who lived a shorter life, seeing the Glory of God as he was dying, and he looked forward to it.
It is very important to keep this truth in mind – That Jesus is The Way - in a world where everything needs to be fast. The shortcut to pain is pills, medicine, or in the limit assisted death. The shortcut to frustration is alcohol, drugs or the wind in the face. The shortcut to anger is exploding. The shortcut to total societal control might be a virus. The cutoff to assassinating reputations and lives is to cut off precision and to be fast in mouth, leaving truth-checking for a later date.
In many situations, the shortcut to hell looks like a stairway to heaven.
Before all this shortcuts, Jesus stands as the Way. The cornerstone, as Peter lets us know. It is narrow, it may be difficult, thorny, dry, almost insufferable. But still is the Way. Because it is also Faithful, beautiful, secure, constant, consistent, True.
Jesus is with the Father and the Holy Spirit the Lord that Psalm 146 praises “5 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, 6 who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; 7 who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free; 8 the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. 9 The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.” This is true strength, comfort and peace to avoid life to be wasted away and to have our hearts on the Way.//
Today is Mother’s day and here’s a special word for you, mother. (Or even if you don’t have kids or is a man, perhaps this might be for you to.) Mother’s day is the day we praise and honor that great warrior of our lives. Mother, Mom. You wake up to your tasks with a smile in your face. You take care of your kids as well as you lead your professional life, your career. You are always ready for your husband and supportive of him; you feel secure about your choices, you know where you are going, you don’t even flinch when it comes to the greatest challenges in life. You are strong and sweet; you are firm and flexible; you are just and determined; you are stern and funny; you are your family’s unwavering safe place every single day. Because you, you now. You are mother.
Does that match your life? I would be surprised if it would. Because such mother has never existed. Unless in fancy social media posts or tales of a perfect mother that never was.
Don’t let fake ways of being a mother - shortcuts - come in your way of realizing who you really are. Even the mother of God, Mary, said “My Saviour” about Jesus. You, and all mothers, need to be remembered that Jesus is your way too, not only your kids’. You need compassion, strength and love, not only your family. You need to drink of his blood and eat his body too, not only share the Good News with many. You are as strong and frail, secure and insecure courageous and fearful as any other person in need to avoid shortcuts to perfect, unblemished motherhood, and to leap into the arms of the Father, who will hold you fast and hold your heart. Some mother’s days are bright, there are many others that are gloomy and scary. The Way never changes though. As you Walk in Him, you walk in the Way, the Truth and the Life. There is no way then you are going to be let down.//
Surely it will be hard sometimes for all of us, especially for our old self, looking for quick gratification and lasting pleasure. But it is always the safe and sure road. The Holy Spirit comes to us in Word and Sacrament to sustain our hearts in the Way, both in the days that we are leaping for joy in it, and the ones in which we are crawling to find shelter in the shadow of His wings.
Cc – Yes, Humanity has failed, that artist got this part right. But Christ has redeemed them. Christ in His Word protects us from the cutoffs that lead to death eternal, and brings us the Way to life eternal. It is a path to follow not 3 days, 2 weeks or a couple years. It is a road for us to follow for a lifetime and guarantees us that whether we live 10, 50, 80 or a 100 years, they won’t be wasted time. // Even more when we already know in advance where the Way takes us to: the arms of our Loving Father.