Emmanuel@Home Morning Prayer
A Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 10, 2020
The Rev. Deacon Peter Nunnally
“Lord we do not know where you’re going, how will we know the way?”
Jesus has gone to make a dwelling place. How many of us would like to be in that dwelling place, rather than our own dwelling place? Maybe it’s a little bigger. Maybe there’s more yard. Maybe, just maybe, the annoying people in our dwelling places won’t be there? Maybe the annoying person we can be won’t be there either, right?
One can hope.
I wonder what the disciples were thinking when he said that. It’s interesting that they weren’t concerned with what it looked like, they were worried about how to get there.
Maybe we feel like we’re waiting to find out where that dwelling place is.
Jesus says do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.
I Am The Way and the truth and the life. You know the Father because you know me—you know him because you have seen him”
And then Philip: ok but just show us the father and we will be satisfied, and we get to hear exasperated Jesus, which I have to admit is one of my favorite Jesuses.
Jesus: I’ve been with you this whole time and you still don’t know me? Fine. If you don’t believe me because of what I say, believe me for the works I’ve done.” I have to say, it sounds like he’s saying you know if you still don’t believe, you’re kind of opting out of something great.
What all our readings point to today is the power of belief, fueled by faith, and the role of doubt. Doubt, as Frederich Buechner once said, is the ants in the pants of faith. It jiggles us around and makes us dance. Rob Bell has said that doubt and faith are dancing partners. We see that here with the disciples. Jesus has done incredible things, healed people, worked miracles, brought a man back from the dead. And still, they’re not so sure.
And by the way, why wouldn’t they want to believe? Why wouldn’t they want to believe that Jesus was God? That puts them in the inner circle! But belief is hard.
And for that matter why wouldn’t we want to believe in this whole thing anyway? That God is the ultimate good, that anything that is good, that is love, that is just, is God, and that God has special intention just for us. That in this crisis God will not leave us, but will watch over us–not protect us necessarily, but watch over us, be with us? The Ultimate, Divine Love, promises to be with us. Who wouldn’t at least want to believe that? But it’s hard.
Dad was a baseball coach a successful one, and I grew up in the dugouts when he was coaching. But when it was my turn to play, he couldn’t teach me how to hit. I wouldn’t listen. I didn’t believe he knew what he was talking about. He had to send me to a hitting specialist, because I wouldn’t listen, despite the state championships, despite his being looked at by pro scouts. We as humans have an infinite capacity for unbelief.
BUT. Doubt is not a barrier to faith. It might be a mark of it. Because doubting means you’re doubting something. You’re wrestling, like Jacob did, with something. Trying to understand. And trying to understand, trying to believe, is inclining toward God. And what better a thing to do, in this whole world, than incline ourselves to God?
Let’s believe it. Let’s believe that Jesus has gone to make a dwelling place for us. And he will show us the way. He says I am the way and the truth and the life. Real life. Real truth. When people say that I always wonder what they mean. Here’s what I think: He said if you don’t believe because I say it, believe it because of the works I’ve done. what we do here, what the Episcopal Church is about, what Christianity at its heart is about, is giving us the eyes and the ears to hear and the mind to think and the soul to wrestle with what that means. That love never fails and God never leaves. In a time like this, can we see it? Can we hear it?
I don’t like saying God has a plan. For a few reasons. But God is in control. Let’s believe that. God is in control. There is, even in this time, a clear turning toward God. And that pleases God! Even if we say God. What the hell is going on? Even if we have to ask God for help in that believing.
And you can see it working. In moments like this people are beginning to do morning prayer at home. And with other people. In times like these, times of fear and anxiety, and death and misery, people keep showing up for each other. We long for each other, we long for our church community, we long for God. Churches are changing what they do to serve and reach people.
God is in control because in moments like this, when we are separated, when we helping and loving people means being away from them, 40+ people show up for Zoom coffee hour. Oh the joy on those faces, seeing them scan the screen and smile at their friends. Jesus has gone to make a dwelling place. Believe it or not my friends, that is a dwelling place. A screen full of joy and love. A love that I have known well in my two years here. Jesus has gone to make a dwelling place. And it looks a lot like Emmanuel.