Jan 2020

Perfectly Secure Future

Dave Rodriguez

Jan 19, 2020

This is my mother.
Picture of my mom and I
... In better times several years ago. This morning at 1:00 a.m. she passed away in her assisted living facility outside of Philadelphia.
In 2019 dementia began to take over her life: Illnesses, falls, hospitalization, deep anxiety and anguish.
During one of my visits with her in the summer we talked about one of her most prized possessions, a picture that was hanging over her bed.
This picture took on mystical qualities. It became her dream... her longing.

  • The image was taken by Barry, my son, your pastor. He took this photo it in 2014 in Guatemala when he was working as a photo journalist with World Next Door. He too had the opportunity to talk with his grandma about it a few months ago when he went out to visit her.
The photo is of a gate. But in her mind it became the gate into glory. She clung to this image imagining walking through it into the presence of God. A few hours ago she did just that. I will leave the image up for a few moments for you to take it in.

For my mom this image had been a source of peace as she faced imminent death. What does it do for you? More generally, what does the topic do to you? Some have portrayed death in poetic, romantic ways.

Nothing can happen more beautiful than death. Walt Whitman
Dying is a wild night and a new road. Emily Dickinson

Then there are others who have painted death with more realism:
But her smile was bleak, without light or warmth. And for the first time I thought of what it must be like to know that you were going to die, that the trees would bud, flower, leaf, dry, die, and you would not be there to see any of it. - Anna Quindlen, One True Thing

How do you feel about death? We all at Grace have been deeply privileged to consider how we feel about death through Chuck Gross's journey with pancreatic cancer.
  • Chuck was just given volunteer of the year Care Center
It was a strange moment as we sat there absorbing the truth of what we already knew. From one perspective it was good in that there is no more wondering, or speculating about what was going on inside my body. Suddenly I had been reclassified from a 76-year-old man who had a short list of daily meds that included an 81 mg. aspirin and maybe 2 Tums to a pancreatic cancer patient.
Another strange thing about this moment was that my life span had suddenly been defined. Like it or not, all of the numbers indicate I have 4 months to 24 months of life. Up to this point my assumptions were that, like my dad and birth mother, I would journey along into my mid-eighties and possibly beyond. My oh my, how things can and do change.
  • Please read his and Vivian's reflections on what he calls his "farewell tour". It is stirring and sobering but ultimately encouraging!
  • Thank you Chuck for allowing us in on your poignant and personal journey. Hope you and Vivian are enjoying the sun in FL.
Now what does all this do to you (congregation)
  • Fear? Anxiety? Peace? Confusion? Comfort?
I have a word for you today. Actually Jesus has a word for you today.

Do't let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. Jesus, John 14:1

Review of the series so far. This series is called Relief. The series can be captured in two images Barry shared in week one:
Image of crashing waves.
Image of serene lake.
Look at John 14:1 - the word troubled is the same word that Barry pointed out in 14:27.
Let's back up and consider the bigger context :
Jesus last days... he knew it and was dropping less than subtle hints:
  • John 13:33 - I will be with you only a little longer and where I am going you cannot come
  • 13:36- Peter - where are you going? Jesus - you can' follow now but you will follow later
    • They had no idea of which he was talking
    • No idea he would die
    • No idea that he was referring to an eternal state... no idea he was talking about heaven
The problem for us in our context on this cold day in January 2020...
  • When will that day come for me?
  • What will it be like?
  • Will I be welcomed into heaven?
  • Is my life worthy of it?
And for some of us our minds go to loved ones and friends who are nearing the end.
Death ultimately is not poetic or romantic. Largely it is not a serene lake but a roiling storm of anxiety.
But into that anxiety are these words of relief Don't let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.
  • Relief comes through a word: "trust"
    • Sometimes it's translated trust, other times faith and others believe.
    • It means to be persuaded of thus to have confidence in
Heads up - in a few moments I am going to ask you whether you possess this, and if not, would you like to today.
But let's dive further...

Don't let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. 2 There is more than enough room in my Father's home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?

It's a rhetorical question... "of course not, if it wasn't true I wouldn't have told you there was a place for you."
  • Father's home = implies family not just house
  • Place = clearly defined apportioned space more like an apartment within the home.
  • You = not you all. Not them. Not everybody. But you personally.
3 When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.
  • When everything is ready... when the time is right and conditions have been fulfilled I will come get you.
  • You will always be with me
    • The personal nature of this is stunningly beautiful and wonderfully relational - I'll come get you and we'll be together.
Which is all wonderful until he drops this... 4 And you know the way to where I am going."
  • What? Was this provocative? Did he actually think his followers would say... ah yes, we get it... you are taking us to the father! Right! Oh yeah, heaven...
5 "No, we don't know, Lord," Thomas said. "We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?"
  • Good question, Thomas. Many of us have the same question.
So Jesus dives in... and brings clarity:
6 Jesus told him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. 7 If you had really know me you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and seen him."8 Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied." 9 Jesus replied, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don't know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you? 10 Don't you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me.11 Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen me do. John 14:1-11

Wow. Lots going on here. But the big idea Jesus is trying to communicate revolves around 3 key words.

Know: to understand through personal experience (not intellectually) Vs. 7 If you had really know me, you would know ho my Father is.

See: implies metaphorically to perceive: I see what you mean... or oh, I get it. Vs. 9 Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father!

Believe - to believe, entrust... because he begins with the word Trust in God, and trust also in me. I think he was implying entrusting themselves to him.

So let me take a stab at summarizing Jesus words...
If you see me and you know me, you will entrust yourself to me. And when you entrust yourself to me you will be at peace for your future will be in my hands.

So, the operative questions for the disciples... .and for you...

Do you get Jesus? Do you see him for who he is?

If not, then you have some work to do...
  • You can't form an understanding of Jesus simply on the opinions of others.
    1. You cannot just believe because you mom or Sunday School teacher told you to.
    2. Neither can you reject Jesus based on somebody else's jaundiced viewpoint.
    3. You have to be intellectually honest and study his life.
Do you see him for who he is - the son of God?

Do you know Jesus? Again, this word means to know by experience. Have you experienced him?
  • Entrusting your life to Jesuresence in your life? That he has been with you...
s cannot, by any means, be simply an intellectual experience.
  • Have you interacted with him? Have you prayed?
  • Have you considered his p
Will you entrust yourself to Jesus?
  • That's the ultimate question of all ultimate questions. Have you or will you entrust yourself to Jesus?

Listen again to his words to you...
If you see me and you know me, you will entrust yourself to me. And when you entrust yourself to me you will be at peace for your future will be in my hands.
Can you surrender your doubts? Can you surrender your fears? Can you surrender your skepticism? Can you surrender your cynicism? Can you surrender your future? Can you surrender your present?
Last weekend I along with some others attended the memorial service for Maron's mom and they sang this song: JUST AS I AM Original Lyrics from Charlotte Elliot, 1835
Just as I am - without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Lamb of God - Jesus. Without a plea... I'm a mess and can't make myself acceptable to you. Jesus blood = his sacrificial death on the cross is the means by which we can entrust ourselves to him

Just as I am - though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
-O Lamb of God, I come!