Visit our new site at

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings - The Way, the Truth and the Life edition

My ordination interview was overall a relatively good experience. One question that made me sweat, though, was about this passage. A member of the interview committee said something like, "The longer I am a pastor myself, the more I struggle with these words 'no one comes to the Father except through me.' What do YOU do with them?" If you asked me that again today, I would probably dither just as much as I did then before ending (as I think I did during the interview) with "Well, I just can't believe that." Somehow, I want to do more with this week's sermon than those six exasperated words.

The New Interpreter's Bible (you're right, you don't see me pulling THAT out very often) opines "The Fourth Gospel is not concerned with the fate...of Muslims, Hindus or Buddhists, nor with the superiority or inferiority of Judaism and Christianity as they are configured in the modern world. These verses are the confessional celebration of a particular faith community, convinced of the truth and life it has received in the incarnation." If it doesn't exactly PREACH, it is, perhaps, at least a place to start.

If, like me, you're more a memoir reader than a commentary-studier, you might check out It's Really All About God: How Islam, Atheism and Judaism Made Me a Better Christian. I'm 88 pages in, I've dogeared about 70 of them as "worth going back to" including page 9: "If God created all of humanity but gave life-giving knowledge - usually referred to as 'revelation' - to only some of humanity, would God in any meaningful sense be thought of as the One God and not only as a god?"

I guess I'm going to be thinking about that one verse all weekend. What's on your mind this week? Maybe you would rather talk about some of the other lovely language in the John passage instead - you could do a lot with the "way, the truth, and the life" I'd think. Or with how you see God and Christ at work in the world. Or, are you heading down the martyrdom road with Stephen? Or tackling something else entirely? Comments are open.

Links to this week's texts found here. Picture of four faces of Jesus found here.


  1. Going with John, a passage many pepole hear at funerals (at least the first few verses about the house of many rooms). But focussing on the problems of Christian exclusivism/exceptionalism/particularity in verse 6.

    How do we read those verses in a pluralistic world without seeming arrogant or out of touch? Can we make the faith claim of truth for us without insisting it is true for all?

    My early thoughts are here

  2. I have to say, despite prayer for calmness and guidance, I am completely panicked about how to preach this week. I just don't know where to start with a passage so strongly saying things I don't believe can be true. Any help much appreciated!

  3. I am not sure where I will go with this, this weekend. On my plan I have John's reading and the title 'Do we know God’. A reference to Jesus response to Philip: "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me?”
    That was a few weeks ago, and now I can't remember what I was thinking.
    Hopefully inspiration strikes tomorrow, as I am at a seminar all day Thursday and Friday.

  4. challenged on this one during CPE, when a classmate showed us a video on the perils of "Creeping Universalism." If I remember...I said there wasn't any creeping involved, I was a flat-out universalist -- that I believed, and believe that it is the will of God that all be saved and reconciled and brought to know and love him. That wherever and everywhere this happened it happens through and in Jesus Christ, whether anybody realizes it or not. And I don't care what specific gymnastics are necessary to align those two positions.
    I think I kind of lean on Luther a bit -- that wherever mercy and compassion are found, Christ is present. I know some argue that where Christ is not intentionally invoked, mercy and compassion aren't mercy and compassion.
    To which I say, "fiddly-dee."

  5. (sticking a toe in)

    I haven't started work on this week yet, but I think I've read somewhere that these verses might have been liturgy in the early church. It was their claim regarding who Jesus was for their community rather than Jesus' actual claim for himself. This is similar to what Gord said: true for us without claiming as requirement for all.

    I offer that carefully. I am one who definitely wants to take the Bible seriously for what it actually says. I'm looking forward to getting into this further.

    That said, I find that I am more concerned with people who make that claim as doctrinal truth and then have nothing distinctive to show for it in actual practice, except fire insurance for the hereafter.

  6. I've been working with some Boy Scouts for part of the "God and Country" program. Most of the boys and their families will be in worship with us this Sunday. So I'm carrying that thought with me as I consider the John and I Peter texts.


  7. I've been wrestling with these texts for a week now. I've finally settled on John - the 'greater acts then these' verse has caught my attention. Also the highly helpful (to me) discussion on the Working Preacher podcast started by noting that the overarching theme in all the texts this week is trust. I'll probably go with one or both of those.

    I'm not going to touch the 'way, truth, life' thing. I'm preaching at a potential call. I don't know how a discussion on pluralism/univerisalism would go and I'm not brave enough to go there. If I get the call, we can talk about it the next time this passage comes around.

  8. I am thinking irony, or perhaps God's sense of humor as I try to prepare to preach from Jesus' final discourse on the occassion of my final sermon to my congregation as we leave them. I just keep staring at ALL the things Jesus says here and the whol theme of not being troubled and putting trust in the right placing is speaking to to write!

  9. Of course if the end of the world comes on Saturday then all our preparations will be for nought won't they....

  10. I'm not a Rev Gal, but I'm certainly a Blog Pal. So I hope I can be permitted to share a few thoughts.

    I'm struck in this text by the beginning: "In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?"

    A big-ole God house, that has many rooms. This tickles my Universalism strings, a bit.

    I am also pondering this text as a pastoral word from Jesus to his Disciples (then and maybe now) on doubt. This comes in the midst of several stories of belief and doubt in John, both before and after the Resurrection, and the RCL has reminded me of this theme these recent weeks.

    What if Jesus is offering himself as a path, for those who find "God" so difficult? "I'm right here", he says. "You can touch me, see me. God, you can't. So if you can't believe in God, then believe in me." Of course, the point is then made that belief in Jesus is belief in God.

    This may not be true to the text, but I think there's some truth in it. Personally, there are parts of "GOD" that have me troubled and leave me doubting. But Jesus...Jesus I believe. Jesus I want to be like. Jesus I want to worship and give my life to. And Jesus comes back and says, "that's okay. You don't have to take it all in...just follow me, and I'll show you the way."

    I like that. Of course...that may not be John's point at all.

  11. I'm so glad to hear that I'm not the only one who wrestles with this text, and appreciate that we can struggle together. Great conversation so far, thanks!

    Keep breathing, EM, we got your back, and so does the Holy Spirit (maybe not in that order).

    I've recently had a person leave my bible study, because I "dont take God seriously" so I want to be sure that I DO take this one seriously. And also that I'm retaining my integrity, as Gord says, in a pluralistic world.

    Also, Gord, even though this feels like a serious one for me, I am pretty sure that I will begin with "since the world didnt end yesterday..." which is maybe a little on the snarky side. In the rest of the sermon, I'm not actually going this direction at all, but I enjoyed a UU view on apocolyptic in this sermon podcast.

  12. Travis - missed your comment before - glad to see your post. I really like your line of thinking. Although this is called the farewell discourse, it really is the farewell conversation with 3 (if you count Peter just before) disciples asking questions that are being responded to by Jesus. And this way of considering what Jesus is saying here sounds like a very compassionate response to those quesions and doubts. LIKE it! thanks!

  13. The very first time I ever preached--before I was even sure that I'd be approved to continue in the ordination process--it was on this passage, and it happened b/c after a long discussion with my priest I wrote a journal entry that I share with her...and she believed it was a sermon. The bottom line was that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life for ME, but I cannot say that others can't come to God another way.

    I read this gospel at a funeral this morning and afterwards had another discussion with my parish administrator who has much more conservative theological views than I and she was pretty shocked by my thoughts.

    I haven't preached this pericope in a while, but I suspect this week might be a reworking of what I said the first time around. Because I still believe that.

  14. Best wishes to you, Ramona, in the prospective call.

    And to all of you who roll up your sleeves to tackle this one.

  15. Late to this, so who knows if it will be helpful to anyone - I've named my sermon 'Left Behind.' In part because I couldn't help it, and then I was able to justify it with the context of the John passage.

    They are still gathered around the table where they ate together, Judas has left the room and Jesus is offering compassionate responses to their questions as he knows the responsibilities will lie with them once they are left behind after his death.

    Or something...

  16. Kathrynzj, that is so helpful. My irl lectionary group had other fish to fry yesterday (and several don't have to preach this week) so I'm struggling here with no idea what direction I want to take. I love the image at the beginning, but I get hives-y about "the way, the truth and the life" because of the exclusivist interpretations laid on it.
    But as Sharon points out, those words are in there! Are they really Jesus' words? Are they "John's" words? Aren't they important anyway?
    If anybody's talking about the end of the world in my congregation, I haven't heard it. I mentioned something about it on Sunday and got blank expressions.

  17. This Sunday is our baccalaureate service so I'm going off lectionary to preach on Jeremiah 29. Four more Sundays in my parish before I move 8 miles down the road to the new parish. Glad I am not having to struggle with the John scripture this week because like my word verification, I have a "coldhed" or maybe it is just allergies. Either way, my brain is not working the way it should today.

  18. Often we skip over the statement, "I go to prepare a place for you." What does that mean? Is Jesus making a reservation in our name? Is he turning down the bed and putting a chocolate on the pillow? Is he making sure the bathroom is clean? Decorating? Perhaps he is whispering in Gods ear that a VIP is about to arrive. In what way/s does Jesus prepare a place?
    After a recent funeral of a grandmother, a young grandson who never knew his great-grandpa, saw his grandmother and g-grandpa playing cards together and laughing. Playing cards was a favorite pastime of those two. Perhaps Jesus put up the card table and got the cards out.

  19. AK - this has been feeling like such a Serious with a capital S passage, I really appreciated the fanciful-ness of this image.

    Hey KJ - can I steal your sermon title?

  20. Hmmm, am I the only one preaching Acts? I've done John and Peter both, more than once each, and I really felt compelled by Stephen this time. I find the story very powerful and appealing but am sort of stuck at the most basic point - my sermon title. Due today. UGH!


You don't want to comment here; instead, come visit our new blog, We'll see you there!

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.