May 14, 2017 – Easter, 5th Sunday of
Letters Home (from a retired pastor to his family, the Church)
I have a friend who is so close to my heart that he feels as if he were my brother. Since my younger brother passed away it is good to find friends this close. Like any family member, being friend and brother to this man includes its share of joy and pain. In order to make this letter a little easier to write I will call him Samuel.
Sam and I share a great deal in common. Both of us spent a good portion of our young adult years in the construction industry. Both of us experienced the ups and downs, hard times and economic uncertainties of that life. At one moment life was prosperous. The next it was hand to mouth. Both of us also experienced our fair share of brokenness in our lives and that of our families. What we did not share was being absolutely lost in the depths of an addiction.
There have been times when Samuel was a prince of a man. There were also moments when those around him experienced him as the absolute opposite. During all these changeable times I wished that I could help him or make some kind of difference in his lot in life. As it has turned out, I could not. I do not know where my friend is now. I pray that he is alive and that through some miracle he is finding his way toward health.
I have much to thank Samuel for. First of all, for the person he can be. He is often the most generous person I have ever met. He would literally give you the shirt off his own back. In the good moments you could not ask for a better friend. Second, I thank him for opening my eyes to the depths of a human experience I knew very little about. This gift of an expanded empathy has helped me reach out to many others in my life. I thank God for Sam’s friendship.
Each of our relationships open to us new truths, ways, and horizons. In fact, the new paths opened to us through our relationships are often more powerful than any opened to us through other means, including education. We choose not to take some of these paths for obvious reasons. Others are ways of being that resonate with that part of our soul that longs to find truth, meaning and purpose. When we encounter someone whose person and life stimulate this part of our soul, it is only natural for us to draw near.
In this Sunday’s Gospel passage we hear Jesus say, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” For many, these words can be puzzling. That is especially true for people who look to maps and GPS’s for directions, and to the sciences for truths. But to those who walked the dusty roads of Palestine with Jesus 2,000 years ago, His words made perfect sense. In this reading we are reminded that for the followers of Jesus, the way, truth and life is a person; nothing more, nor less. It was when they were in relationship with Jesus, watching Him in action, listening to His teaching, and living in His spirit that they felt wholeness become available to them. These are the gifts Jesus gave His friends.
This Sunday’s collect proclaims a related truth. This truth may seem as puzzling as Jesus’ words about way, truth, and life. This truth is that eternal life is not a place, or something contained within ourselves; it is an eternal relationship. Knowing God, dwelling in Him is everlasting life. In the universe of that bond, all of God’s blessings are opened to us. The most profound blessing is simply dwelling in God’s embracing presence. It is in this circle of connection that we will meet all who have gone before, and be reunited with those we love and have lost. This circle is the abode of what Paul refers to as a great cloud of witnesses. Jesus’ friends have found Him to be the doorway to this communion. Naturally they drew near.
Fifth Sunday of Easter
Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (BCP 225)