Reading: John 14:1-14
How would you go about telling or writing the story of another person’s life? Would you like to concentrate on one aspect or would you rather try to cover a whole range of things? I have quite a few biographies and autobiographies on my book shelves and the range of people is quite something, biographies such as Gyles Brandreth ‘Philip the final portrait’ to David Meikle ‘The Krays, the prison years’ and autobiographies ranging from David Jason ‘A Del of a life’ to Fern Britton ‘My story’. At the moment I am halfway through Bob Mortimer’s ‘And away’. I suppose like most life stories there are absolute peaks and some very deep troughs to be journeyed through. In the main, the biographies I have centre on a specific time or incident in the life of the person or people being written about. It may centre on personal family life, relationships with colleagues or the general public. When one time or aspect is chosen we do not get that fuller picture of a life lived. What we do get is a writing that clearly identifies a very specific window.
The author somehow has to keep the reader captivated in the story and leave them wanting to read further and discover what happens next. This morning we once again are doing something a bit different, we are having a more recognisable traditional service. With a traditional order of service and singing traditional hymns. In the life of our congregation I think it is good to try new things and discover if new things work for us. The same is true across the church and as we all know it is true in our everyday lives. Different stages of the journey in life require us to re-evaluate that journey and our response to what is happening within it. Having said that I do think there is great merit in knowing who we are and, for want of a better expression, ‘what our default position is’ when we are challenged by life. As we have journeyed through the Gospel of John we have seen elements of that biographical writing. These ‘I am’ saying we are looking at just now revealing the width of who Jesus is and how interconnected; Father, Son and Holy Spirit of God is. And as we visited very early in this journey through John he states quite clearly in the final verse of the penultimate chapter his reason for writing the Gospel and maybe more importantly the message he wishes to convey in doing so. ‘These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.’ This may lead us to question if it is written as a biography on the life of Jesus, with all its historical references, or is written more as in legal terminology, written as an argument for the accused. John is looking at the life of Jesus, writing after the other three gospels, and taking incidents at different times as a way of demonstrating to his readers that this Jesus is like no other man that has ever lived. Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus saying ‘I am the way and the life’ just as with all the other ‘I am’ sayings is striking home with the Jewish leaders. Moses in the book of Genesis asks God, ‘when people ask your name what shall I say?’ God replies, ‘I am who I am.’ Tell the people, ‘I am has sent me to you.’ We enter our reading this morning following Jesus telling his disciples he was going away. He has told them one among them will betray him. He has said that Peter, seen by many as their leader, would deny Jesus three times. All of this can only mean something awful is about to befall them. Jesus calms them as he says, ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled.’ Once again he binds himself to the Father. ‘You trust in God, then trust in me also.’ Even after Jesus description of what is going to happen we have the honesty of Thomas. When he doubts something he doesn’t just sit allowing things to fester away he speaks out, he says what he thinks, and even admits when he cannot think his way through what he is being told by Jesus. ‘I am the way.’ Through his teaching, through his sacrificing, the way of heaven is open to all believers. ‘I am the truth.’ Many had led the people astray, many today, are still trying to do so, Jesus stands as the truth of God that offers salvation to us all. ‘I am the life.’ Jesus offers us life in all its fullness but more than that he himself is life. He is the eternal life. As we approach the end of the ‘I am’ sayings, with next week being the final one. What are we reading? What are we hearing?
What are we seeing? Jesus is showing us the way, he is teaching us truth, and he is giving life to every part of who we are. As a man who is approaching the indignity of being hung on a cross he says, ‘I am the way.’ As a man who is about to be condemned on the strength of the lies of men he says, ‘I am the truth. ’As a man who is about to be placed in a tomb for the dead he says, ‘I am the life.’ Jesus simply says to his disciples, ‘believe me, I will do what you ask in my name.’ The power of prayer has no limitations. We should not put limits on what can be achieved when we pray in the name of Jesus. Jesus answers our prayers that God may be given the glory that ought to be our basis for offering these prayers. It is not about self-glory or personal gain. Prayers offered in and through the name of Jesus reflect what lies within our heart and in the bigger picture of our lives. Just as I opened with biographies and autobiographies.
I close with reference to that in our prayer life. There are times when our prayers are biographical specific to a time or situation in life’s journey, revealing things that resonate with us. But our prayers are autobiographies because they are spoken by us about us and they say a great deal about the relationship we have with our God. Who is The way, the truth and the life.