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We have all heard the sayings, "Put your money where your mouth is" and "Talk the talk, walk the walk". They both (and other sayings like it) boil down to one thing: live your life with integrity. Say what you mean, do what you say.
Is that what we are doing?
My sermon for today was based on John 14: 1-14. This narrative forms part of Jesus' discourse following the Last Supper. In this passage, he informs for disciples that he will soon be parted from them.
Typical Jesus, he states prosaically that he will be going away somewhere and the disciples are to follow him.
Typical disciples, they don't get it.
They can hardly be to blame, most of us still don't get it to this day, as evinced by this reading being a popular choice for a funeral reading. Jesus says "In my father's house there are many dwelling places...I go to prepare a place for you", which most of us (erroneously, I think) assume to mean "There is lots of room in heaven, I am going ahead to get your room ready".
Sounds like a lovely idea, but I maintain that Jesus really had little concern for the afterlife, and was far more concerned with how we live this life than anything else.
Put the "Father's house" statement in context: the rest of the passage has nothing to do with Heaven, which we as humans bound by our 5 sense always need to conceive of as a "place".
When Jesus says that he is going to a "place" and the disciples are to follow him, I don't think he is actually talking about an actual location in time and space. Rather, he is talking about a way of being, admonishing the disciples to follow his example.
I think this is made clear when Thomas says, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" to which Jesus responds "I am the way, the truth and the life".
It goes without saying that many Christians have cherry-picked this little nugget of scripture to justify all sorts of religious elitism and bigotry. They interpret this as Jesus saying "I am the only way, the only truth and the only life".
Look, I don't want to debate the issues around coexistence and religious pluralism. I for one think that there is great wisdom to be found in other faiths and cultures, but I really don't think Jesus is making any claim to a spiritual or religious monopoly based on his person.
But in life, Jesus was a paragon of love, mercy, compassion, justice, forgiveness, patience and understanding. He is saying is that the way he lives is the way we should live, showing forth all of those virtues in our own lives.
This is all summed up in one sentence: "Very truly, I tell you, one who believes in me will also do the works that I do".
Claiming to be a Christian means you have a responsibility to live like Christ did, demonstrating the values and the morality that he stood for in life. It means caring for other and for all creation.
Don't get me wrong, being moral and value-centered is not exclusively Christian. Every religion I can think of espouses values and morality, at least on paper. But to claim that one is Christian means that we have a real-world example of someone we can aspire to, an example that we follow.
Now go do that!