The difficulty with a gospel passage so rich in different themes and meaning is that it is hard to know where to start. It is about growth in faith, mission, worship, and the very nature of God, all encompassed in a beautifully crafted story.
So what I did is read it through slowly, decide which bit hit me the most and pray that what I come up with would resonate with the people here in Evenwood. You can let me know afterwards if any of that worked...but do it gently.
As I wrote in my weekly email, the verse that leaps of the page for me are the words placed into the mouth of Jesus “God is Spirit and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth”.
Jesus worshipped God the Spirit, a Spirit he called “Father” because God the Father is the sourceless source of all things. The Father is the source of all creation which includes you and me. We are a part of the whole. It follows then that we are all related which leads to Christians calling ourselves brothers and sisters.
Jesus, our friend and brother invites us to join with him and pray with him to “Our Father who art in heaven.” So, as Jesus taught, all Christian worship is directed to God the Father. Our Eucharistic prayer is a prayer to the Father, in union with Christ, in the power of the Spirit. All authentic Christian worship is directed towards the Father who is Spirit.
Jesus our friend and brother, as the person in whom all the wisdom of God was pleased to dwell, and in whom the Father chose to work and reveal and reconcile, shows us the way to God the Father.
Jesus shows us the way, in his words, actions and manner of life. The way leads us to God who is Spirit.
Now here is a surprising thing for many Christians. Nowhere in the New Testament does Jesus ask anyone to worship him but In countless examples he asks us to follow him. In following Jesus we arrive at God because God the Father is both our source and our destination. This is why the early church, before the word “Christian” was coined was known simply as the way. It is a way of life, a way of living and behaving and being that leads us into the arms of God the Father. Following Jesus is the truest worship we can offer.
It is much harder to actually live out what he tells us than it is to worship him. But following him on the path is exactly what Jesus wants . I am certain that Jesus would trade all our worship for simply getting up and following in his footsteps.
It is by being led by Jesus we come to God.
What does such a life look like? It is one marked by self-sacrifice and undergirded by love. It is a life marked by quality relationships based on that primary relationship of love between ourselves and God. It is a life where the fruit of the Spirit is actively growing. They are also lives marked by tragedies transformed.
There is not a single person here today who has not suffered, who doesn’t live with a host of regrets and disappointments, large and small. The Christian life is one where those tragedies do not have the final word. The central motif of Jesus’ life, is death and resurrection and it is this central motif that marks out the Christian life in our response to the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”
We believe that dark will never have the last word. That even in the midst of the ultimate tragedy, the murder of an innocent man by being nailed to a cross the seeds of renewal, light and new life were there waiting to be revealed. That is the message of Easter which we are preparing for.
This is the source of Christian hope. Death, suffering and all forms of darkness can never have the final word. We are a people marked by faith hope and love, and as St. Paul famously said, “the greatest of these is love”
In our Sunday worship we are here to be strengthened in order to be the people of God, by worshipping God in Spiirit and truth and learning to walk in the steps of Jesus, by developing our character and nurturing Christian virtues.
We have something valuable to offer a needy people. We have the words of eternal life. We can be confident that what we have is worth having and if it is worth having then it is worth sharing with others in what we say and do.
You the congregation here in Evenwood are the salt and light of God in this place. Worshipping God by following Jesus, the son of God, we become children of God as well.
As Jesus said. I call you servants no longer. I call you my friends if you do what I command you. And he wants us to take up our cross and follow him.
As brothers and sisters and friends of Jesus, we come to worship God in Spirit and truth, in order to be transformed into a people worthy of the name.
Follow Jesus and you are worshipping God in Spirit and truth.