April 20, 2008

"Where Does That Trouble Come From?"
Scripture: John 14:1-14
Sermon by Rev. Kathleen Groff
Dundee United Methodist Church

  Yesterday had to have been one of the most troubling days I’ve had in a long time. It started with a trip to Meijers for some painting supplies. Now you have to know that I am the world’s worst painter. I cannot for the life of me get lines straight and usually end up with more paint on me than on the walls. But, I had promised my daughter I would help her paint the kitchen and living room in her new house in Lansing. So, early in the morning I found myself in Meijers, staring at the long row of painting supplies, wondering what to get. I bought some things I thought would help and with dread started for Lansing. I arrived, but once we had the house open, didn’t have a clue how to get started. But Penny launched right in and the mess began. It wasn’t much later that I got a call about Hank Curley’s death. After talking with Betty for a few minutes, I accidently backed into the ladder with a paint tray on it. The paint tray came crashing down on my head, adding to the growing collection of paint on my shirt and jeans. As if that wasn’t enough, Joe called from New Mexico where he is visiting his mother and told me that he had just seen the most horrifying and disgusting thing he had ever seen. Fearing that he had been in an accident in the mountains, I listened as he described what stretched for acres in front of his eyes, a field of onions. Anyone who had eaten with Joe knows his dislike of onions. Well, the day wore on, and as more little disasters took place, my attitude began to sour and I finally decided to go back to Dundee, much too tired to drive. But I arrived safely and settle in for the night. When all was said and done, it was a troubling day.  

  The disciples were having a troubling day. They were celebrating the Passover meal with Jesus. Jesus had been speaking about his coming death. He washed his disciples feet, something they really didn’t feel he should do. Jesus had also spoken about a betrayer and Peter was told he would end up denying Jesus. All these were very troubling things. And Jesus knows how troubled they would become. They were facing the unknown. 

  We are very clever about inventing all sorts of imagined threats and bad outcomes when we are faced with the unknown. We call that “worry”. 90% of what we worry about never happens. Worry does not help us. But we worry forward anyway, expecting the worse. I have to admit that when things started to go wrong yesterday, I couldn’t help but project worry into the rest of the day, wondering what would happen next. Those disciples may have been caught in the same mode of thinking and anticipating more bad news or events. But they were not disappointed. The next chain of events, Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion brought a new series of things to worry about, an uncertain future with hopes dashed. 

  That is why Jesus tells them to not let their hearts be troubled. Jesus gives them an antidote for their troubled hearts. Stop worrying about the future Jesus implies. I have been with you all this time and will continue to be with you. So believe in God and believe in me because God and I are in each other. Well, what comfort does that bring in a time of trouble? I think that Jesus’ calm presence and voice would have brought some encouragement for the dark times ahead, but, more than that, the reassurance that God would be with them through the worst of times would bring hope and comfort. These words of Jesus show his compassion toward his closest friends. He knows that they will come out of darkness into new light as they experience the resurrection of Jesus, but they have to go through the darkness first. He knows they will eventually understand. 

  We all experience troubles in our lives and our thinking is so often clouded by the darkness those troubles seem to create. Like the disciples we need to have hope spoken in the midst of despair. What Jesus brings to us in those words he spoke is a greater awareness of God as loving Father in Christ who can comfort yearning hearts with his self-sacrificial love. When all is said and done, what we long for the most, even in the midst of our deepest troubles is God. The trouble and distress of this world gives way to eternal life and a place for us in God’s house, in a relationship with God similar to the relationship Jesus with God the Father. Though the disciples were about to experience a wrenching loss, Jesus told them not to be dismayed, but to believe both in God and in him—to believe that all would be well in time. 

  We live in troubled times, both personal and universal. And we can live with a generalized anxiety that inhibits our ability to live life fully. But through it all we have the promise that God will be with us through all things, and we have the promise that we will be a part of the greatest hope we can possibly obtain, life with God when all is said and done. We can continue to dwell in our worries and anxieties or we can grasp the promise of God’s presence and hope for the future that comes with knowing God through Jesus. When we think of what is really important we must dwell on those things that are eternal, on the promise of God’s future and believe in God enough to let our troubles go into His hands. There is a greater purpose in life beyond our pain and troubles. 

  When I got home and settle in, my prayers began to rise and the troubles of the day scattered as I remembered that God was still with me at the end of the day. This morning I woke to the first sound of the singing birds and as I walked over to the church at 5:30 their chorus cheered me on and sang of the promise of God’s presence both now and in the life to come. I had stopped imagining what trouble could lie ahead, given up the fear and doubt and simply enjoyed taking in the beautiful world around me.