I Want Answers!
Grace Episcopal Church
May 26, 2019
Rev. Jon Greene, Deacon
May change bring hope, may hope bring love, may love bring change.
I want answers.
I absolutely hate it when I call someone that is supposed to provide customer service and they just shrug off my questions.
But sometimes answers aren’t forthcoming.
Last month my daughter Madi was picking up a prescription, I can’t remember what it was for, but it was something she needed to take that day.
She called me and told me that the pharmacy said they couldn’t fill it.
So I called the pharmacy, they said she was ineligible according to the insurance company. “You need to call the insurance company!” they said.
So I called the insurance company, they told me she was ineligible because the Department of Defense didn’t show her as an eligible dependent. “You need to call the DoD!” they said.
I should say that we are very fortunate to have health insurance provided to me and my family through my status as a military retiree.
So I called the DoD office responsible for health care enrollment. They told me she was ineligible because when she had recently been issued a new dependent ID card, they apparently didn’t do it correctly. “You need to call the ID card issuing office in Roanoke!” they said.
I should point out that all of these calls required going through multiple layers of automated answering systems:
“Press one to check on your own eligibility.”
“Press two to check on the eligibility of a dependent.”
“Press three to be repeatedly asked for your password and be told, “I’m sorry, I don’t recognize that username and password, please try again.”
“Press zero to speak to a real live human being.”
“Your wait time is 47 minutes.”
So I called the ID card office. I ended up speaking to a young sailor.
Her job was to make ID cards.
That’s all she did.
That’s all she knew how to do.
She told me, “I really don’t know what to tell you.”
All this is right in the middle of my work day, by the way.
Eventually I got it resolved: six calls and two hours on the phone later.
I want answers. I like to make a phone call and have someone answer my questions.
And, when I have questions of faith, I like to read the Bible and find answers.
But, today’s Gospel reading leaves me with more questions than answers.
We are working our way through the Gospel of John in this Easter season. Today we continue with Jesus’ final discourse to his apostles.
They are still at the table after the Last Supper and Jesus has just spoken the words we heard last week when he pronounced the new commandment, that we love one another.
Today we read a rambling response to a question from Judas (not the traitor).
Judas had just asked a question that, for some reason, is not included in the lectionary, “How is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?”
Now this is a REALLY good question.
In fact it’s one that I still wrestle with.
If Jesus the Christ is the only Way to the Father, then how come he is revealed to you and I,
but not the kid down the street whose parents don’t go to church.
Or the Muslim in Toledo, the Jew in Jerusalem or the Hindu in Mumbai?
So I personally would REALLY like to know how Jesus answers this question.
I want an answer.
But Jesus gives a puzzling multi-part response. He says (to paraphrase):
Those who love me will keep my word.
The Holy Spirit…will teach you everything.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
I am going away.
And then the next phrase (also not in our lectionary) is
I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me;
And then he finishes with
Rise, let us be on our way.
What about telling the rest of the world?
Jesus says a lot of stuff here, but Jesus doesn’t answer the question!
I’m reminded of the “non-answers” that politicians are so good at giving.
Or of the way the bureaucrats treated me with my daughters prescription, “I’m sorry. I can’t help you; you need to contact the Department of Redundancy Department.”
Or of Abbott and Costello’s act, “Who’s on First?” Remember that one,
Lou Costello asks, “Who’s on First?” and Bud Abbott responds, “Yes.”
Now there are a couple of reasons that people don’t answer questions.
It may be like Abbott and Costello where they just aren’t communicating.
It could be like the politician that really doesn’t want to answer the question or the bureaucrat that can’t.
Or it could be that Jesus just ignored the question, because it wasn’t the right question.
Whatever the case, I even find the answer he did give a bit troubling.
Let’s break it down…”The Holy Spirit will teach you everything…”
Ok Lord I’m ready…bring it on!!!
I don’t know about you…I don’t feel like I have been taught everything, in fact I’m pretty sure I know next to nothing.
My peace I give you…now where exactly is this peace? In Yemen? In Syria? In downtown Richmond?
Don’t be troubled and don’t be afraid…
Seriously? We spend most of our time troubled and afraid…What about the opioid epidemic? What about China, Russia, North Korea? What about Iran? What about American democracy devouring itself?
The ruler of this world is coming, but he has no power over me?
Dude, they killed you pretty dead and they can kill us too.
We could spend time parsing his multi-part answer and trying to make sense of it all, and I urge you to do that.
But I want to focus on the beginning and end of his response.
Jesus starts his answer with “Those who love me will keep my word.
Those who love me will live the Way of love that I have taught you.
Then he closes this part of the discourse with the command to “Rise, let us be on our way.”
Let’s get up and walk into this scary, chaotic world and let’s carry the Word of God into it.
Even though the decision to Rise and be on our way, directly led to Jesus’ death.
Even when there is risk to us.
Even when we don’t have the answers.
Jesus didn’t tell the whole world, Rise let us be on our way to share with the rest of the world the story that has changed our lives.
Rise, let us be on our way.
I still want answers.
But the Way of Christ is more about asking questions than getting answers.
The Way of Christ is more about the way that we live our lives than a dogmatic set of beliefs.
The Way of Christ is about searching for (not necessarily finding) truth.
The Way of Christ is about striving to live the life God means for us to live.
The Way of Christ is about seeking to become what we are meant to be.
The Way of Christ is a journey, not a destination.
In a few moments, we will ask our brother Devan to join us in this journey through the sacrament of baptism
Just before the sacrament, we will renew our baptismal covenant.
When we read that covenant, pay attention.
You will find, there is no promise that Jesus is going to give us the answers.
On the contrary, we will promise to continue…to preserve…to proclaim…to seek and to strive.
We promise to work at it.
We promise to walk the Way of Love.
This “being a christian” thing is not about a destination…it is about a journey.
It is not about answers…it is about the search for answers.
If I’m honest with you, with myself, I’ll tell you that I still want answers.
But sometimes answers aren’t forthcoming.
So rise, let’s be on our way.