Easter 5, Year C-2022 Fifth Sunday of Easter May 15, 2022
The Reverend Martin Yabroff
Our opening prayer or Collect today refers to Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Some will remember in John 14 where the text continues: “No one comes to the Father except through me.” Now to say in this community and for many of us in our families and relationships, that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life is to espouse a minority view. It may be offensive to some. At the very least, it is to take a perspective among lots of different perspectives, religious positions, spiritual paths.
Today, church attendance all over the country is going down (not just at Holy Spirit). So many people reject the Church as judgmental, arrogant, close-minded, and even abusive. Their attitude towards Jesus is similar, given what they have seen and heard in too many churches in the media today. Now our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, has been wonderful in articulating an alternate view, that the way of Jesus is loving, liberating and life-giving.
That is what we are about – what Holy Spirit, Vashon is about! But how shall we share this good news with others? How might we witness to God’s love in our lives and midst without being judgmental or close-minded, and yet be true to the Gospel.
Today we hear about Peter’s vision of the “heavenly zoo” and God’s command that what God has made clean, we must not call unclean. This vision and command came at a time when the Church was wrestling with mission expanding among the Gentiles. As part of that expanding mission, Paul would later go to Athens, acknowledge how religious the people of Athens were, and tell them – humbly share his own witness – about Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life.
And today we also hear Jesus telling us to love one another, that all may know Jesus’ way and truth by the witness of our love.
Many years ago, some of you may remember, the Dalai Lama came to Seattle, along with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, to lead a panel discussion on compassion. It was an interfaith panel – a Rabbi, a Hindu, two Buddhists, a Sikh, some Christians.
I want to share some themes from that conversation and others like it that seem to fit with these lessons and Collect. They may help us consider how we might share our faith – who Jesus is for us – as a Christian congregation seeking share the loving, liberating and life-giving way of Jesus with those around us, most of whom do not share this faith. How might we share our faith in such a way that others may be drawn to worship and serve with us as Holy Spirit Episcopal Church?
For me, Jesus is my Lord and Savior – his way is the most meaningful way to live, and I am seeking to live it as best I can. You may have a different perspective, even as a member of this congregation. That is OK. Here are five simple themes for our conversations together as we all seek to know God whose truth none of us on this earth can claim to fully comprehend.
1) Our witness and dialogue must first of all be sincere, eager and humble. Share what you believe, who God is and who Jesus is for you, and respect the views and experience of others. I love the definition of evangelism offered by the Indian missionary D.T. Niles: ‘one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread’.
2) Evangelism and interfaith dialogue must never be arrogant or judgmental. God’s truth is greater than my own understanding. So let us listen in conversation for common themes and learn from them. Here is a story about the German Catholic writer Klaus Klostermaier, who spent two years in India. He wrote: “I wanted to see a famous man in Benares, a renowned philosopher, feared by many as a merciless critic of Christian theology. I had my own reasons for paying him a visit. He was polite, invited me for tea and then mounted the attack. I let him talk his fill, without saying a word myself. Then I began to talk about the things I had begun to understand within the dialogue – quite positively Christian. We got into a sincere, good, deep discussion. He had intended to send me away after ten minutes. When I left after two hours, he had tears in his eyes: ‘if we insisted on our theologies – you as a Christian, I as a Hindu – we would be fighting each other. We have found one another because we probed more deeply, towards spirituality.’”
3) I am not commending relativism. I will not say that all paths are the same, but rather let us speak clearly, each from our own perspectives. We will disagree – that is OK. As a Christian, I may say that Jesus is the truest and fullest expression of God and of humanity. Another may say something very different and very true for them. Not all paths are the same – the Dalai Lama himself cautions against equating religious terms – the Buddhist notion of this is the same as the Christian view of that – it would be like trying to put a yak’s head on a sheep’s body.
4) We don’t need to defend God or justify Jesus against those who disagree. Let us be like the birds of the air or the flowers of the field – they don’t defend their flight or their beauty. All truth is God’s truth, so appreciate and learn truth whenever and wherever you find it. Listen to one another, listen to God, seek Jesus Christ, and to know Christ better through dialogue and discussion. Let your own mind be clearer through discussion.
5) Our goal through discussion and dialogue can be to deepen friendship, understanding and learning. Jesus tells us to love one another – can we let Christ’s love shine through us, that others might see it? As the Dalai Lama says, ‘Differences need not be divisions.’
Let us be eager to share Good News. Share it like sowing seeds, like letting God’s light shine, like telling our stories and listening for God in the stories of others. Let our listening and our friendships be full of laughter when appropriate, tears when they arise, and gentleness. Wasn’t that the way Jesus was with people he met. Look for opportunities for God to speak through you – be bold at times. Christian faith is important – there are so many around us who want a living and healthy spiritual life, and to know a loving and forgiving Savior like Jesus.
I will say this again – there are many who would like to know the loving, liberating and life-giving way of Jesus, and who would like to find a church like Holy Spirit. But how shall they find it unless we drop some hints, share our own excitement, and encourage them to see for themselves.
Remember what Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount: :Let your light so shine before others that they may see the good works that God is doing through you (it is not about us but God working and loving through us) and glorify – rejoice, find bread for themselves and their households, recognize help and peace – through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.