Sermon – 24 April 2005

Jesus says, ?I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no-one comes to the Father except through me?.

Very directly then, I want to address the question of what this verse might mean. There are after all, a number of very ugly interpretations of this verse.

You do not need to go very far before you encounter people who will twist these words into an assumption that people are only going to get into heaven if they say yes to the right kind of Jesus.

Of course, as I read the Bible, I find more, much more importance being laid on God?s need to say ?yes? to us than on any need for us to say anything particular to God.

You see, God loves us. He cannot help himself.

I believe with all my heart that God says ?come to me? and turns no-one away at all. It would be only fair to say that at the moment not everyone in every faith agrees with that. But we all have choices to make. And I choose to believe in an utterly loving God. A fickle God whose welcome depends on my passing an examination in doctrine is no use to me anyway. There is no examination you can take or pass for getting into God?s love.

So, what can I believe that this means then?

?No one comes to the Father except by me??

Well, there are a number of possibilities, as there usually is with a difficult passage.

The first possibility is that Jesus was being exclusive and did indeed believe that no-one would get to God without dealing with him directly. Thus, anyone with my views about God?s love must believe Jesus to be just plain wrong.

Well, I do think that some things in the Bible are just plain wrong (like its advocacy of slavery), but this one is, I think, more subtle.

The second possibility is that Jesus is the only way to God, it is just that Jesus never turns anyone away. This is more attractive ? the idea is that a good Buddhist or Muslim would meet Christ in the afterlife and be welcomed by Jesus as one of God?s own. This has some attractions as an idea. It raises all kinds of interesting questions about whether the religions on earth are all equal ways to God. My own view, for what it is worth is that they are not. I think that there is bad religion and good religion found in many faiths including our own.

A third possibility, and one which interests me a great deal is the idea of what some people are calling the Cosmic Christ. This is the idea that Christ appears in many cultures and situations and welcomes people into God?s love wherever they are and wherever they are coming from. The reality of Christ which calls us into God?s love is the reality which came and was incarnate on the earth and drew us in by identifying with our pains and sorrows on the cross. He identified with us so that we are raised with him. This is what we celebrate at Easter ? he is the first fruits of God?s resurrection.

Now, that is clearly a cosmic idea ? good for everyone in every time and place. But is the coming of Christ not cosmic too? Was God?s love in Christ limited by time and space or does Christ come in other ways and in other times.

Before jumping to quick conclusions, let me ask you ? do you believe that Christ is present with us now? For I know I do. Do you believe that Christ is present in those whom you love. For I know I do. Do you believe that Christ is present in those who need your love too. I know I believe that as well.

So this idea of the Cosmic Christ ? a Christ who is in every place and at all times with us may not be so strange.

Jesus said that he had many rooms to prepare in his father?s mansions. And so many have found comfort in that statement.

It is read at funerals quite often ? it particularly seems to be important where someone?s own faith has not been explicitly expressed. I am never so sure of God?s committed love to us than when I stand at a graveside.

I know that God loves us and receives us all in love equally. (And I could not preside with compassion at funerals unless I did).

Jesus is telling us in this gospel reading something important. He is telling us about the Father who has sent him and telling us to see God?s love as present in his own particular personality and presence. It is a personality and presence which the Early Church proclaimed afresh after that first Easter.

It was their claim that Jesus ? the personality and the presence of the one who had walked amongst them, was with them still.

Yes, they recognised him in the breaking of bread. They recognised him when they prayed together. They recognised him when they journeyed together on the road to Emmaus. They recognised him when they studied the scriptures together. Their perception was that Christ was with them in every place that they went and in every circumstance that they encountered.

It is my claim that he is with us still.

For if Christ were not risen, we would not be gathered here. Alleluia!

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