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You Have To Go Through It

John 14:1-14

The Rev. Jon Roberts

18 May

2014

Calvary Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, FL

“Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him.” 8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me; or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves. 12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; 14 if you ask anything in my name, I will do it.

Heaven is for real by Todd Burpo, 2003

You can’t go over it;
You can’t go under it;
You can’t go around it;
You have to go through it.
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”[1]

Isn’t true that we are presented with many challenges in life? So often we want to go over, under or around them, but the hardest thing is to go through them.

There is a true story of a family that had such a challenge.[2] In the year 2003 a three-year old boy, living in Imperial, Nebraska suffered from a ruptured appendix and had to be rushed to the emergency room. His fever had increased significantly. He was growing more and more faint each hour. His parents, Todd and Sonja had no choice but to take him. At the hospital, their son, Colton, had a near death experience. Fortunately, he survived and everyone’s prayers were answered. The father, Todd, was a pastor at the Wesleyan church in town. He and his wife had experienced several setbacks in life. This was no different. They struggled financially. He took on two other jobs. They struggled with a previous miscarriage. Sonja persevered and delivered Colton and his older sister. They always seemed to have the attitude that,…

You can’t go over it;
You can’t go under it;
You can’t go around it;
You have to go through it.

The story becomes more interesting for them however when Colton begins to tell them he visited heaven; Heaven was for real and he met people to prove it. His mother asked him, “Colton do you remember the hospital?” “Yes mommy, that’s where the angels sang to me.” Later he shares with her that he met his unborn sister, the one who miscarried and that she had hair like hers. He met his father’s grandfather, the one who raised him when his own father abandoned him. He recognized him not as an old man but rather as a youth. “Nobody’s old in heaven. Everybody’s young,” he tells his father. And yes, he met Jesus. Jesus didn’t look like all the pictures we see of him today. This one had blueish, green eyes, the mixture of his parents. Could it be that a child, while lying on the operating table, went to heaven and met all these people?; that he went to heaven and met Jesus himself?

Is heaven for real? The father, a pastor, was challenged with his own doubt. Did he believe what he preached? He shared with his congregation a glaring reality. He said that most people are either afraid there is a heaven or they’re afraid because there isn’t one. At what point do we allow ourselves to shift from reason to faith? A spirited atheist for the Washington Post was highly critical of the success of this story that later became a movie. She said, “[this goes to show that] vast numbers of Americans lack the reasoning ability of adults.”[3]

What about Stephen? The first Deacon of the Church was thrown into a major challenge. He had to make up his mind if he was going to go through it. All he had to do was be silent and renounce Jesus was God. He couldn’t do it. Stephen, the first martyr of the Church, right before he died,… he saw heaven. Heaven was for real. It says in scripture that he looked up into the sky and said, "Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!" But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.[4]

Are we so scared there is a heaven and worried about who might or might not be there? Maybe we’re scared it won’t be us, or are we scared there isn’t a heaven and all this that we’re doing in Church is just something to give us hope and a waste of time? Little Colton knew. Stephen knew. All of the signs point us to the reality that heaven is for real. That’s the first thing, the first real challenge we need to get through. Grammatically speaking, this is the object of today’s lesson. But the greatest challenge may not be the object.

Let’s go back, through the words of Jesus who said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” There is a great deal of debate these days on whether or not Christians, Jews and Muslims believe in the same God. There is a growing argument that say we are. We simply worship God in different ways. This is really not a new revelation. Living in a pluralistic culture this is a recurring conversation. Christians, through the centuries have held to the creed, developed in the midst of several heresies (wrong teachings) and this is one of them. The problem is that Jesus uses the definite article. He doesn’t say, “I’m a way to God and later there will be other prophets and teachers, saying the same.” No, he says he is “The” way. The first three centuries, Christians were heavily persecuted for not recanting their belief that Jesus was Messiah. Their fellow Jews and several in whom they did business from other middle eastern civilizations put extreme pressure on them. Out of this time they referred to themselves as “The Way.” Could it be that God really sent His own self, His Son, not above the world, nor under, nor around, but through it, so that we could experience heaven?

What lies behind the door, heaven, is the place of discovery. To go through it, we cannot avoid the Cross we have to go through the intersection and that is where we find Jesus. That is where we find God. Not one to be feared, but rather one to be adored; adored for the love He showed us. Let us lift up our eyes and see Him this morning. If you are presented with challenges, obstacles that hinder your well-being, know this… God loves you and will walk along side of you.

Don’t try to go above Him.
Don’t try and go under Him.
Certainly don’t try to go around Him.
To understand Heaven;
To understand God;
You have to go through Jesus.
He is the way, the truth and the life!

​[1] John 14:6
[2] Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent, Heaven is for Real, Thomas Nelson:2010.
[3] Susan Jacoby, “Heaven is for real and the Immature American Mind,” Washington Post, March 30, 2014.
[4] Acts 7:55-60

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