You have to go through it


The Word that means the world to me


John 14:1-14

“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.




Sermon given on 10 May 2020 by The Rev. Jon Roberts

Calvary Episcopal Church, Indian Rocks Beach, Florida

The New Jerusalem by Alexander Sorsher, 1950-Present

The way, the truth and the life.

No one gets delivered without the love of God.[1]

In a mother’s womb were two babies.  The first baby asked the other:  “Do you believe in life after delivery?”

The second baby replied, “Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery.  Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.” “Nonsense,” said the first. “There is no life after delivery.  What would that life be?”

“I don’t know, but there will be more light than here.  Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths.” The doubting baby laughed. “This is absurd!  Walking is impossible.  And eat with our mouths?  Ridiculous.  The umbilical cord supplies nutrition.  Life after delivery is to be excluded.  The umbilical cord is too short.”The second baby held his ground. “I think there is something and maybe it’s different than it is here.” The first baby replied, “No one has ever come back from there.  Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery it is nothing but darkness and anxiety and it takes us nowhere.” “Well, I don’t know,” said the twin, “but certainly we will see mother and she will take care of us.” “Mother?” The first baby guffawed. “You believe in mother?  Where is she now?” The second baby calmly and patiently tried to explain. “She is all around us.  It is in her that we live. Without her there would not be this world.” “Ha. I don’t see her, so it’s only logical that she doesn’t exist.” To which the other replied, “Sometimes when you’re in silence you can hear her, you can perceive her.  I believe there is a reality after delivery and we are here to prepare ourselves for that reality when it comes….”[2]

Every so often, Mother’s Day falls on the lectionary scriptural selection that is apparently more fitting for Father’s Day, John 14. “In my father’s house there are many mansions/dwelling places”; “No one comes to the Father except through me,” and as the disciples asked, “Show us the Father.”[3] This would be a perfect time for Mary, the Mother of Jesus to enter and say something. Then we would see the Father and Mother; heaven and earth come together as one. The parable of the two babies, talking in the mother’s womb, by Henri Nouwen, personifies how children are always wondering about things they cannot see. The Father or the Mother will be able to reveal the mystery. Like two babies in the womb, you can tell that Thomas and Philip, in this scene are wrestling with what happens after delivery. What will happen when we die. John 14 is the most widely used text of scripture for funerals. A time of death, but also a time for new birth. Heaven is for real, but how do we know? This is where the mother is especially important.

The mother repeats the language of love so that we can make a safe passage of delivery into this world. It comes from her singing. Lullabies, such as “Twinkle, twinkle little star,” “Hush little baby,” and “Rock a-bye baby,” according to a study by the Cognitive Neuroscience Society, comfort both mama and baby. They benefit the infant’s development and enhance positive emotion. Laura Cirelli, from the University of Toronto says, “Music is a tool that we can use to bring people together, and this starts at infancy.”[4] But Laura, it is far more than a tool. It is a message. When Jesus tells his disciples they can be with the Father if they simply spend the present time with him, they will hear this eternal message. It is a simple message of another lullaby that goes, “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong, they are weak but he is strong.” Mothers give life, or should I say, they give physical life, transferred from the spiritual life that is conceived in heaven.

Furthermore, from God, the Son we have the Way. From God, the Father we have the Truth and from God, the Holy Spirit, we have the Life. When we say the Lord’s Prayer, perhaps chant a familiar psalm, or a hymn we love dearly, it reminds us of that time in the womb. A place where we lie in wait, wondering what the next place will be like. Some people doubt there is anything next. It’s sad to witness the still-born, as one who forgets to listen or believe in the lullaby of God’s unfailing love. Is that what it is like for us today? Are we in some type of earthly womb, wondering what appendages of the soul, perhaps the mind and body, will be used in heaven?

Maybe this is all part of God’s design, that we are given this message at the very moment of our delivery into the womb, and later, our delivery into the New Jerusalem, that place we call heaven. Mothers are the chosen vessels to give life and to nurture life so that there will be an abundance of life. Jesus said, where I am there will be the Father. Perhaps both Father and Mother are held together, where heaven and earth are united for the Gospel message to resound and nurture all creation. It is the ancient lullaby that continues to be delivered to us by those who care. We cannot be born into heaven without this understanding of the source of life. May we all know the way, the truth and the life so that we live in the One, who looks forward to seeing us before and after our delivery.


[1] Revision on John 14:1-14 by The Rev. Jon Roberts

[2] Henri Nouwen, Our Greatest Gift, A meditation on dying and caring, Harper One, 2009, pp. 18-19.

[3] John 14:1-14



You have to go through it

Sermon given on 18 May 2014 by The Rev. Jon Roberts

Calvary Episcopal Church, Indian Rocks Beach, Florida

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


The Word that means the world to me

Sermon given on 10 May 2009 by The Rev. Jon Roberts

Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, Venice, Florida

“M” is for the million things she gave me;

“O” means only she is growing old;

“T” is for the tears she shed to save me;

“H” is for her heart as pure as gold;

“E” is for her eyes, with love-light shining;

“R” means right, and right she’ll always be;

Put them all together they spell, “MOTHER”;

A word that means the world to me.[1]


Giving, growing, shedding, holding, loving, correcting;

These are words of action that describe just a few of the attributes of a person who has given their life so that another may live. It just so happens that they are also, often, synonymous with the word “Mother.” This is a day that we celebrate Mothers; giving God our thanks for the habitat of the home for which He has helped them to construct. This is where mothers mean the world to us. As the saying goes, “The home is where the heart is.”[2] It is a place where we are to experience what it means to give and to grow; to shed tears and to hold; to love, and yes, to be corrected. Such comfort and such counsel go hand in hand; but it must be frustrating for the mother, when a child becomes distant and there is a feeling of being powerless. Unable to give comfort or counsel makes a mother grow weary. When a child goes beyond their reach, what then, can the mother do?


There is a true story about a young boy, who did indeed go beyond his mother’s reach. His name was Marvin Goldstein        and he lived with his mother, Blanche, on the fifth story of a New York apartment building in the year 1945.

Living five stories up, he recounts what it must have been like for his mother, during an incident when he was a toddler. He was playing in the sanctuary of their home. His mother was doing something in the next room, when all of a sudden she heard her son scream. She ran into the room right away, looking at the most dreadful sight. Her little boy was holding on to the window sill from the outside. This was in the days when they didn’t have window guards. She ran as fast as she could to save him, but she was too late. She watched him helplessly slip free, and heard his cry sounding more distant with the fall. She said the quickest prayer ever, out loud, “God save him.” And God did just that.


He did it through a man named Sal Mauriello. Sal was a barber and had left early to go home that day. He was directly under the toddler who fell out the window. He watched when the boy let go,

and falling down, directly towards him. Some say it was the perfect catch. He had the good presence of mind to take the coat

that was tossed over his shoulder, and made it into something like a safety net. When he caught Marvin, the miracle was that the boy only fractured his nose. Rushing down as fast as she could, Blanche took hold of her son,      inspecting him from head to toe. Then she wrapped her arms around Sal and kissed him.[3] From that point on, Marvin was known as, “Blanche’s son who fell out the window.” But together, both Blanche and Marvin would refer to the word, “Sal”, as the word that meant the world to them.


So what is it? What word is it that truly means the world to us as Christians? That gives us comfort and counsel? That reminds us of our true home where the heart is. Could it be the name of the one who told us He is, “the way, the truth, and the life?”


“C” is for that He caught me;

“H” means only, He wants to hold;

“R” is for His rising up to save me;

“I” is for His infinite love as pure as gold;

“S” is for His saving grace, with love-light shining;

“T” means truth, and true He’ll always be;

Put them all together they spell, “Christ”;

A word that means the world to us.[4]

The hardest thing for a mother, must be letting go. But what comfort and counsel she has to offer,           when she prays to God

on behalf of her child, knowing full well, Jesus is there to catch them when they fall. On this day, for those of us who have slipped out the window, and Mother’s alike who had to watch, Christ means the world to us, because He told us, He is the way, the truth and the life, and he is there to catch the world;[5]  The world that means everything to Him.


[1] Howard Johnson, 1887-1941, song lyricist.

[2] Pliny the Elder, 24-79AD.

[3] NPR, “A Toddler, an Open Window, and an Amazing Catch,” April 24, 2009.

[4] The Rev. Jon Roberts, 2009.

[5] John 14:1-14

© 2012. Black & White Chi Rho Ministries 

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