There is an American author by the name of Barbara Smith who once said that “Trust is to human relationships what faith is to gospel living. It is the beginning place, the foundation upon which more can be built. Where trust is, love can flourish.”
It is not easy to trust – to allow ourselves to depend on someone else, especially if we have had experiences where someone has betrayed our trust, or where we have been disappointed. We typically prefer to rely on our own resources and to try and go it alone. Such an approach however, diminishes out life and locks us into a place of fear and robs us of the adventure and possibilities that life has to offer. Lack of trust, somehow diminishes our life.
Trust is such an essential part of our what it is to be human; how we deal with problems; how we cope with grief and pain; how we build and nourish our relationships; how we allow other people to be part of our lives; all of these aspects of our life require trust.
But how do we trust, when trust has been broken; when our dreams end in disappointment; when things fall apart and everything that seemed certain crumbles around us, and we are left feeling lost and alone.
John the evangelist addresses some of these issues when he writes his gospel towards the end of the first century.
The followers of Jesus were struggling to make sense of Jesus’ death and were feeling the pressure of living in a society that ridiculed their belief in the risen Lord.
They were expelled from the synagogue and were treated with contempt. They were frightened and vulnerable and their very survival as a community of faith, as well as their personal safety was under threat.
They had trusted Jesus; his vision for a better world, his teaching about the mercy and compassion of a loving God; his assurance that new beginnings were possible and his belief that all people are equal in the eyes of God; his desire for an inclusive, welcoming community of equals. They had witnessed Jesus embody these values in his own life and watched as he reached out to the untouchables, healed the sick and forgave sinners. Were all those actions in vain, or the impossible dream of a man who was soon to die? Was it possible that life could in fact be different, that there was a better way live?
In order to comfort and give courage to the Christian community, John recalls Jesus’ words from the last supper that we heard in today’s gospel (John 14:1-12). “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God still and trust in Me…” Another translation says “Do not let your hearts be troubles, believe in God and Believe in me.”
John’s central message is that Jesus is the one who offers new life. He is the one who helps us interpret our daily experiences and to see in them the hand of God at work, even when it seems that all is lost.
And just as when Jesus physically lived among the apostles, and did in fact change the lives of those he met, so now, even though life has changed, the work that he began will continue. Jesus will continue to guide us when we find ourselves in new and unfamiliar places; he is the one who will help us to find the light when it seems as if the darkness has won; he is the one who shows us the best way to live.
The life that Jesus offers us is not a ‘stress free,’ easy life, but one that invites us to a place of vulnerability. It means opening our minds, our hearts and our lives to new possibilities – and that’s always a vulnerable place; it’s about opening our lives, our minds and our hearts to new ways of living – that’s what it means to trust, and that is no easy thing to do, because it involves being vulnerable, letting go of what is familiar, what we think we know, in order to take the chance that another way of living can offer a better life. It involves us letting go of old ways and striving to live as Jesus did, with openness to the will of God in our lives.
To be willing to change is a real test of whether our trust and our faith is actually in Jesus or whether it is in ourselves and our own ideas.
History records that most of the apostles, apart from John the Evangelist, died a violent death. These disciples, and many other members of the early church, went to their death declaring that Jesus of Nazareth healed the sick; that he raised people from the dead; that he was crucified and rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven, and that they were witnesses to these things.
How extraordinary is that? So many men and women gave their lives rather than turn their back on Jesus. What a testimony to the truth of Jesus’ life, to their trust in his teaching and to their utter conviction that the life he promised was truly attainable; that even though opening their lives to the will of God made them vulnerable, they were willing to take that risk, because, in Jesus, they had come to know that the path to new life is not without pain, but that beyond the pain, beyond the vulnerability, new life will come.
And so this morning as we gather here, we take a moment to pray for the courage that we may need to open our lives to the prompting of God’s spirit, so that like the early disciples, we might be willing to trust that Jesus is the risen Lord, and that what he offers is new life indeed.
May the Lord continue to bless us in the week ahead and fill us with the graces we need to see his hand at work in our live, so that we might trust and believe