John 14: 1-7
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know[b] my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
Prayer: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing to you, O God, our creator, sustainer and comforter. In the name of Jesus. Amen
- Go slow the entire time of the message
- This morning we are going to begin a short series on from Here to Eternity. Some of you may remember the famous beach scene in the movie that came out in 1953 staring Bert Lancaster and Deborah Kerr. It won several Academy Awards for the movie. Sorry folks – this is not about the movie — you can re-watch that on Netflix or YouTube.
- No, today and the next several weeks we are going to work with the theme of Heaven. The heaven that we read about in the Bible. The heaven that we speak about and the heaven that comes to mind many times as – “are we going to heaven after we die!”
- Ask the congregation what their thoughts are about heaven. Does it exist? Where is it? What does it look like?
- Play the video — “Outskirts of Heaven” by Craig Campbell — green grass, fish in the river, bright skies!
- We wonder – does Heaven exist?
- A recent book—Proof of Heaven by a highly trained neurosurgeon shared a near death experience that he had.
- Thousands of people have had near-death experiences, but scientists have argued that they are impossible. Dr. Eben Alexander was one of those scientists. A highly trained neurosurgeon, Dr. Alexander knew that NDEs feel real, but are simply fantasies produced by brains under extreme stress.
- Then, Dr. Alexander’s own brain was
attacked by a rare illness. The part of the brain that controls thought and
emotion—which is what makes us human—shut down completely.
- For seven days he lay in a coma.
- Then, as his doctors considered stopping treatment, Alexander’s eyes popped open. He had come back.
- Alexander’s recovery is a medical
miracle. But the real miracle of his story lies elsewhere.
- While his body lay in coma, Alexander journeyed beyond this world and encountered an angelic being who guided him into the deepest realms of super-physical existence.
- There he met, and spoke with, the Divine source of the universe itself.
- Alexander’s story is not a fantasy.
Before he underwent his journey, he could not reconcile his knowledge of
neuroscience with any belief in heaven, God, or the soul.
- Today Alexander is a doctor who believes that true health can be achieved only when we realize that God and the soul are real and that death is not the end of personal existence but only a transition.
- The challenge for us, as Christians,
is that the existence of heaven does not require proof — our faith points to
- Heaven is not an earthly thing that we can see or touch or experience
- Heaven is a godly reality, not by scientific proof, but by faith.
- Heaven is in the power of the words of Jesus as Jesus shows us as a witness of faith.
- So many times, we go to a funeral and
we see the body of a loved one, a friend, or neighbor in the casket – and we
know the person in the casket.
- Yes, the mortician has done an excellent job of making the loved one look as real and life filled as possible – but all of us know that something is missing.
- The liveliness, the humor, the smiles, the loving embrace – it’s gone!
- We wonder — where did the life in the corpse – go? Is there life after death? And, that is a very good question that humanity has asked for eons!
- When we think of heaven, we think of adjectives that describe it — pearly gates! Roads of gold — St. Peter to question us – halos and clouds – my loved ones are there — my family – reassurance and hope filled responses.
- Secular culture and skeptics tell us that – it is the end! We are born we live, and we die! So be it! A life after death is wishful thinking – a hope of weak people. When we die – we die dead and we rot in the grave– and that’s it.
- But we Christians cannot take that as
an answer — we need what the Bible says repeatedly about heaven.
- First – Heaven in the Jewish Testament — the Old Testament – heaven is up in the sky – it’s in the stars and moon and sun – up there — up up and away – the old song goes.
- Second, Heaven is a place where God
resides — with angels and saints
- Jesus says — in the Lord’s Prayer – Our Father who art in Heaven hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
- Heaven is another way of speaking about God — it is our relationship with God. – Remember Dr. Alexander in his book said that he had a conversation with the Divine.
- Jesus speaks in the Gospel of John – that the Father and I are One – it is a relationship.
- Heaven is a godly reality – well beyond our capacity or language and beyond our earthly relationships to understand. Heaven – like God is hard to explain and harder to describe.
- So, where is the hope that we believe in Heaven?
- Jesus answers this in our Scripture today: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”5
- In the Scripture we see and hear a promise by Jesus – the word “promise” is not used — but it is there.
- In my Father’s house are many rooms – KJ – says mansions. —
- The key words are the reassuring words: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. We use these words in every funeral service I have done. They are words of comfort – in difficult and sorrowfully times. Jesus is reassuring us.
- But then we read – where Thomas
questions Jesus: Thomas said to him,
“Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”6 Jesus
answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you
really know me, you will know[b] my Father as well. From now on, you
do know him and have seen him.”
- I prepare a place for you — there are many spaces for you — community – loving
- “I am the way and the truth and the life.
- There is this repeated promise from Jesus that he will not leave us.
- Throughout this Scripture love abounds. Love will not leave us stranded. Death does not squash Love — Each of us are included in that heavenly place.
- Phoebe has always known that her
grandfather loved here deeply and unconditionally. She had grown up with that understanding
and relationship. As Phoebe grew into adulthood — her job caused her to move
away from the hometown where her grandparents lived. As we all know, as time
passed and we all grew older, Phoebe did not see her grandfather as frequently
as before. And then the inevitable phone call came — her grandfather was
nearing the end as was in hospice. On the long ride home all she did was cry
and remember the loving times that she had had with her grandfather. She found her grandfather – pale – thin – not
the vigorous self he had once been – and of course, she began to cry and said
“I am so sad!”
- But her grandfather said — “I am going to see God. I have loved Jesus and it will be okay!
- Phoebe asked – “How do you know it will be okay?”
- Grandfather said – I have leaned on God for all my life. God has helped me through difficult times and celebrated with joyful times. I have learned to trust God with my life. I trust that the love that God has shown me will be there on the other side.
- The key is Trust in God. — that comes from a lifetime of scripture, prayer – hope – dear supporting friends and a deep faith.
- We can start with trusting in God today are maybe we have had been trusting in God all of our lifetime.
- Trust grows as we love and as we realize that we are loved by God.
- Prayer: Holy God – at our baptism, you shared your love for us and we were your beloved person. Help us grow in your love and to realize that your love for us enfolds us completely – even when we are distant from you. We that you for Jesus that has shown us the way to you—and the total love that you have for us. In the name of Jesus – the Christ.