Thursday, May 14, 2020

“A Troubled Heart Emoji” John 14:1-14 May 10, 2020 Rev. Annie Watson ARCWP, St. Stanislaus


On Friday, May 1, Facebook rolled out a new emoji reaction for use during the pandemic. The new “care” emoji is a smiley face hugging a heart. This adds to the six other emoji options we already have for reacting to a Facebook post.

We can hit thumbs up, which means we “like” the post.” We can hit a heart emoji, which means we love the post. We can hit a laughing emoji, a “wow” emoji, a sad emoji, or an angry emoji.

Today, in response to the Gospel reading, I would like to create another emoji, which I call a “troubled heart” emoji. There is much to be troubled about these days, so we need to hear Jesus say to us, as he said to his disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

When I read scripture, I tend to read it within the context in which we live. So, when I picked up the gospel lesson for today and heard Jesus say, “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” I immediately imagined that he was speaking directly to you and me.

Have you ever noticed that whenever there is a crisis of any sort, the first casualty is faith or trust in God? Jesus knew this would be a problem for people going through a troubling experience. When things are going well, everyone’s faith is strong!

But when things are not going well, we begin to question God’s care and concern, God’s power, and ability. We focus on questions like, “If God is all-loving, all-powerful, and all-knowing, why is there evil and suffering in the world?” And when we focus on questions like that, our faith becomes the first casualty.

Sensing that this is happening to his followers, Jesus says, “You have faith in God; have faith also in me.” He wants us to trust him, which is what “faith” means in this context.

There was a good reason Jesus needed to tell his followers to not let their hearts be troubled and to have faith in him. These words were uttered during the “the Last Supper.”

Chapters 13-17 in John’s gospel contain Jesus’ final words to his disciples. We call this the “Farewell Discourse” because at the beginning of chapter 13, Jesus tells them that his time has come to leave this world. This is troubling news. 

No one wants to hear news like that. We received an email from a friend the other day telling us that he was dropped from a clinical trial program because his cancer is now too advanced. I can only imagine how he must be reading Jesus’ words this weekend, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.”

The next words Jesus utters to his disciples were meant to un-trouble their hearts and affirm their trust in God and in him. Jesus says, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.”

In other words, yes, I (Jesus) have given you the very troubling news of my departure, but my death will not be the last word.

Notice that Jesus does not mention the Resurrection, because the Resurrection would be interpreted as only about him. Instead, he imagines a “bigger picture,” one where they will participate in some mysterious and wonderful future where Jesus refers to elsewhere as “the kingdom of God.” On this occasion, he calls it “my Father’s house.”

This means the same thing. When the Bible refers to David’s kingdom, for example, it often uses the phrase, “the House of David.” So, the “Father’s house” here means the same thing as the “kingdom” or “realm” of God.

And this “house” is large, all-encompassing, all-inclusive, catholic, universal, and expansive. Your hearts may be troubled, Jesus seems to be saying, but the plan is for all of us to dwell in the same house. What a nice way to “shelter in place,” right?

Will this be enough for you and me to hear in this, our troubled world? Does it help to hear this on Mother’s Day? Many moms, including myself, will not be able to celebrate this special day with their children or families. Many children will have troubled hearts because they will not be able to be physically present with their moms.

And this is just the first of many special days in our near future, which might include graduations, birthdays, anniversaries, other holidays, family reunions, weddings, and even funerals.

The longer this pandemic plays out, the more troubled our hearts will be, and the more we will need to hang on to Jesus’ words, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.”

Also, if this continues, we might need a new emoji. Amen.

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