I Am and I Will
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard, May 18, 2014
Who we are is always an important question and most of us have asked ourselves this question, at least once. Who is Jesus, is also a question we ask ourselves. Who is God? How do we get to heaven? How do we make sense of this world we live in? What does God want of us and how are we going to find our way through the obstacles of life?
We need a map or a guide to help us answer these many questions. When Lois and I moved to New York, from the Delray Beach area, we had the maps and guidebooks that we needed.
We knew exactly how many miles we had to travel and we knew where to stop for food and gas; and where we could locate a nights lodging. Moving back to Florida was slightly easier but not all that much. We still needed a map or a guide to answer all of our new questions as we came back to a different section of Florida. Isn’t that what we all want, a set of instructions to help us find our way?
They worked out a plan for taking care of my family and me while we were there in Middletown, New York. We had a place to live and all the things we needed. The journey from our previous home had been well planned out. We knew who we were. Our todays were secure. Some of the questions had been answered. Yet, as soon as they were answered they reappeared, over and over again!
No one, not even your pastor or his wife, knows who he or she is to be tomorrow. We spend a lot of time asking the same questions all of you ask. We want to know the future. We want to know who God really is and what God expects of us. We want to know what it is that God requires of us, especially here in this church. We want to know how to get to heaven. Every one of us, seek for clarity and a deeper understanding of God’s will; neither my wife nor myself are particularly unique in this area.
As we explore this thought process further, let me tell you about some folks I know that went on a on a tour this winter. They went to Israel. They visited the holy city of Jerusalem and saw many of the sights where we believe Jesus visited when he walked this earth as a man. I suspect that if we asked them they would be thrilled to tell us all about that very special trip. Perhaps we can even get them to help us organize a trip there in the future; at the very least they could help us get the process started if we asked them for some guidance.
I believe, however, that even they would tell us that not everything was as they had envisioned it. There were many surprises, disappointments, and never enough time to do and see everything they wanted to see. Their guided tour was much like life. It is not always everything you expect and sometimes it is even a bit confusing, perhaps even a bit disappointing. But, just like a trip to the Holy Land, it is well worth going; it is well worth taking the tour.
Life is the journey we are on and we might as well learn how to make the most of it.
Before we can begin on a trip or a journey we need to decide who is going to go. I don’t know about you, but I have no desire to go anywhere unless I know who is going with me. It may seem silly to some, yet in order to do this we need to know who we are. I need to be sure I know who Tim is before I can go anywhere. Does this sound strange to you? If it does then I’m glad I brought it up. You see if you don’t know yourself, how can you know anyone else?
Look to the story of Moses in the book of Exodus. He was chatting with God, who, if you have forgotten the story was speaking to Moses from a burning bush. Well what did you expect? There was no Internet back then. A chat line to God had to be handled differently. A burning bush was the best way for God to get Moses’ attention. And when Moses asked what God’s name was he got a very solid answer. “I Am who I AM!” “Tell the people that I AM sent you!
In that simple, yet very powerful introduction God has made it clear that our God is very clear about who God truly is. The name that God gave to Moses is: I AM, since anything more specific, would be too limiting. God is infinite, personal, all-powerful, and all-knowing. This mighty God, who is beyond description, is who we are connected with through our Christian faith. Our God knows who he is. It is with this clarity that we must come to know ourselves.
Now I am not going to give you a free counseling session on how to get to know yourself. There are unlimited resources on the subject in our society. I am going to suggest that you start by clarifying your relationship with & to God. To know God is the first step towards knowing oneself. I have never met anyone who has completed the task of knowing themselves without coming to know God. I simple don’t believe it can be done. Without God there is no way anyone can come to know his or her true self.
In such an uncertain world, what better than to have a travel agent that is truly confident about themselves and where they are going and how they are to get there? God is our travel agent. The God that told Moses, without hesitation: “I Am who I AM!”
As Christians we know that God, the Father, has sent his Son, Jesus, to be our guide. Through his earthly ministry, Jesus left many markers along the trail for us to follow. In our gospel lesson this morning Jesus offers comfort. He was comforting his disciples and his words are here for our comfort also. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God.” Any travel agency would tell you, don’t worry about the details just put your trust in our well-equipped guide. That is exactly what Jesus is saying to us. We are told by the Son of God to put our faith in his Father in heaven and put your trust in Jesus, the tour guide.
Jesus goes on to tell us that in his Father’s house there are many rooms. Jesus tells us that he will personally prepare one of those rooms for us. Jesus is the guide that will handle the details personally! We must put our belief in Jesus, the Son of God. Jesus has gone ahead to prepare a place for us and we need to keep our faith along the way. Jesus says: “I Will come for you.”
Helen Hayes, the actress, tells the following story in her autobiography:
It was Thanksgiving Day, and she was cooking her first turkey dinner for her family. Before serving she announced to her husband, Charles MacArthur, and their son James: “Now I know this is the first turkey I’ve ever cooked. If it isn’t any good, I don’t want anyone to say a word.
We’ll just get up from the table, without comment, and go out to a restaurant to eat.” Then she returned to the kitchen.
When she entered the dining room with the turkey, she found her husband and son seated at the table with their hats and coats on. Obviously they didn’t have much faith in her ability to cook a turkey!
At times we are like that with regard to God. We have problems, we pray to God for help, and then we sit back and expect the worst to happen. We don’t have much faith in him; we don’t really trust him.
If we want to get somewhere we must follow our guide or at least we need to read our maps. Follow the signs and take directions. There are many roads and many turns along the road.
Thomas asks of Jesus: “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Here again we have the questions; questions of how we are to know and where are we to go, combined with that human attribute of presumed defeat: we don’t know.”
When we ask God to help us we must come to believe that God will help us. If we presume defeat, why do we bother to ask for help? Jesus tells us to trust in God and to also trust in him. That’s what faith is all about: trust!
Making sense of the world we live in is a struggle. I struggle with it everyday. Schoolteachers and parents struggle with it. Judges, theologians, poets, scientists, and scholars of all kinds struggle with trying to make sense of this world in which we live.
Politicians, world leaders, soldiers and innocent civilians struggle to make sense of this world. All the roads lead to the same answer. If we don’t let go and let God then we will continue to struggle. We must allow the will of God to guide us.
God wants us to trust in every way and in all manner of things. We need to take our prayers to our heavenly Father and we must have faith. Jesus questions us: “Don’t you believe?” “Don’t you believe that I Am in the Father, and that the father is in me?” Jesus wants us to have faith. “Believe me” he says to his disciples. “Believe me… At least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.” The gospels are filled with the words of witness, by the followers of Jesus, to the many miracles he performed. The witnesses to miracles step forward everyday in this community.
We will find our way through the obstacles of life by following Jesus. We must study his teachings, learn his ways. We must listen for his voice everyday. Jesus tells us that “I am the way and the truth and the life.” Jesus is the true guide that will help us along the way. When we come to that road, the one that has been washed away by tears of sorrow and pain, we must believe that Jesus will help us find a new pathway. When the bridge to safety falls apart, we need to look to Jesus to find another way across the raging stream. When the darkness comes and there is no light in sight; that is when we must open up our hearts and let the light of Christ shine and illuminate the heavenly gates.
Jesus says to each of us: “I will do it!” “I will do whatever you ask in my name.” In the name of Jesus, the Son of God, have faith in the God of your fathers-the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Have faith in the God that said to Moses: “I Am who I Am.”