Between Vulnerability and Trust

by | May 10, 2020 | Sermons

Between Vulnerability and Trust

Our passage this morning is familiar and comforting. Jesus asks that our hearts not be troubled. He reminds us that he is the way, the truth and the life. All comforting statements for us to hear in the midst of the Covid-19 Pandemic. However, there is undercurrent of doubt and vulnerability in this passage that we find through the words of the disciples Thomas and Philip. How do we hold in tension the questions of the disciples, which may well be on our hearts, and the words of comfort spoken by Jesus?

Children’s Time Scripture: 1 Peter 2: 2-10 

Scripture: Psalm 31: 1-5, 15-16 and John 14: 1-14

As I prepared for this message I read through several commentaries, two of which I consult weekly and this week they suggested doing opposite things. One suggested that we find comfort in this passage, in the words of Jesus where we read “Let not your hearts be troubled.” The other commentary suggested the opposite, to find the vulnerability that is apparent in the passage. To ask the follow-up question that Thomas asks, “We don’t know where you’re going; how can we know the way?”

Is there a middle ground a way to agree with both? What would siding with one point of view say about or thoughts on the other? The reality is that there is both a great sense of comfort in this passage and yet, there is also a great deal of vulnerability in it as well. Especially, as we consider this passage in our present time during a global pandemic caused by Covid-19.

I most often read this passage at funerals. It provides comfort to those who have gathered to grieve the loss of a loved one. On grief and our present time Dr. Erin Rafety writes, “Grief and love are the twin conditions in which we’ve had to make our home in these coronavirus days. To acknowledge the former, in light of isolation, suspended gatherings, especially funerals interrupted, doesn’t always seem to help. In other words, it doesn’t seem to help to know what you’re going through is grief these days, when it just seems like it’s all grief on top of grief.

“Grief all the way down.

“Indeed, I worry increasingly that our vigilance around social distancing, self-protection, and isolation in the face of fear so easily turns from care to coercion. Human beings have always clung to a logic around life and death that privileges health and ability, because it makes most of us feel better than facing the unknowns of death that will never be controlled.” (Erin Rafety)

There is vulnerability in trusting in the health professionals. There is vulnerability in trusting that our political leaders will get it right. This pandemic has forced a sense of vulnerability upon all of us. Lindsey Jodrey writes, “There’s a hint that Jesus’ words weren’t meant to offer physical security.” (Lindsey Jodrey) and there is a great deal of truth to that. Jesus was one sleep away from being arrested and executed when he spoke these words. Perhaps it is a similar sense of dread which looms over all of us right now.

We hear the words “Let not your hearts be troubled” and we want that, we want to be at ease, we don’t want to feel anxiety. We want this for ourselves and for our loved ones. In the midst of this pandemic, we want those words, let not your hearts be troubled, to comfort us on a very physical way, we need them to be a security blanket for ourselves. But if we are honest, there might be a hint of doubt in our minds when we hear these words. In fact we may well be reacting the same way that Thomas did when he responded to Jesus, “We don’t know where you’re going; how can we know the way?” Because it’s difficult to see a way out of this.

Sure, the province is slowly re-opening. People can visit their cottages. More stores are being allowed to re-open in a limited way, but we are along way from how things used to be and there are many things about the way things used to be that I don’t think we should return to. Especially in regards to how we fund and provide for health care, senior care and social services. I have a great deal of anxiety about going back to normal because I’m not sure we’ve learned any lessons from this time. We also have a great deal of anxiety because we know that the virus is still out there, Covid-19 isn’t gone. Returning to normal doesn’t seem like a feasible or wise decision right now, many people are still rightly afraid. We hear the words of Jesus saying let not your hearts be troubled and we respond that our hearts are very troubled right now.

I came across the following words from Martin Luther, which speak to troubling times:

And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo! his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him. – Martin Luther

On this passage Prof. Michael Chan writes, “This week’s texts could not be more timely. In this moment of heightened anxiety, it is important to remember that true peace, the peace of the Gospel, does not come from our attempts to protect ourselves from earthly harm. No leader, vaccine, or test can truly bring peace. These are important and necessary measures for the flourishing of life in this world, as Luther makes clear above, but they do not bring the peace of Christ.” (Michael Chan)

This is the struggle we have with our passage this week. We know that Jesus is the chief cornerstone, the foundation on which we build our lives. But we struggle with the vulnerability of our current situation and the profound sense of comfort that we have in the words of Jesus. Scott Hoezee writes, “The way to life is through a cross.” (Scott Hoezee) This is something that we as followers of Christ believe.

Can we trust, in both the here and now and the life to come, that there are many rooms and that one has been prepared for us. Can we overcome the doubt, fear and anxiety that brought Thomas to say, “We don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Or that had Philip say, “Show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

Can we trust the words of Jesus which say, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” To trust in those words, requires a great deal of vulnerability, of surrendering our anxiety to a peace which we don’t truly understand, a love we have never been able to emulate and a grace which can sustain us through all things. It is ok to feel vulnerable, to be anxious, to fear. Holding those emotions and thoughts does not preclude you from also trusting in the all sufficient love of God.

We hold in tension our sense of vulnerability during our present time and our desire to trust in the promises of God. That are hearts would not be troubled, trusting that God will see us through this time. Amen.

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.

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