Monday, May 16, 2011

Looking Forward to May 22, 2011 -- 5th Sunday of Easter

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • Acts 7:54-8:1
  • Psalm 31(VU p.758 Parts 1&3)
  • John 14:1-14

The Sermon title is Which Way? Which Truth?

Early Thoughts: How do we reconcile this passage (especially verse 6) with the realities of living in a pluralistic society?

It is a challenge.  On one hand the realities of pluralism requires that we be open to people from other backgrounds and traditions.  On the other we have Scripture which proclaims that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  We have John's Jesus saying "no one comes to the Father except through me"  (of course earlier in the same Gospel John--chapter 10, the "Good Shepherd" chapter-- has Jesus saying that he has sheep in other flocks).

Can these two be reconciled?  Or can we only use this passage as an excuse for Christian exclusivism, for Christian bigotry (as has been done too often in the past)?

I think there is some room for Christian exclusivism in a pluralistic world.  Indeed I think it is mandatory.  It depends what we mean when we say Jesus is the Way.  DO we mean that Jesus is the Way for all people?  Or do we mean that Jesus is the Way for people of Christian faith?  I see arrogance in the first statement (an arrogance that I am not sure the Gospel writer would have meant, other than in relation to the Jewish community that appears to have recently kicked the Christians out of the synagogues when the Gospel was being written).  In the other I see a mandatory statement of faith, for Christians Jesus IS the Way.  But this does not mean we have to make him the Way for Jews, Muslims, Hindus etc.

And besides, we also have to remember that following the way/truth/life of Jesus has not always been obviously life-giving.  This week we also read of the martyrdom of Stephen, the 1st Christian Martyr.  Saying JEsus is the Way can come with a price.

In the end this week is part 1 of two sermons about faith in a pluralistic world.  The realities of life demands that we talk about this dichotomy--accepting of others but secure in our faith.  This week we talk about Christian exclusivism and particularity.  Next week we will hear about Paul preaching in Athens and the reality of living in a cosmopolitan world (and no, not the magazine).

Is Jesus the Way?  Yes.  But what does it mean to say that?  Come on Sunday and join the discussion.

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