Greater Works than These
Hymn # 475 Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing
Prayer of Invocation
Holy God, creator of all,
the risen Christ taught from Scripture
of his death, resurrection,
and ascension into your glorious presence.
May the living Lord
breathe on us his peace,
that our eyes may be opened to recognize him in breaking bread
and to follow wherever he leads,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Call to Confession
Prayer of Confession
Almighty God, you have raised Jesus from the grave
and crowned him Lord of all.
We confess that we have not bowed before him
or acknowledged his rule in our lives.
We have gone along with the way of the world
and failed to give him glory.
Forgive us and raise us from sin,
that we may be your faithful people,
obeying the commands of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who rules the world and is head of the church, his body. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon
God, who is rich in mercy,
out of the great love with which he loved us
even when we were dead through our trespasses,
made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—
and raised us up with him and seated us with him
in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
so that in the ages to come he might show
the immeasurable riches of his grace
in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Passing of the Peace
Prayer for Illumination
God of life, your Spirit raised Jesus from dead.
Your Spirit inspired the prophets and writers of Scripture.
Your Spirit draws us to Christ and helps us to acknowledge him as Lord.
We ask that you will send your Spirit now to give us deeper insight, encouragement, faith, and hope through the proclamation of the Easter gospel. Amen.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And you know the way to the place where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.
Sermon: Greater Works than These
Good morning. Many thanks to Ed Chan, and also to our Koinonia classes for passing the peace and reading parts of the liturgy. If you would like to read scripture or any of the other parts of the liturgy, please let me know and we’ll work you in. And if you just want to share the peace of Christ, go ahead and shoot your own video and say, “peace be with you,” or “and also with you.” We’ll edit your video into the worship video.
Our reading this morning from the Gospel of John is a very familiar text. Besides sermons, I’m sure that many of you have heard this passage at funerals. It is Jesus at his most pastoral. He’s comforting the disciples; he’s preparing them for life and ministry in a world without the physical presence of the human Jesus at their side.
This is Jesus’ last lesson for the disciples. In the previous chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus washes the disciples’ feet, shares the last supper with them, and then gives them a new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.” Our reading today is a continuation of that lesson.
Then Jesus tells the disciples that he’s about to leave them. Forever. Of course, the disciples don’t quite understand what Jesus is telling them. How could they possibly understand that the Messiah could be crucified, dead, and buried, and then rise from the dead? That couldn’t possibly make sense to them—until it actually happened!
I think there’s another reason for the disconnect. This passage is about relationship: Jesus is telling the disciples that they will remain in relationship with him, even after his death, resurrection, and ascension. Jesus is preaching relationship, but the disciples are looking for information. They want a roadmap. Thomas wants a literal explanation of the path to God the Father. Philip won’t be satisfied until Jesus shows God to him!
It’s as if the disciples hadn’t even been there for all of the miracles—for all the feedings and healings. It’s like they’d completely forgotten that Jesus just called Lazarus to come out of the tomb! They’re looking for intellectual answers and Jesus keeps offering them relationship.
I don’t know about you, but I think it’s actually pretty easy to identify with Thomas and Philip in this story. In these anxious and interesting times, I think we all want a roadmap for these crazy times. We want “life hacks” for getting through this time of quarantine. We want an easy list—10 things every church leader must do before reopening church. We want to know when more testing will be available. We want to know when a vaccine will be ready. We want to know when it’s truly safe to go out again.
We want information.
We want knowledge.
What we need, in this time of social distancing, is relationship. And yes, it’s kinda hard to feel that when we’re separated from one another, but it’s exactly what we need. Jesus reminds us, not just the disciples, but us, that we already have what we need to get through this pandemic.
In Jesus, the disciples had a direct relationship with God, in the flesh. Through Jesus, God could be known and seen and touched; God is made known to humanity through this physical presence. And then Jesus tells them he’s about to leave. For good. The disciples don’t know how they’re going to live without his presence in their lives or continue Jesus’ work in the world.
What Jesus tells the disciples is that they will remain in relationship with him, even after the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. The relationship will remain—Jesus will abide in each one of them, and they in him. He will go to the Father’s house and make a dwelling place for each of them, and when it is their time, they will be reunited. And until that time, a bit of his Spirit remains with each of the disciples.
Of course, they don’t understand it! It doesn’t make sense until they live through it. Until they come to the empty tomb. Until they encounter the risen Christ in a locked room or on the road to Emmaus. Until they can see and touch the wounds in his hands and his side. And only then do they realize that Jesus was with them all along. The relationship always remains.
That’s how we survive and even thrive during this time apart. We can only do this through relationship. Even though we’re apart, we’re connected, through Jesus and through the Holy Spirit. Remember, when Jesus is talking to the disciples, he’s also talking to us; the disciples are where we enter the story. Just as the disciples are connected to Jesus through the Holy Spirit, so are we. It’s up to us to share the Spirit with others.
We need to do that to get through these uncertain times, but there’s more. There’s more to the story, and honestly, this is the scary part. Jesus tells the disciples: “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these” (John 14:12).
Jesus is telling the disciples—the same disciples who just witnessed Jesus heal a man who was blind from birth, the same disciples who just witnessed Jesus call Lazarus to come out from the tomb—Jesus is telling them that they are going to do greater things. They should be afraid—but they’re not alone.
The same is true for us. We are called to do greater works than Jesus. And we should be scared. Like the disciples, we’re not alone. In the Prologue to the Gospel of John, we are told that Jesus is the light of the world, the light that shines in the darkness, but the darkness shall not overcome it.
Beloved, we are surrounded by darkness, but we continue to shine in the darkness. God’s Holy Spirit, Jesus’ Spirit, glows within us. It dwells within us. It abides in us, as Jesus abides in us. We will get through this darkness and we can shine our light in the darkness of others.
There is a sacred and holy purpose for all of this. God doesn’t lift us up from our isolation, loneliness, and depression so that we feel good about ourselves. God lifts us up so that we may continue with God’s work in the world—so that we may do greater works than Jesus. The first task is to get through this season of isolation.
That’s no easy task, and you may lose some energy along the way. Fear not! Find your encouragement through relationship. Keep doing your work through relationship. And if you’re feeling down, let us know! We can help to raise you up—through relationship! Together, we will do greater works than these. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Hymn # This Little Light of Mine
Offering WE HAVE TO SPEAK HONESTLY ABOUT OUR FINANCES.
Prayer of Thanksgiving
We give our thanks through our talents, our time, and our treasure.
Thanks be to God; whose love creates us!
Thanks be to God; whose mercy redeems us!
Thanks be to God; whose grace leads us into the future! Amen.
Prayers of the People
This morning we lift up the Baptista family. A couple weeks ago we prayed for a young woman named Sarah, who is a member of the Baptistas’ extended family, who was fighting cancer, and then contracted COVID-19. Sarah passed away a little over a week ago.
Next, we offer continued prayers for Susan Beaton.
We have a prayer shawl for Linda Schmidt. Linda is home from the hospital and she’s recovering well. We pray for her continued healing and wholeness.
We also lift up Nancy Brewer. Nancy had another surgery last week. Prayers for her continued healing and wholeness. Prayers for all the hands that care for Nancy in this time.
We offer prayers today for all of the victims of domestic violence, especially those who are confined with their abusers at this time. We pray for peace in their homes and for paths to safety for all.
Finally, we offer a prayer of thanksgiving—and prayers for health and safety—for all of the helpers out there. We lift up all the nurses, doctors, lab techs, nurses’ aides, housekeeping staff, and first responders who are on the front lines of this pandemic. We give thanks for all they do and we pray that God continue to watch over them in this time.
The Lord’s Prayer
Hymn # 836 Abide with Me