The Way, The Truth, The Life; Sermon by The Very Rev’d. Canon Dr. Patrick P. Augustine, Rector

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Fifth Sunday of Easter, May 17, 2014,
John 14: 1-14
THE WAY, THE TRUTH, THE LIFE
Last week I was given a book Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, a testimony of devout young Muslim medical doctor Nabeel Qureshi who encounters Jesus, the Way, the Truth, the Life. While he is a Muslim seeking Jesus he writes:
“I lay prostrate in a large Muslim prayer hall, broken before God. The edifice of my worldview, all I had ever known, had slowly been dismantled over the past few years. I lay in ruin, petitioning Allah. Tears blurred my sight. The ritual prayers had ended, and now it was time for my heart’s prayer.”
“Please, God Almighty, tell me who You are! I beseech You and only You. Only You can rescue me. At Your feet, I lay down everything I have learned, and I give my entire life to You. Take away what You will, be it my joy, my friends, my family, or even my life. But let me have You, O God. Light the path that I must walk. … If it is Christianity, give me eyes to see. Just show me which path is Yours, dear God, so I can walk it. … Dear God, I know You can hear me! Please, show Your Truth. Give me a vision again; give dreams so I can know who You are.”[1] Nabeel Qureshi in his prayers he is seeking the Way and the Truth.
Jesus’ claim to “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” can be troublesome for many. How could there be just one true faith. Isn’t it arrogant to say my religion is superior and try to convert others to that belief? Good, tolerant people will say that all religions are equally good and valid for meeting the needs of their particular followers. One can say, “Religious exclusivity is not just narrow—it’s dangerous. If Christians continue to insist that they have the truth’—and if other religions do this as well—the world will never know peace.” Many in the west say that it is ethnocentric to claim that our religion is superior to others. Yet isn’t this very statement ethnocentric? Most non-Western cultures have no problem saying that their culture and religion is best. The idea that it is wrong to do so is deeply rooted in our traditions of self-criticism and individualism.
The reality is that Christianity actually provides a firm basis for respecting people of other faiths. Jesus assumes that nonbelievers in the culture around them will gladly recognize much Christian behavior as good (Matthew 5:16). Christians believe that all human beings are made in the image of God, capable of goodness and wisdom. We know that fundamentalism in religion has led many to violence and intolerance. So, the question we may ask is: Which fundamentals will lead their believers to be the most loving and receptive to those with whom they differ? And, which set of unavoidably exclusive beliefs will lead us to humble, peace-loving behavior? Can we claim to the world that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and still live in harmony with others?
In other great religions and philosophies followers can follow the teachings of their founder without having a relationship with that founder. But not so with Jesus Christ. The teachings of Jesus cannot be separated from Jesus himself. For Christians, Christ is the aperture of God. In Christ, God the infinite became finite.[2] All the rays of truth in the universe focus through him: “the Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful words (Hebrew 1:3).
During the Easter season every Sunday we make this acclamation that “Christ is Risen.” Christ is still alive, and he embodies his teachings. This is what separates him from every great teacher and moral philosopher in history. This is not to say that other religious traditions don’t focus on a person. Yet in all these religions, a follower can abide by all the teachings of its founder without having a relationship with that founder. Not so with Jesus Christ.[3]
For followers of Christ who believe that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, Christ is not a dogma or philosophy but a personal encounter with the risen Lord. Nabeel Qureshi writes in his book about such personal witness knowing Jesus the resurrected Christ.
“On August 24, 2005, at three o’ clock in the morning, I placed my forehead on the foot of my bed and prayed. ‘I submit. I submit that Jesus Christ is Lord of heaven and earth. He came to this world to die for my sins, proving His Lordship by rising from the dead. I am a sinner, and I need Him for redemption. Christ, I accept You into my life…”[4]
“I am the way, the truth, and the life” is one of the most startling sayings of Jesus. I must confess that I respect other faiths and beliefs. All human beings have the ability to discern God’s goodness and light. In my sharing of this particular claim of the gospel, I want to do it with utmost humility.
In our world today there are many claims to the path to eternity. Many gurus claim numerous ways and signs pointing to the goodness of God. Sometimes I find it’s like my GPS which may give me four different directions and can even confuse me more. All I need is help to get me directly to my destination.
Hearing the words of Jesus, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” helps me to get a clear understanding of who Jesus is. A man of peace, a healer full of grace and of mercy who invites everybody baptized or non-baptized:
Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).
It is an inclusive statement. It is this Jesus who calls us to be the harbingers of his truth, his way of peace and offer life and healing to a troubled world. In 1997 Pope John Paul II invited Bob Dylan to sing at the Italian Eucharistic Congress in Bologna. His intention was not to feature Bob Dylan but to use Dylan’s music to make a point: he chose “Blowin’ in the Wind” and said this: “You ask me how many roads a man must walk before they call him a man? I answer: there is only one road for man, and it is the road of Jesus Christ, who said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.”[5]
Note: (The song has been embraced by many churches, and in the 1960s and 1970s it was sung both in Catholic church "folk masses" and as a hymn in Protestant ones. In 1997, Bob Dylan performed three other songs at a Catholic church congress. Pope John Paul II, who was in attendance, told the crowd of some 300,000 young Italian Catholics that the answer was indeed "in the wind" – not in the wind that blew things away, but rather "in the wind of the spirit" that would lead them to Christ. In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI (who had also been in attendance) wrote that he was uncomfortable with music stars such as Dylan performing in a church environment.[18])
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[1] Nabeel Qureshi, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, Zondervan, 2014, p. 254.
[2] Timothy Keller, The Reason for God. Dutton, 2008, Pp.3-21.
[3] Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola, Jesus Manifesto, Thomas Nelson, 2010, Pp.82-84.
[4] Nabeel Qureshi, Seeking Allah, finding Jesus, p. 278.
[5] Leonard Sweet, Frank Viola, Jesus Manifesto, Thomas Nelson, 2010. P. 121.

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