Sunday, May 18, 2014

John 14:1-14

There is a bumper sticker I saw once that said  “The Bible says it, I believe it and that settles it”

There are no fewer than 98 instances of the verb “to believe” in John’s Gospel.  There are  invitations, as in this Sunday’s Gospel, to begin to believe.   There are as well, descriptions of individuals and crowds who had, in fact, come to believe over the course of the Gospel.  Where the bumper sticker seems to be describing someone who is the way he is and will remain so forever, belief in the New Testament describes a more dynamic process.  People come to believe because of Jesus.   They change their beliefs about God because of Jesus.   They are forever changed because of something Jesus has said or done.   Something has welled up within them in response. 

It’s a word we use in common language in a number of ways:  “believing that” something is the case is a very different thing than “believing about” or “believing in”.   We tend to be a bit promiscuous about the things we “believe in” - ideas mostly - which we inherited or have come to believe in as a way of making sense of the world and identifying ourselves within it.  Free Enterprise or Universal Health Care or the Brotherhood of Man under the Fatherhood of God - things that are “believed in” tend to sprout capital letters with time.  It is perhaps natural that belief in God or belief in Jesus might be things we file away in the same envelope.  Are these not beliefs which define our families or perhaps, even, our national communities?  From these beliefs “in” something, certain actions and attitudes will proceed which are consistent with such beliefs.  We would like to be consistent in our beliefs.  That may be why we stick bumper stickers on our cars - just in case something new and unclassifiable comes into the room and we forget and change our minds.

And there’s the rub.  Belief in the Gospel leads to departures and changes - not the endless reinforcement of old slogans and the adages we learned at our grandparents’ knees. 

Are we flexible enough?  Are we open enough to believe?

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