Troubled hearts: thoughts from John

Let not2

This morning, Johnathan preached on John 14:1 -    ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.’

I think this is a very meaningful text for today.  The world of the disciples seemed about to implode; in the bigger perspective of the New Testament a way of being for the Jewish people was about to be eradicated with the destruction of the Jewish Temple in AD70.

We too live in an age of transition as the old (Modernity and the nation state) is supplanted by the new, global ways of being which are struggling to come  into existence. The old ways of doing church no longer connect so powerfully with people, and new ways of worshipping and fellowshipping are emerging. And against this background, there is the very real threat and challenge of climate change, and the destruction of species of life on earth.

‘Do not let your hearts be troubled,’ says Jesus. God is with us in the times of fear and transition.  But what is involved in not ‘not letting’ our hearts be troubled? I guess it involves reminding ourselves of God’s reality and presence, but more than that, seeking through stilling our hearts, to encounter something of the peace of God’s presence. To know that we are loved by the Creator helps us put other things in our lives in context.  ‘Do not doubt in the shadows what you saw in the light’ is an aphorism which has often encouraged me.

But it gets more perplexing, because  though at times we know clarity and blessing, yet at other times we find waterways which do not divide in front of us; walls which are not destroyed but grow larger; lions whose teeth tear flesh, flames whose heat sears.

What does it mean in that situation to hear Jesus’ words ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled.’?

And what about those of us whose trouble and anxiety is clinical and chronic, those for whom its not possible to ‘let our hearts not trouble,’ for the churning of inner pain endures even as in our minds we cling to Jesus, applying a verbal balm which leaves the pain untouched.

I am thinking of Jesus in Gethsemane when he chooses to enter a dark place where he will be engulfed in deep water, corralled by the walls of death, chooses to endure a profound troubling of his heart.

Sometimes  we must face such hard times when for a season our hearts will not, and perhaps should not be comforted. In such times we are challenged by Jesus’ example to hold on, to embrace suffering, and we are encouraged by his experience of light beyond darkness, joy beyond pain, life beyond death.

And I remember that Jesus,  wanted his followers to stay awake and watch with him, and yet they drifted off to sleep.  This reminds us of the need to be awake to the suffering of others, to stand with them in their pain, empathising, bearing witness gently to our own personal experiences of emerging from the shadows.

When God seems distant, it is the caring, loving friend who can bring the love of God close to us through their very presence.  Jonathan was wearing a tee-shirt this morning. ‘Wear your theology,’ it announced, and the words which followed read, in Latin ‘After the darkness: light.’   A lovely reminder. But I think that more than ‘wearing our theology’ we are called to live our theology, to wear our Lord, as the grace of God is seen flickeringly in our lives,  so that we aren’t simply making statements about our beliefs, but embodying the God whose very presence brings light into our darkness, and promises light beyond the darkness.

‘Do not let your hearts be troubled.’

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