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Worship and Sermons
May 10, 2020

“Show Us the Father” by the Rev. Don Wahlig, May 10, 2020, Year A / Easter 5 – Acts 7:55-60  •  Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16  •  1 Peter 2:2-10  •  John 14:1-14

THEME:  Learn to trust Jesus’ promise that God is with us always by praying the Examen to discern God’s presence in your life and his will for you.

Have you ever had this experience:  you come across someone in public life - maybe it’s an actor, a writer or athlete – and, as you learn more about them and their background, you begin to feel a real connection with them, even though you’ve never met them?

For me, that person is a Jesuit priest named Father James Martin.  Although I don’t know him personally, I feel like he and I are kindred spirits.  Like me, he studied business and worked in the corporate world before going into the ministry.

He and I also share a common spiritual guide.  We were both inspired to become pastors by the writings of the great 20th century Trappist Monk, Thomas Merton.  This encounter with Merton led Father Martin to quit his job at General Electric and join the Jesuits. 

You may not be familiar with Jesuits.  They are a Catholic order founded in the 16th century by a Spaniard, St. Ignatius.  Through the centuries, Jesuits have embraced Ignatius’ vision of learning to see God in all things.

At the same time that Martin Luther and John Calvin were building the theological foundation of the Protestant Reformation, Ignatius was moving the Catholic Church forward in a different and equally important direction.

More than anything else, Ignatius sought God’s presence and direction in everyday life.  He was driven by the desire to be closer to God.  He wanted to see God not only through mountain top experiences, but more often in the ordinary ebb and flow of life’s seemingly mundane events. 

Others have tried this, but none have been as methodical or successful as Ignatius.  For years, he kept a diary where he made notes on the events of his life and his spiritual reflections. 

He also shared his experiences with others so they could all compare their God moments.  Along the way, he became adept at identifying the hallmarks of God’s presence and the most fruitful way to discern God’s will.

Then he wrote it all down so he could teach it to others.  The result is something called the Spiritual Exercises.  Today, Christians in all denominations use these to become more attentive to God's presence in their day-to-day lives, and more responsive in answering God’s call. 

This is a tool that Jesus’ disciples sure could have used – especially Philip, as he sits with Jesus and his fellow disciples at the last supper.

After washing their feet, Jesus has given them a new commandment:  “Love one another as I have loved
you.”

And he’s told them some very disturbing things.  One of them will betray him.  Another will deny him.  Most disturbing of all, he has to leave them for a place where they cannot follow.

Is it any wonder they’re all on edge?  Their previously tightknit fellowship seems to be unraveling before their very eyes! 

And, yet, Jesus tells them not to worry.  He wants them to understand that, after his time with them on earth is finished, there is still more for them.  His death is necessary; but death is not the final word – for him or for them.

It says something about how we understand this passage that we most commonly hear it at funerals.  Certainly, it’s appropriate for a funeral.  It promises profound comfort and hope for those who grieve.

The trouble is that most of us focus solely on that part of the promise assuring us that we have a room in God’s heavenly mansion after we die.  And yet, that’s only half the story.  Or, maybe I should say, it’s only half the promise.

Philip, however, does not understand any part of that promise.  He wants visual proof that God is present before he’ll trust it. 

“Show us the Father,” he says to Jesus, “and we’ll be satisfied.”

Let’s not be too hard on Philip.  He’s asking a question we all ask, especially when we’re fearful and anxious.  It’s the same question the Hebrews asked Moses as they suffered terrible thirst in the wilderness.  “Is God with us, or not?”

Philip sees Jesus as his lord and teacher, someone to be followed and someone to learn from.  But definitely not God.

That frustrates Jesus to no end.  You can hear the exasperation, when he asks, “Philip, have you been with me all this time and you still don’t know me?”  In other words, if you know me, then you know God.

Not only is Jesus how we know God.  He’s our way to be joined with God.

That’s the dwelling place Jesus is talking about.  It’s not a room.  It’s not even a specific place.  It’s wherever and whenever God is united with his children. 

That is as true this side of death as it is on the other.  Jesus wants his disciples to know and trust that.  He has to leave them, but God won’t.  God is still with them – and he will be always.

The question for you and me is how do we know God is with us now?  And how do we know what he wants us to do?

That is where our friend Ignatius and his Spiritual Exercises come in so handy.  At their very heart is a way of praying called the Daily Examen. 

The Examen is a simple and effective way to reflect back on our day so we can see God’s hand in it.  This prayer is built around the same question Philip asked:  “Where is God?”

Rather than tell you about this prayer, it’s much more effective if we all pray the Examen together.  Let’s try that right now as you sit on your couch or a chair at home.

  1. Consciously relax your body.  Take a deep breath, and then exhale.  (Repeat 2X)  
  2. Now, please close your eyes as I guide us all through the steps of the Examen.
  3. We begin with gratitude, remembering that we are in God’s presence. 

Ask yourself:

  • What am I grateful for at this very moment?
    • The gift of another day of life ...
      The love and support I have received...
      The courage I have been given...
      Something particular that took place today...
  1. Petition

As you prepare to review the day just past, ask God for the light to know him and yourself as he sees you.

  1. Review: 

Now, let’s review our day.If you are praying this in the evening, start with the moment you woke up this morning.If you are praying this in the morning, think about yesterday, beginning with when you woke up.

Ask yourself:

  • How did I feel when I woke up?  Tired, rested?

Now, review the day, step by step:  Focus on the events that happened, the conversations, the interactions and the feelings.  [1 minute]

Ask yourself:

  • Where did I feel true joy this day?  [20 seconds]
  • What troubled me or made me sad?  [20 sec.]
  • What challenged me? [20 sec.]
  • When did I pause & have feel at peace?  [20 sec.]
  • Have I noticed God's presence in any of this?  [30 seconds]
  1. Response

In light of your review, what is your response to God’s activity in your life this past day?  [20 seconds]

  1. A Look Ahead

Now, picturing Jesus sitting right next to you, talk with him about your day. 

  • Confess where you failed to do God’s will, ask his forgiveness, knowing that Jesus forgives you. [30 seconds]    
  • Remember where you did God’s will.  Feel the warmth of Jesus’ arm around your shoulder and see his smile as he celebrates your faithfulness.  [30 seconds]
  • Listen to him, as you discern what specific things God wants you to do in the coming day. [20 seconds]   

Finally, pray for the strength and courage to do God’s will, as Jesus has shown you how to do it.  [10 seconds]

Amen.  Please open your eyes.

Friends, what did you see and what did you hear?  Where was God in your day?  And where is Jesus directing you in the day ahead?

I promise you that if you continue this discipline, you will get better and better at answering Philip’s question for yourself.  You will know that what Jesus promised is true:  God is dwelling with us – today, and everyday.

For this life, and beyond.   

May it be so.

 

Last Published: May 11, 2020 3:04 PM
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