Something More to Go On

John 14:1-14 

It wasn’t much to go on. The wallet contained $40, a handful of receipts, and a state benefits card. The name on the card read “Hattie Mae Johnson.”  There was no address.  

I was at one of those marathon recording sessions back in Covid times with a few musicians preparing anthems and hymns for upcoming pre-recorded worship services. We had been taking a break in the outdoor courtyard of the downtown church when a woman came off the street holding out the wallet. “I found this on the sidewalk,” she said. “I think someone may need it.”  

I was thinking that we would simply turn it into the church office, hoping that someone would stop by the church to see if it had been picked up. It was a longshot, but since there was no address, I didn’t see how we could get it back to its rightful owner. However, my friend had a better idea. She googled the name Hattie Mae Johnson and came up with someone who lived just a few blocks away.  

We piled into the car and headed to the address. Two women were sitting on the stoop outside a brick apartment building at the address stated in our Google search. I rolled down the window and called out, “Anyone know Hattie Mae Johnson?”    

“She don’t live here anymore,” they responded. My heart sank.  This wasn’t going to be easy.    

“Do you have any idea where she moved to?” I asked.  

The women looked at me and said, “Who wants to know?” I explained that we had something of Hattie’s and wanted to return it to her.  

One of the women came over to the car saying that she was Hattie Mae. “Oh no,” I thought. “This lady’s gonna try to pass herself off as Hattie Mae and get the wallet.” We shouldn’t have attempted this trip without something more to go on.  

I think the disciples might’ve been thinking the same thing in our gospel lesson today – that they really shouldn’t have been accompanying Jesus all this time without a little bit more to go on.  

Our text today comes from Jesus’ final words to his disciples on his last night with them. It was a confusing and scary time for the disciples. First Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, totally catching them off guard. That wasn’t the rabbi’s job. Then he told them that we would be betrayed by Judas and Peter and that he would be leaving them.   

We pick up the story after this disconcerting news and as Jesus tried to reassure them. “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? 3And 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.  4And you know the way to the place where I am going.” 

Thomas asks the obvious question. “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus answers that he IS the way; just stick with him. 

But Philip follows up: “Show us the Father and we will be satisfied.” I can just imagine his train of thought: You’re asking a lot of us, Jesus. First you tell us you’re leaving us, that terrible things are going to happen, and then you ask us to trust you. On what basis can we trust you when are leaving? Give us something more to go on, Jesus. 

It’s a feeling I can identify with. Many of you know that one of the reasons I moved back to Ohio was to care for my parents in their last phase of life. Stepping into that role has been daunting. Along with my brother, I had to figure out how to move them from their home of 50 years and how to convince my dad that they needed help in their apartment. I had to figure out mychart passwords and HIPPAA regulations and medical jargon. I had to explain to my dad that the time had come to give up control and to trust that my brother and I had the big picture. So many times I prayed the prayer, “Lord, help me help them.” 

And its honestly a feeling I have sometimes as your pastor, too. As we will continue to discuss today in our Community Conversation, the church at large is in a time of great change, and Epiphany is no exception. Churches are changing the way they organize and operate, and so are we at Epiphany. We’ll talk about some of these changes later today. This conversation is being recorded and will come to your inbox in an email update this week. If you can’t be here in person, I encourage you to watch it. 

The point is, while I have experienced many changes in pastoring over the last 25 years; while I have read and studied about it; while I can see the seeds of new things beginning to sprout and grow here at Epiphany; I find myself at times still wanting more to go on. I want more evidence that we are headed in the right direction, more ease in getting there, more outward signs of success. I feel like Thomas and Philip, wanting to be shown proof of the way. 

I return to Jesus’ words to his anxious disciples. “Do not let your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. 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? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself so that where I am, there you be also.” 

Sometimes Jesus’ words “dwelling places” here are translated “mansions” or “rooms.” Our translation picks up on the original Greek which means to abide. The fact that Jesus prepares a place for his followers illustrates the intimate relationship those who believe in Jesus have with him. Jesus promises to prepare a place for those who believe in him, and they abide in Jesus’ presence here in the now, as well as forever in the life to come.   

For us that means in our needy times, when we feel we need more to go on, we can return to Jesus, who not only shows us the way, but IS the way. We can look to Jesus and see God’s face providing for our needs. When I pause to notice, I can see that God does supply my needs: daily I am granted gifts of faith, insight, courage, strength, compassion, and wisdom. It is enough. Dwelling with Jesus fills me up; Jesus supplies what I need to go on. 

But you’re wondering what happened with the wallet. Since I wanted to make sure I had the right person, I asked, “Have you lost anything recently?”  

She said she’d lost her wallet and proceeded to describe it to me. “Is this it?”  I asked, producing the wallet. Hattie Mae squealed with joy when she recognized her lost wallet. She tried to pay us when she saw the money was still there, but we were just happy to have our mission accomplished. I asked, “How it is that you were sitting at this building when you don’t live here anymore?” 
“I was just here to visit a friend,” she said. 

“I was just here to visit a friend.” 

It seemed like a coincidence, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t. Just like half the time when I feel like I don’t have enough to go on, I somehow find the strength courage to do what needs to be done. Coincidence? Nah. I have enough to go on because I abide in Jesus’ love. His presence is all around me. I connect with him every day in prayer, in scripture, in meeting other people like Hattie Mae. It takes practice to see him, but he is there. 

Jesus is there for all of us – as individuals, as a congregation, we abide in him. We do not have to feel like we don’t know the way. We do know the Way – we know Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. We have all we need to go on.

Leave a Reply