4/28/02, E5A

…and you still do not know me?”
John 14: 1-15

eing known requires being real and this is why so many people are never really known. Sometimes you can almost hear the question asked, "Who was that guy?"

Being known requires vulnerability and transparency and these are two more reasons why some folks are never really known by true friends. Sure, sometimes we are all pressed into being actors on a stage, playing a role, assuming an identity that is not our own. The judge has to act the role of the judge; but, unless we are knowable with friends and family, we can not truly know others. Knowing ourselves is prerequisite for knowing God. Salvation is prerequisite for being used by him in building his church.

Being a real person requires breaking out of the mold that societal constraints have locked us into and revealing our true identity to friends. Superman becomes Clark Kent, a mild mannered reporter. No more capes and quick changes in telephone booths; actually, there are no more telephone booths anyway.

Some of Jesus' saddest words are asked of his longtime Apostle Philip, "and you still do not know me? Jesus had been open and honest with his followers, but they were still looking for a messianic magician who could wink and make it happen. He was real with them but they missed him. Missing him was a worse mistake than being missed by him. Missing him causes us to miss out on God's mission for our lives, and for our church's life. God Almighty wants to empower us to accomplish a greater vision!

This theme of the first followers of Jesus being so slow to catch on to the true nature of his messiahship recurs throughout the gospels. In last Sunday's lesson Jesus drew an analogy between himself and a shepherd as keeper of the gate, but the disciples did not get it. (Jn. 10:6). They had been camping out under the stars with him for several years, listening to his preaching, teaching, seeing his miracles, yet they seemed thickheaded.

We identify with this theme of apostolic dullness because we are all sometimes loggerheads when it comes to catching hold of new spiritual perceptions. Sometimes we can't even get the simple ideas if they are different from the notions we have grown up with. We are often close minded, as were the folks of Jesus' day.

We church folks are sometimes the last ones to catch on to what God can do in our world. For example, some who have been in and out of our church for the past few years have refused to believe that God could bring about resurgence. We would be much further down the road if everyone who had the opportunity could have caught on but, as with the Apostles, some have doubted. Perhaps this is to be expected because of fallen human nature. Only after experiencing his resurrection were Jesus' disciples transformed into dynamos of salvation that resulted in explosive growth in the Church.

From a secular view there would be little chance for a successful local church in the heart of a busy city. However, over fifty-percent of the largest churches in America are in the center city. Not everyone will join the local church in their suburban community. The cathedrals of the great cities of this world are always in the core of cities. Yet, there are folks who cannot see this because our American dream has put a car in every garage and a local church a mile down the road next door to the public school.

Others can not catch on because they have no confidence in the Almighty. Their thoughts are limited by pre-Easter notions of the powerlessness of Christ. Like the pre-Easter followers of Jesus, many have no real experience of grace. Lots of folks hang around the church for years and never catch on. As my mentor Dr. Pierce Harris used to say from this pulpit, "Sitting in a church doesn't automatically make you a Christian anymore than sitting in a chicken house turns you into a chicken."

This was the exact problem with "Doubting" Thomas who came to Jesus and said (after having known him for years) "Lord. We do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" (v.5). The Apostle Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied." (v.8).

This is the exact problem of many doubters who sit in the pews of America's churches. They have not yet experienced God in their own lives so they can't believe that he can do anything much in the life of their church. Sadly, many of these reluctant church members impede the growth of their churches by doubting whenever a new program or idea comes up. They do not expect God to go beyond the littleness of their vision. This attitude scares prospects away and impedes the work of those who do believe.

Our growth during these past few years has come about because the majority have seen the light, have caught hold of the vision and have done their part in implementing God's plan for our church. Nothing great is ever done for Christ until folks catch on to his vision for their personal lives, and their church's life.

The Good News is that both Thomas and Philip became energetic missionaries in building Christ's Kingdom. Likewise, it is God's plan to reach every one of us, to implant within us a new vision and to corporately use our vision to invigorate our march toward resurgence as a church. There is no telling what God could do if we would turn our lives over to him completely! He wants to put a purpose in our hearts and a gleam in our eyes!

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

4/28/02, E5A