Pentecost: Beyond the Byte

Pentecost texts at www.textweek.com

Acts 2:1-21          Psalm 104:24-34, 35b          Rom. 8:14-17          John 14:8-17

“Lord, show us the Father; that will be enough for us.” John 14:8

The Bible isn’t built for sound-bytes. The Bible is a tapestry of teachings, a web of wondrous acts, a cluster of cells: intimately interconnected, growing, complex and astounding.

We have conveniently accommodated the Bible to our sound-byte society.

One of our favorite bytes precedes today’s reading from the Gospel of John. It’s John 14:6: “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'” In many contemporary Christian circles, this verse is the End All Be All. Once this text is quoted in any argument–I mean, discussion–there is nothing left to say. It’s treated as a stand-alone, a theological sound byte that says everything we need to know, contains everything it takes to determine whether someone is in or out, a Christian or not. Cut and dried. Done and dusted.

Except—in the scripture, the conversation doesn’t end there. It’s only beginning.

Even the disciples, Jesus’ closest personal friends and followers, struggled to understand his teachings (a helpful reminder that perhaps we–distanced by two thousand years, six thousand miles, and a language that didn’t even exist back then–should be a bit more humble whenever we think we know exactly what Jesus was talking about). Philip, hearing “No one comes to the Father except through me…” didn’t say, “Oh, perfect, now we know exactly who’s in!” He said: “Lord, show us the Father.”

Sometimes I imagine Jesus rolling his eyes at his disciples’ thick-headedness. Other times I imagine him as an eternally patient Mr. Rogers type, always willing to take his followers by the hand and gently lead them toward understanding.

When Philip said “Show us the Father,” Jesus reminded Philip of what he has already seen: Jesus himself. Everything Jesus did was what God was doing. Every lesson, every story, every prayer Jesus spoke was God’s lesson, God’s story, God’s prayer. Every healing, every feeding, every welcome Jesus enacted was God’s healing, God’s feeding, God’s welcoming.

You want to see God’s way? Look at Jesus: he reaches out to sinners, to foreigners, to children, to women, to the broken and the unclean.

You want to hear God’s truth? Listen to Jesus: he teaches homecoming for the prodigal, generosity to the worker, searching out the lost, readiness for the kingdom.

You want to live in God’s eternal life? Live like Jesus: he’s at dinner with the outcasts. He’s in the boat with the fearful. He’s up to his elbows in soapy water, on his knees scrubbing road dust from tired feet. He’s in the garden, weeping, praying his own sorrows and praying God’s will.

You want to come to the Father? Come with Jesus on his way, to his truth, in his life. You want to see the Father? Look at Jesus, and look at his followers; because when he says, “Whoever believes in me will do the works that I do,” (John 14:12) it’s not just a sound byte. It’s an invitation to see God in the threads of Jesus’ teachings, in the web of his actions. It’s an invitation to count ourselves among the cells of his body: intimately interconnected, growing, complex and astounding.

That will be enough for us.


First published 5/9/16 on bwim.info/blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s