Knowing God is Everlasting Life
Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 18, 2014
St. Mark's, Charleston
I Peter 2:2-10
There are some people we know whose word we trust completely. That is, from our own experience, we know such a person to be trustworthy as an individual. As part of our trust, we know that the person has appropriate knowledge to be believable about whatever subject is being considered. Thus, trust involves knowledge – our knowledge of the person and the person’s knowledge of the subject.
The seventeenth century philosopher, Francis Bacon, observed that “Knowledge is power.” To that observation, I would add that knowledge also encourages trust – which probably identifies why knowledge is powerful. That association of knowledge and trust becomes our object of attention this morning.
When I was growing up, my family was particularly close to another family in the neighborhood where we lived. The children of the two families were about the same ages and got along together, for the most part. The parents were all good friends, as well. Now, the father in this other family was a doctor. His day off was Thursday, and so our families often did things together on Thursdays. That relationship provided a foundation when we needed to see him on a day other than Thursday – in his doctor’s office. We knew him to be trustworthy as an individual. And we believed that he knew his craft as a doctor. Thus we trusted him as our physician. The point here, of course, is that knowledge and trust depend on each other. Indeed, the two are bound together.
On the other hand, I feel certain that most of us have had the unfortunate experience of a breach of trust when knowledge is inaccurate or incomplete. I think of divorces in this regard, as examples of the loss of trust when some new or hidden knowledge is exposed. Of course, we could name many other examples of the loss of trust when prior knowledge is discovered to be incomplete – in families, or in business, or in the church, unfortunately.
To make this point another way, let me use a sports’ example here – one very familiar to sports fans these days. Having lived through months of pre-NFL draft attention, the club owners are betting a great deal of money that their trust lies with accurate knowledge about the football players they have drafted! In other words, those owners certainly want their money invested with the trustworthy family doctor rather than with a spouse who has a hidden agenda!
Thus, to repeat the point again here, trust involves knowledge. We need to have knowledge of a certain person, and that person needs to have knowledge about a particular field or subject. The result, then, is that we believe that person to be trustworthy. We trust him or her as a result of the knowledge involved.
Today’s readings – and, especially, the Gospel – deal with this subject … the connection of knowledge and trust. In this reading, Jesus confronts a subject about which we need a great deal of trust – faith when confronting the subject of death. Indeed, this is a familiar reading at funerals. “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 will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going” (Jn 14:2-4). Just prior to these words about the way to heaven, Jesus introduces the subject by reassuring his disciples that he is trustworthy, because they know who he is. “Believe in God”, he says, and “believe also in me” (14:1).
When confronted by a matter of this significance – eternal life in this case – questions do arise. And we can probably relate to Thomas at this point, at least some of the time. “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” (14:5). You see, when knowledge is incomplete, then trust surely can become strained or compromised.
In response, Jesus claims the affirmation which binds knowledge and trust together. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (14:6). Thus, in our collect this morning, we prayed words that do indeed point to this particular bond of knowledge and truth. “Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life” (BCP, p 225). Knowledge, you see, results in trust.
Now, the rest of today’s Gospel continues to deal with the connection of knowledge and trust. Jesus makes the claim that he is the way to God the Father. “No one comes to the Father”, Jesus says, “except through me” (14:6). This claim is so big, though, that Philip – this time – raises a question. “Show us the Father, and we will be satisfied” (14:8). In response, Jesus tries to reassure the disciples – and us – regarding knowledge of matters that lead to trust. “I am in the Father, and the Father is in me” (14:10). Jesus points out that his words originate with God the Father. And, further, Jesus claims that his works on earth are those of God as well. Jesus realizes that knowledge of this relationship between the Father and himself will lead the disciples to trust in him.
In conclusion, then, knowledge of Jesus leads us – like the disciples – to trust him. When Jesus claims to be the way to God the Father – and, therefore, the means to eternal life – we know the One making that claim. And, since we know him, then we can trust him as a result. Therefore, once again, this becomes our prayer – “Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life.” Amen.
The Right Reverend Charles G. vonRosenberg
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