This Is the Way

May 01, 2022; Rev. Kurt A. Lantz
Sts Philip and James. Aretino.jpg

This Is the Way

 

Rev. Kurt Lantz St. Philip and St. James, Apostles Isaiah 30:18-21

May 01, 2022 Resurrection Lutheran Church St. Catharines, ON

 

Dear people on the way,

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Where do I go? Which way should I turn? Sometimes all of the upheaval of life disorients us. A family member is rushed to the hospital and we don’t know what to do. Do we sit at home and wait for news or try to call the nurse’s station, or make various attempts to go while all kinds of entry restrictions are in place? Do we have to alter our work schedule for a few weeks or will this mean a more drastic change in living arrangements?

 

On Wednesday evening, at our Service of Prayer for Peace in Ukraine, we heard a few of the updates from the pastors there about the kind of turbulence that has hit their lives. Should they send their wives and children out of the country? Would it be easier on the elderly to stay put and not attempt a long journey and the adjustment to life in another place? Should the church try to provide shelter for passing refugees, or concentrate on providing groceries for those who stay to live in the area? Should the pastor be in the church to conduct the Divine Service on Sunday, or be driving a van load of people who need to get to the border that day?

 

Even now, years into a viral pandemic, we are still struggling with what to do. Should the extended family have gotten together for Easter or remain isolated in their own households? Should I wear a face covering in the grocery store? Should I get another vaccine booster? Can I travel on an airplane, or go to a concert? Which path is the right one to take?

 

Wouldn’t it be nice, sometimes if someone would come along and just say, “This is the way.” When you are reading the prescription on the pill bottle and it says “Take two tablets daily” and you don’t know whether to take them both at the same time or to spread them out, it would be nice if someone would say, “Take them both in the morning. This is the way.” When war suddenly breaks out, it would be nice if someone you can trust, who knows how things are going to play out would say, “This is how to keep your family safe. This is the way.”

 

It was the threat of war that had the people of Israel turning right and left trying to find a way to save themselves from the invading Assyrian Empire. Should they stay and fight? Who should they ask for help? Should they go down to Egypt to seek shelter there? Should they turn right or left? They had forgotten, as we often do, that there is someone who tells us “This is the way.” The prophet Isaiah reminded them that “The LORD waits to be gracious to you... to show mercy to you. ...blessed are those who wait for Him” (Isaiah 30:18).

 

The LORD had promised that His people would survive the war with Assyria. He had warned them not to turn to Egypt for help or shelter, because they would not receive merciful help there. It would cost them dearly. They would not find shelter there, but further oppression. He promised that though there would be times when they would receive their bread from Him in adversity, and times when He would send them water in affliction, they would still have Him to guide and direct them through these times of turbulence. He would still be their Teacher to tell them, “This is the way” (Isaiah 30:21). He even promised, “Your eyes shall see your Teacher” (v. 20).

 

And they did, when the LORD Himself came in the flesh, when Jesus walked the road of this life with us. You see, He knows what sudden illness and death does to us. He knows how people feel living under the oppression of a foreign empire. He knows the daily pressures and struggles and temptations that are a part of our everyday lives. He came to be our Teacher and to tell us, “This is the way.”

 

That doesn’t mean that we all learn our lessons well and fast. As it turns out we are not very good disciples. For we often think that going the right way means getting there on our own. We think it means being smart enough to make the right decisions, always doing the right thing, being brave enough to step out on our own, being assertive and direct and even manipulative to make sure that things happen the way that we think they should. This is not the way.

 

Jesus spoke the same promises of salvation to His disciples in the upper room before He was betrayed and killed, that He had spoken to Old Testament Israel when they were threatened by the invading Assyrian forces. He promised grace and mercy and blessing to those who would wait for Him to save them. “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me... And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going” (John 14:1,3-4). “Don’t do anything in a panic. I will go and work everything out for your salvation. And I will come again to bring you to safety.”

 

It sounds simple enough, but we are not content with that. We want to be doing something to save ourselves. We get too frightened by the illnesses and wars and turbulence of life, to wait for someone else to come and save us. We feel we need to decide what is the right thing to do and do it and never look back. We fear life or death more than we trust the Lord Jesus.

 

On that night Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going. How can we know the way?” (John 14:5). You can see how we are not content to wait for the Lord to be gracious and merciful. We feel that we need to know the way so that we can get up and do something to save ourselves and others. We don’t have faith enough to wait during adversity and affliction for the Lord to fulfill His promises to us. We want to get up and get moving unapologetically, and be our own saviour. This is not the way.

 

I hope that you have memorized Jesus words, here, and that they come to mind for you when you are upset and perplexed and frightened and feel the need to do something in order to save yourself and have no regrets about it. Jesus said, “I AM the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). This is the way. He is the way.

 

Which way should you turn? Turn to Jesus. What should you do when you are disoriented and distressed about an illness? Listen to your Teacher. Listen to Jesus. He tells you the way. What should you do when you are frightened and frozen about the threat of war or unemployment or some other life turbulence? Your Teacher is there to tell you “I AM the way.”

 

In other words, you don’t have to heal yourself. You don’t have to give yourself eternal life. You don’t have to make peace with foreign countries. You don’t have to make peace in your own heart. Those are the things that Jesus has promised to do for you. He has gone to prepare a place for you, a place of peace and safety, and at the right time He will come to take you there. He knows the way. He went through death and the grave to rise again to everlasting life. He has ascended to heaven. He has gone the way.

 

And for you, the way is not to walk where He walked. It is not to suffer for your sins. He did that along the way for you. It is not to earn everlasting life. He did that also along the way for you. It is not to work your way to heaven. He has already cleared the path. He has accomplished it all for you so that He Himself is the way. Remember, He said, “I AM the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

 

This is the way for you. Jesus is the way. His suffering and death were for your sins of not trusting, not listening, and trying to do what is for Him alone to do. All of those sins are forgiven in Jesus. He even forgives you when you barge forward and only later realize it was the wrong way. His resurrection was to give you everlasting life, eternally with the Father, and life even now under the grace and mercy and peace that He alone can give. Jesus is the way.

 

What Old Testament Israel needed to learn about waiting for the LORD to do what He has promised, we are still learning every day of our lives. We are learning the way and that the way is Jesus. We are learning to wait for His salvation instead of turning somewhere else or trying to do something else in order to overcome our sins, to conquer death and the devil, to achieve eternal salvation, to conquer our fears, to put our mind at ease. We need to wait, for He is the way, the only way to the Father.

 

Do you see that big baptismal font where He puts His promise of salvation into the water? This is the way. Do hear that “if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness”? This is the way. Do you taste the meal that He has provided with His promise, “This is My body given for you... This is My blood shed for you for the forgiveness of sins”? This is the way.

 

When you don’t know whether to turn to the right or to the left or if you have made a wrong turn, then turn to Jesus for His promise of forgiveness and salvation. Rest in the knowledge that He is the way. He will save you. You don’t have to fear illness or invasion. Whatever happens you are under the grace and mercy of the Lord. There will be times of adversity and affliction. There will be times when you don’t know what to do. There will be times when you do the wrong thing. But especially in those times He shows you the way. He shows you Jesus, and that there is forgiveness and salvation in Him.

 

That is what gives you peace as you walk through this life. If a sudden illness forces a change in your life, you know that whatever needs to happen, whatever decisions you need to make, Jesus is your way to the Father. If war breaks out on our borders, whatever decisions have to be made to protect our families and to help and serve our neighbours, Jesus has already walked the way for our salvation.

 

Listen to your Teacher, who has come in the flesh, who has walked the way of life in a fallen world, who has carried all of your sins, who has conquered death and the devil and is at the right hand of the Father. He tells you, “This is the way. Walk in it.” Not walking in His footsteps having to do the same things that He did for you, but walking in Him; doing what you can do to love and serve your neighbour with faith and hope, walking in the forgiveness and salvation that He freely gives to you. This is the way.