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The Lord is my Innkeeper, May 14, 2017 1

As I write this sermon I hold two ideas in my mind: The words of


Jesus on the cross had been spoken by others in the Bible, and it is very
easy to find evidence that what you already believe is true if that is your
goal. I also have a clear image of people rushing together toward Stephen
while holding their hands over their ears like the murderous children in the
novel, Lord of the Flies. Come to think of it, this image fits very well with the
way that John 14, particularly John 14:6, is used by some. I am also drawn
to the verses left out of our reading of Psalm 31, particularly:
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye is
wasted from grief, my soul and my body also.For my life is
spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing;my strength fails
because of my misery, and my bones waste away.I am the
scorn of all my adversaries, a horror to my neighbors,an object
of dread to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street
flee from me.I have passed out of mind like one who is dead; I
have become like a broken vessel.Yea, I hear the whispering
of manyterror on every side!as they scheme together
against me, as they plot to take my life.
The theme that seems the strongest to me is the righteousness of
the believer. Stephen is clearly a christlike figure who will be
rewarded for his faithfulness. The reading from 1 Peter assures us
that To you then who believe,he is precious; but for those who do
not believe, The stone that the builders rejected has become the
very head of the corner, and A stone that makes them stumble and
a rock that makes them fall... But you are a chosen race, a royal
priesthood, a holy nation, Gods own people, in order that you may
proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into
The Lord is my Innkeeper, May 14, 2017 2

his marvelous light. When we add Jesus promise from John 14:14,
If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it, it is easy to join
with the Psalmist in asking that God rescue us speedily from this
world of unbelievers.
Recently, I have heard of John 14:6 being used as a litmus
test of true Christianity. It has been said that we either believe that
Jesus is the way, and the truth, and the life, and that No one
comes to the Father except through (him), or we are not really
Christians at all. It is not my objective to argue with the beliefs of
others -- in fact, I believe that this text actually encourages us to
avoid judgement. If we believe that Jesus is the way, we can take
that as confirmation that Jesus death on the cross is the only thing
that makes righteousness possible for us. We can also take it to
mean that the ways of Jesus are to be our ways (as much as that is
possible). As far as no one coming to God except through Jesus, I
feel that determining the answer to the questions of who will be
saved and who will not, how the issue of different faiths or lack of
faith will play out, and the like are simply outside of my scope. While
I believe that it is my Christian duty to share my understanding of
Jesus with my neighbors, I do not believe that I am obligated to
shove it down their throats to save them from hellfire and
damnation.
Even more difficult is the final line of our gospel: If in my
name you ask me for anything, I will do it. How do we reconcile this
line with our understanding that we dont always get what we pray
for? We deal with this by saying that God always answers prayers,
but we dont always get the answer that we want or we explain that
The Lord is my Innkeeper, May 14, 2017 3

we cannot possibly understand the big picture of Gods plan, but,


like the psalmist says, we want to be rescued speedily. If we ask in
Jesus name, does that mean that we are saying thy will be done
as a part of our prayers? I know that this is not a fruitful way to think,
but it is hard to overcome our own feelings of worthiness for the
constant attention of God and even for regular interventions by God
on our behalf.
The best way to grow in our understanding of these texts is to
continue reading the Bible and talking about what we have read with
others. Our goal in doing this shouldnt be the discovery of absolute
truth that we can use to measure our worthiness -- it should be
continued growth and maturity in our faith. If we begin with the
understanding that Jesus has taken the weight of our sins and that
the Holy Spirit is a constant presence in our lives, the pressure to be
rescued speedily is off. If we resist the impulse to see ourselves as
the chosen elect as opposed to everyone else, we can live in a way
that is truly Christ-like. AMEN