I love to travel. I took a plane for the first time when I was a teenager and recognized the privilege of experiencing and exploring new places. As the daughter of a coalmining father and a stay-at-home mother, the luxury of travel was not lost on me. I have now lived on 3 continents and have tried to see as many new places as time and budget allows. I believed if God had placed me somewhere, then it was my responsibility to learn and grow from/with the people and places around me. It hasn’t always been an easy experience, but certainly an adventuresome and rich one. And…I have spent a lot of time in airports!
In 2007, my husband and I started a church in our living room. With a 7-month-old and 2-year-old, the timing was…interesting. Thankfully, we were in a long-time small group with our dear friends, Steve and Sharol Hayner, and they agreed to walk with us on the journey. During one gathering, when my mind was full and fuzzy and exhausted, Steve said something that not only shaped the vision of the New Church Development (NCD), but also my understanding of church – “The church is an airport, not a destination.” Airports – I knew nothing about starting a church, but I knew airports! Finally we were using something my brain could land on! The relevance and connection were harder to grasp! Steve explained that airports are really important. They help and guide people who are on a journey; people who are on the way to somewhere else. Some airports are better than others, but even the very best airports are not the destination, or the end goal, or the point of the journey. And so it is with the church. Church is really important. The church helps and guides people who are on a journey; serving people who are on The Way. But church – regardless of size, resources, location etc. – is not the destination, or the end goal, or the point. This was/is cause for much joy and relief! It is no accident that the vision statement of the new church development became, “Encouraging one another daily to follow in The Way of Jesus” – a vision statement that they still use and follow today.
Journeying. Following The Way. Learning and growing from/with the people and places around us as we go. Isn’t this what we are all doing? Or trying to do? And yet for many of us seeking to serve in and through the church – whatever that may look like – we can still fret and worry that we’re lost, messing up, or missing something.
John 14:6 is an I AM statement of Jesus that speaks words of comfort to us, as it sought to do for Jesus’ disciples. Indeed, the chapter opens, “Do not let your hearts be troubled…” The disciples are gathered and Jesus is preparing them for His coming death and resurrection; His presence with them in a new way. So far, following in The Way of Jesus involved literally following Him! But here Jesus starts teaching about going somewhere, ahead of them, leaving them for a while, to prepare a place…and their anxiety rises. Jesus also seems to assume that they know where He is going and will just join Him later. Thomas makes a point and asks a question on behalf of us all, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” And Jesus responds not only to the question of the way, but to much more,
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
This was probably not the answer Thomas wanted, but it is what he and the disciples needed. What we all need.
The I AM statements are claims that Jesus is God. The I AM language of Jesus echoes the I AM language of the Old Testament in texts such as Exodus 3:1-20. Not only is Jesus revealing Himself as God, but He is also trying to teach us more about what that looks like: I AM the bread of life, I AM the light of the world, I AM the door, I AM the good shepherd, I AM the resurrection and the life, I AM the true vine … I AM The Way, The Truth, The Life. Jesus is…I AM. In this context, of course no one comes to the Father except through Jesus. The Father and Son are inseparable. They, along with the Holy Spirit whom Jesus promises in Chapter 15, are One. This is not a Scripture about a cosmic door attendant controlling entry to some kind of members only club. Or to belabor the airport metaphor, an immigration officer carefully checking entry credentials.
Our faith is in the One who in Love reminds us that God is all we need – and God is with us, and for us, and in us, and about us. To believe in and know Jesus, is to believe in and know God. We have been shown how to journey. We know how to follow along The Way. Jesus revealed Himself as not only The Way, but also The Truth and The Life. Our place in the Kingdom is secure, prepared for us. And we are being prepared for that place.
Nevertheless, there are times when our hearts are troubled. Even when we know The Way, we are prone to wander. Even when we know The Truth, we can turn our itching ears to lies. Even when we know The Life, we can settle for less. Thankfully, God is not surprised by our questions or confusion, any more than Jesus was with Thomas’. God just keeps gently teaching us and reminding us of who Jesus is. God invites us to keep journeying, walking with other travelers along The Way, learning from one another as we go. And some of us get to do this while working at the airport.