We often reflect on the need for purpose in life on how we may find joy and fulfilment in the service of others, indeed on how in reality it is this serving, serving God, serving the world and serving others is actually a prerequisite to the truly successful life. We look at nature the interconnection of life and our mutual dependence on the world and on each other. Even the trees, for example, serve the world and when they cease to do that they die. And of course the motor car at the end of its life is scrapped recycled and often eventually reappears as another product to serve humanity. So perhaps we are looking in the wrong place for clue to the meaning of it all through dismantling and reducing things to their component parts, we can no more understand the reason for the trees existence by sawing it in half than we can understand the meaning of life from the Hadron Collider. I am not however dismissing the significance of scientific investigation which is quite another thing.
Here we are really concerned with the things that matter to us, the religious, the metaphysical, the spiritual, not in reducing things down to nothing so that they can be explained away by intellectual arrogance but rather through an approach that can give us inspiration, spiritual solace and the courage and strength that brings us into harmony with God, with the creative spirit of the Universe. A woman who once came to our chapel was disappointed to be told by a visiting minister that he did not believe in the after-life. We certainly have no proof that there is survival beyond the grave. When somebody dies, what are we left with? A few photographs, a few letters, some of their personal effects and the dust of their previous existence blowing through an empty room, I once heard a story, a true story I am led to believe, of a devout and holy man who in the closing years of his life lost all power of memory and had physically deteriorated to the point where he required full time nursing. Yet such was the power of his spirit that he gave inspiration and transformed the lives of others until his death.
The religious life demands a leap of faith; trust in the present moment that all will be well, 'blessed are those who believe and have not seen' says Jesus but scientific inquiry wants to put its fingers in the holes of the wound; or put another way, simply to peel back the existing layers and to discover what lies behind the previous layer but what do we ever find? More layers like a continuing game of pass the parcel. Sometimes this searching is presented in the publication of yet another historically researched book or a biography on the past life of a prominent or exceptional person but in the end it always comes down to the same thing; opinion.
We are left then, always to make up our own minds to even create our own reality because the truth is not always apparent, all our searching and looking, our weighing up of the evidence will always be inconclusive and unsatisfactory because there will always be new evidence or new doubts that come along, like new theories of who this Jesus was or wasn't what he looked like and what his exact age was when he died: whether indeed he existed at all.
We are certain of his existence, in this sense, not because of any scientific truth but because the words attributed to Jesus find a resonance within the depths of our own being. The deep spiritual words found in the gospel of John are interpreted to speak to each of us, for there is a real power in these words, "I am the way the truth and the life" You cannot enter this life without following the example of Jesus, Jesus personifies that self-giving love, which is the love of God and we are promised that by taking this road we can achieve much as Jesus said, "I tell you the solemn truth, the person who believes in me will perform the miraculous deeds that I am doing, and will perform greater deeds than these, because I am going to the Father." If the language is difficult to grasp the meaning is clear, that the way, the truth and the life is a road open to anyone. The one great truth is the love that is the source of all things and to know that love and to live in that love is to live spiritually, and in this sense without doubt, to live faithfully and truly. "I am the way the truth and the life."