May 14, 2017 – Home on the Road

Easter 5   May 14, 2017   Psalm 84, 1 John 4:13-16, John 14:1-14 (NRSV and The Message)          Home on the Road


How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! The psalmist says.

In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places, Jesus says. “If it wasn’t so – why would I have told you– I go to prepare a place for you?”…and…

All our readings today are about living with Jesus, living with God… (Even the big hairy-gorilla-questions Jesus raises – when he tells us ‘we’ll be doing even greater things than he does’ – and tells us again – ‘whatever we ask in his name for the Father’s glory will be done for us.’ Even these mysterious sayings, at the end of the day, are all about living with Jesus…)

But – if it’s all about living with Jesus – all about ‘how lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord’ – why then does Jesus need to tell us “Don’t let your hearts be troubled?

Well… (to be sure…) we’re not exactly traveling in a straight line in recent weeks – as we’ve gone from Easter resurrection… back into the middle of John’s gospel…Looking again at what Jesus has said and done before Easter… but looking now in the light of his resurrection…

And now as we hear Jesus say, “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” we may remember he’s giving his last farewell teaching for his followers. His soul has been deeply troubled, we’ve heard, just a few verses before where we begin today, as Judas Iscariot leaves the last supper to go and betray him.

But here’s Jesus, telling the rest of his disciples not to be troubled. “Believe in God, believe also in me.”

Jesus knows, though his disciples haven’t yet realized… He’s going to die the next day…The disciples don’t understand. But they must sense something terrible in the air… As Jesus says ‘In my Father’s house there’s many dwelling places… I’m going to prepare a place for you.’ The disciples may be feeling their world shaking, like in an earthquake, as Jesus lets them know he’s leaving… Even though he’s trying to be comforting, telling us he’s going before us, to prepare a dwelling place for us.

In my Father’s house,” Jesus says, “there are many dwelling places.”

There’s plenty of room for you in my Father’s home,” we hear it said in The Message translation.

In my Father’s house there are many mansions,” we have heard from of old, in the King James Version. (Noting that in the early 1600s when the King James Bible was first published, the word mansion just meant “dwelling place.”) It was only in later years that the word mansion began to mean a very large palatial residence…prompting poets to visualize heaven accordingly… I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop – In that bright land where we’ll never grow old… And someday yonder, we’ll never more wander… But walk on streets that are purest gold…

Probably it’s best not to be expecting gold faucets on every sink and bathtub in our Father’s house. We really don’t know – but – it’s always good to have humble expectations. Still, I can’t help liking the sound of “many mansions in my Father’s house… and… I’m going to prepare one for you…”

I don’t have a hanker for silver and gold in my heavenly dwelling place – but I do like the idea of plenty of room for each of us in God’s household… I love being with other people; and I also love having a quiet place to be alone with God.

But of course Jesus isn’t really describing the size, color, or any other specifics of our ultimate physical surroundings. Jesus is talking about making plenty of room for us to live with him wherever we are. And he’s not speaking only (or probably even mostly) just about life after death… Since one of the biggest themes of John’s gospel is that eternal life has already begun, soon as we start trusting in Jesus. Jesus tells us in John 11 anyone who trusts in me will never die… And even if they die, they will live forever.

And we need to keep learning Jesus’ patterns of speech – and figures of speech in John’s gospel…Where misunderstanding Jesus is also a mega-theme. Disciples always need Jesus-language-lessons, no matter what translation we use. As there’s always more cultural translation work to be done, for every context.

Jesus says ‘I’ll come and get you, and where I’m going, you will be there too. And you already know the way to where I’m going.’ Disciples don’t like the sound of this ‘I’m going away’ phrase. Thomas says “Lord, we have no idea where you’re going – how can we possibly know the way?’ and–

I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” Jesus says…. (Or – )

I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life.” Either translation works. But either way…

Saying “I am The Road” (or “I am The Way”) paints a rather different word-picture for me than saying ‘I go to prepare a place for you – a Mansion – a Dwelling Place – or a Room with a View.”

And here’s Jesus, again, mixing metaphors…And it can be hard to keep up…

Hearing Jesus say “I go to prepare a place for you” I start remembering the  Beatles singing, “There’s a place – where I can go – When I feel down – when I feel low…”

Then there he goes in another direction, saying “I am the Way” – (“I am the Road”)…and now I start hearing “On the road again, I just can’t wait to get on the road again…”

Even though in real life I usually don’t really feel much like being on the road…

Still, I suppose… If Jesus is traveling…I’ll probably be thinking of traveling too…       And I’ve been remembering friends of ours, an elderly retired couple, Dick and Jane Davenny, from Reah’s sister and mother’s church in metro Seattle, who, even well into their ‘80’s, liked to spend much of the year in their RV, going from one Methodist Volunteers in Mission site to another… Working a few weeks on a project here, then another project down the road…Painting, repairing houses, fixing things, doing whatever needs doing to help neighbors in need… Working and praying with other church folk from around the country… And they’d often talk about how delightful their lifestyle was… On the road with Jesus…

We had parishioners in Vermont with the same outlook…Maretta and David, who probably still spend winters in their RV in the South, working on projects with Mennonite volunteers. Fixing houses half a day, visiting friends or seeing sights the rest of the day. Wherever they were, saying with the psalmist –

How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!

And even if we stick close to home we can still be on the road with Jesus. Because the Way he speaks of, the Road he embodies, runs right through the middle of all our hearts…

We’re all wired to find joy serving God and one another. As people of God made in the image-of-God, we’re created with hearts made to love God and love one another. Our hearts are shaped by God to be sensitive to others’s needs. St. Augustine said, ‘Our hearts are restless until they rest in you, O Lord.’ Likewise, our hearts are not at rest until we’re working with God for the good of all… All who share this planet with us…

And I’m reminded that St Cyprian of Carthage, a bishop and martyr in the early church, said, “No one can have God as Father who does not have the church as Mother.” When we’re talking about living in the house of God, we’re talking about our Father’s house – and our Mother’s house – together, one house of God.

And if our hearts are troubled, maybe it’s because we know…Christ’s work on earth isn’t done yet… Even within the household of God, we know, not everyone has always been made to feel wholly welcome in Holy Mother the church, the body of Christ.

Now Jesus says it’s our turn to do some of the even greater things he’s been talking about today. Time for our us and all the people of God made in the image-of-God – to do the greater things that even Jesus and the apostles and saints… haven’t yet been able to complete…

Jesus calls us to do the greater things that we can now do together. Because Jesus says we are with him – and he’s with us – and God is with us all – and together we can do still greater things – together we can help Jesus make the church – and even the world itself – a place where there’s room for everyone…

A place where, together, we all can say, every day –

How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!

And we really can do all this – because – this is exactly the work Jesus asks us – to ask him – to do, together with him… all the way to heaven.

And all the way to heaven is heavenly….

When we’re on the road with Jesus…

Thanks be to God.