Dwelling Place

Broad Brook Congregational Church

May 18, 2014

Fifth Sunday of Easter

John 14:1-14

 

Dwelling Place

 

Good-byes are hard; difficult; fraught with emotion. Good-byes are part of our everyday lives.They can happen as a result of relocation; break up of relationships;

loss of a loved one or beloved pet; a change of job (of course, depending on the situation good-bye might be a time of rejoicing). Generally good-byes are hard.

They can be temporary or permanent. Farewell speeches can be short and to the point or long and exquisitely beautiful as is the one Jesus delivers to his much loved disciples;of which we only heard a small portion from today’s lectionary.

 

My brother-in-law is so distressed by good-byes that even at the end of a phone conversation he will not say good-bye as though it might be permanent.

He says “bye for now.”

I fined myself not wanting to upset him And so I say “take care” rather than good-bye.

 

This morning, in our Gospel lesson, Jesus is continuing with his good-bye speech to his disciples. A speech that began back in Ch. 13. Now, Jesus is attempting to tie up loose ends; coaxing his disciples, giving them reminders, and offering reassurances that they will not be left on their own but the Holy Spirit will be sent to help them.

 

Jesus was not the only one to have a farewell speech recorded in the Bible.

In Genesis 49; Joshua 22-24; 1 Chronicles 28-29, and all of Deuteronomy

We can find the good-bye speeches of Jacob, Joshua, David, and Moses.

Like his predecessors, Jesus is addressing not only those present but also future hearers of his words; like us.

 

The flavor of Jesus good-bye is that of a love letter of sorts. Yet, Jesus’ words of love, promise, godhouseand care often go unnoticed because of verse 6.

“…I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me?”

For today I will simply acknowledge that it is often interpreted in ways that distort its central theological claim. Thus it has become a very troublesome verse, and I will leave that discussion for another sermon.

 

Today I want to focus on the love and hope that is so much a part of this farewell speech, and in particular verse 2. “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you That I go to prepare a place for you?”

 

This is a very familiar verse; One that is almost exclusively Used as part of a good-bye speech at funerals— to provide hope and comfort to those left behind. Jesus was providing hope and comfort to his disciples who would be left behind. But I wonder if there isn’t another way to also understand “dwelling place?”

 

On first reading it is easy enough to hear Jesus talking about eternal dwelling places; especially since the word “go” is departure language; referring to Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. This appears to be Jesus’ loving words of hope offered to his disciples. Although he will soon say good-bye to them

He will come and take them to himself at a future time.

 

However, reading the text from the viewpoint that Jesus is referring only to believers’ heavenly homeslimits the meaning of what Jesus is trying to convey.

The phrase: “Father’s house” continues to express the theme of hospitality[1]

begun with Jesus washing the feet of his disciples in chapter 13. Moreover, The Fourth Evangelist uses “dwell” as a metaphor for the relationship between Jesus and God.

The metaphors: “…I am in the Father and the Father is in me” and “…the Father who dwells in me” are expressed in verse 10. Here, Jesus is promising the disciples and the believers that they will share in that relationship. Jesus’ departure opens the door to new possibilitiesfor understanding and experiencing relationship with God.

godhouse2

“Don’t let this throw you. You trust God, don’t you? Trust me. There is plenty of room in my Father’s home. If that weren’t so, would I have told you that I’m on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I’m on my way to get your room ready, I’ll come back and get you so you can live where I live (Message, John 14:1-4).”

 

Jesus, through his death and resurrection, reconciled the world to God. If Jesus dwells in God and Jesus promises that we can live where he lives Then we too dwell in God. Not just in the future but NOW! What awesome news that is for us. God is SO big that there is room for everyone.

 

Jesus opened this section of the farewell speech saying: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me (John 14:1).”

So what would free our hearts from trouble- from distress, from agitation?

Jesus’ one answer in contrast to the world’s multitude of answers is simple.

Believe in God and Jesus. In other words stand strong and ground your faith in God.

Martin Luther says: “God is what you hang your heart upon.”[2]Hanging our heart on worldly things will not soothe a troubled heart.Jesus tells his disciples who are struggling with deep uncertainty, to hang their hearts on God and on him. God is strong enough and big enough to take on our troubled hearts. There is roominess in God. Room to dwell in God through our risen Savior, Jesus Christ.

We hear the words: “God is love (1John 4:8).” Jesus not only tells us of God’s love for us; but also pours God’s love out on and for US. God was revealed in Jesus Christ.

Through that revelation, Jesus tells us that God has not chosen to be God

WITHOUT US!

 

We have a dwelling place in God.That dwelling place is in the PRESENT not just in the future.

 

Our loving hopeful Easter message for this Sunday is: God will always have room for us.“Love never ends…(1 Corinthians 13:8).” God’s promise to love us, To make room for us to dwell in that love, Not only in the future But NOWwill never end!

 

In the greatest of hope and love, I offer my thoughts on a new way to understand “dwelling place”. Amen

 

 

[1] The New Interpreter’s Study Bible, New Revised Standard Version with Apochrypha, Abingdon Press, 2003, pg 1937.

[2] See Paul Lehmann’s discussion in The Decalogue and a Human Future (Grand

Rapids:Eerdmans, 1995)