Friday, June 23, 2017

On Being Prepared

John 14: 1-14
I have stayed in some pretty classy five-star hotels in my travels throughout the years.  I can say that they are prepared for me!  From the crisp white clean sheets and towels to the fruit basket with local fresh fruit that’s so delicious you know you are welcome.  And then, when you return from your day’s adventures to the museums or local café’s your bed is turned down and there is a luscious little chocolate mint waiting for you on your pillow.   One hotel in Costa Rica was really creative in that the chamber maid folded very cute little animals out of clean hand towels and left them on your bed to greet you.

And then I have stayed in some questionable hotels and motels where the veneer is peeling off of the furniture, the lampshades were askew and there is some mold in the crevices of the tile in the shower making you want to run to Target first to get a supply of antiseptic wipes.  One place, as I was getting ready to go to sleep, I laid in bed and watched a gecko scurry across the ceiling only to pounce on a spider that had been unknowingly resting on the far side of the ceiling.  I prayed that night as I finally drifted very slowly and cautiously off to sleep that whatever makes a spider and a gecko stick to the ceiling would not unhinge that particular night.  It was creepy.  Places like there are not as prepared to greet their guests with a fine welcome that makes you want to leisure in the hotel room.

I’m sure you have all had experiences with great accommodations and some that are less than stellar.  It’s deceiving when choosing your lodging because what you see on the internet is not always what you get.   In the hotel business being prepared for your customers is of utmost importance.  It says we care about you and your comfort and want to make your stay the most comfortable and pleasant as it can be.

In the grand scheme of the Gospel of John our scripture reading today falls just after Jesus washes his disciples feet and foretells his betrayal, so it is actually a pre Easter passage.  The disciples have questions, they have fears, they have doubts about their own mortality and in this farewell discourse Jesus attempts to show them how to live once he is gone and to convince them that, in the words of Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.”  He also let’s them know that he is preparing a place for them too in the very same place that he is going.  Let us hear those comforting words in the Gospel….

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 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? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.

Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

The disciple’s hearts are very sad and perplexed.  They have come to the realization that their time on earth with Jesus is limited now. Thomas asks, ‘Lord, we just don’t understand where you are going, how can we know this?’  And then Philip also questions Jesus, ‘Lord, just show us the [father] meaning, God.  Just show us and then we can understand and be satisfied.  Their hearts were truly unsettled and troubled.  They know he is leaving but they don’t understand to where he is going nor what is happening next.

So Jesus endeavors to prepare them as best as he could.  But first he consoles them, don’t let your hearts be heavy or burdened, don’t let them be troubled, I’ll tell you where I’m going and where you’ll eventually wind up too.  So while Jesus is talking about where he is going he is talking about their mortality too.  Just believe, Jesus says, just believe.

Then as we look deeper into this passage we see he lays it all out before them, the destination, the travel agent, the accommodations, the directions and who will be greeting them when they get there! This is much better than the Lonely Planet or a Rick Steves travel guild can ever foretell.

The destination is his ‘father’s house’ or in other words, he’s going home to God.  He is saying that we are going to live and dwell in the eternal presence of God for that is home.  If you have ever travelled with little ones on board you know they ask a lot of questions like are we there yet, and where are going?  It’s important to know where you are headed.  Jesus ultimately goes back ‘home’ and there he will wait and prepare for their arrival too.  God’s eternal presence is our inheritance too, it is our ultimate destination.

Jesus tries to make it as pastorally compassionate and direct as possible for them.  Clearly he’s the travel agent!  Jesus is handling this, he’s got their backs.  ‘Believe me, you believe in God so believe in me.  Live in my ways that is to live into each day as a gift and blessing from God and to live into the truth of who we are as God’s beloved and named children.  When it comes to our eternal destination we must trust in God that we will get to that divine presence.

Jesus was preparing not only a home with many rooms, one for each of them.  The accommodations!  No matter what that might look like, our room will be prepared for us probably without those little mints and also without the geckos but it will be grand.  This eternal dwelling place will meet and go way far beyond our expectations, how can it not?  I’ve know many people who have gone there and have not returned, so it’s gotta be great!  Our hearts need not be troubled any longer. 

And the directions.  Well the disciples may not have known what Jesus was talking about but it’s clear that they are to follow Jesus because he knows the way.  It’s like finding a good tour guide that will show you how to get into the museum’s or who will help you trek off the beaten path only to receive a grand view that you might never have seen if you had stuck with the ‘tourist map’.  You follow because Jesus knows already the way.  Could there be other ways, certainly but Jesus for our purposes and our Christian belief is the way.  He is our guide, our model, our GPS system that never drops in poorly receptive areas.

And of course, God and Christ Jesus will be waiting for us.  Much like the prodigal son whose life was lived in questionable ways, and who returns home after being gone for so long, he is greeted lavishly by his father with the fatted calf of forgiveness and love.  God awaits and we have that promise through the forgiving work of Jesus Christ. 

This entire passage for today is our assurance of what is ahead of each one of us as we live in the present reality knowing that living and dying are intrinsically bound together.

Death has got to be the saddest reality of our living.  It makes me sad to think of losing my parents so very long ago, it horrifies and saddens me to think that I could loose one of my children and it saddens me to think about my own mortality because, you know what? I love life! I love my life and what I choose to do with it.  So it is in sad and distressing moments, when I think about the reality of life and death, that the words of Jesus become powerful words of hope, “Let not your heart be troubled”. 

Let not your heart be troubled, you will make it through the night, you will be able to face the day, you are loved and redeemed from your sorrow, God’s ceaseless presence is prepared for you.

These words also encourage me to live boldly today and be grateful for the gift that today really is and for the wonderful blessings that are before me.  In the words of departed Pauline Blaney when I would see her coming in to church, “today is a bonus day!” meaning she knew that she was living with the end in sight and she was going to make the absolute best out of each day.  She was prepared to die into the eternal presence of God and God, was waiting with open arms to greet her.  Christ’s room that he prepared for her was ready.

The only time that we have is right before us so it bids us to live, to cherish and appreciate, to be content and to be grateful in the moment, and to love deeply, dearly, and compassionately.  To enjoy the people around us as other children of God.  To make this world a better place through compassion and justice.

I want to share some reflections of Henri Nouwen, Catholic priest and author,

“The love with which we lived our lives is the life of God within us.  It is the divine, indestructible core of our being.  This love not only will remain but will also bear fruit from generation to generation…..

How we leave others depends largely on how we prepare ourselves for death.  When we can die with grateful hearts, grateful to God and our families and friends, our deaths can become sources of life for others.

And so it is.  Our living can be a source of life for others just by living today as an abundant blessing of God’s love.  Now don’t let you heart be troubled, there is way too much living to be had for today.  Let us be grateful for our very lives and live them as a blessing to others.


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