Rector's Ramblings: May 10th 2020

 

 

Today’s gospel (or at least the first 6 verses) is so familiar to us from hearing it as a favourite reading at funeral services. It is easy to see why it is of such comfort at times of bereavement. However, it means that we hear it only as saying we go to be with our Father in heaven when we die. We miss so much when we limit Jesus’ words solely to what happens when we die. These words hold much more for us than that.

  Jesus’ words are lovely ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me’. Such compassion. He’s in the upper room with his disciples; he has washed their feet and has told them yet again that he is leaving them. More than that he has said that one of them, one of those closest to him, will betray him! Peter has protested that he will follow Jesus anywhere and been told that he will deny Jesus three times. No wonder they are troubled and upset. Their world is falling apart in front of them. Jesus looks at all the worried faces round the table and moves to comfort them. 

  Would it have been of comfort to them if they had heard Jesus as saying: ‘It’s OK guys. It is tough and it is all going wrong and you’ll let me down. But you’ll go to heaven when you die –nice place with lots of rooms’? I think not. Jesus wanted to comfort them then and there. I’m not denying the promise of being with our Father when we die, but there is more to Jesus’ words than that. Would we feel it as compassionate if, on pouring out our troubles, we received the advice ‘it’ll be OK at the end of this life and only then’?

   Jesus is opening up something more profound and probably harder for us to grasp. ‘In my Father’s house’ means now as well as then: the word for ‘rooms’ is translated from a word that has the connotation of ‘travel lodge or pit stop’. We are already in the Father’s house as well as on the way to it, staying in staging posts along the way. Jesus has prepared that place for us, not by plumping pillows, but by going the way of the cross. That place has been hard won for us and it is sheer grace. We do not deserve it and we have not earned it by our efforts. All we can do is to say thank you and accept gratefully.

   Poor old Thomas gets lost and echoes our own bewilderment ‘How can we know the way?’ Jesus says those lovely words: ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’. Other teachers pointed people to the way and the truth. Jesus claims he is the way, the truth and the life. He is the bridge whereby human beings, in all their frailty and failing, can come to God – where they can be in the Father and in Jesus, as Jesus is in the Father and the Father in him. This is about a love relationship. Julian of Norwich who I will be talking about in our Zoom service writes of our ‘one-ing’ with God. Absolutely amazing.

   The Christian faith is not, at bottom, believing creeds and dogmas; believing words. We can’t love dogmas and creeds. We might stand by them but not love them. So Jesus, the Word, became flesh. We can love a person.

   John’s is the most mystical of the 4 gospels so we can struggle with his language. We tend to be either/or in our thinking – we’re with Father then and not now, heaven and earth are separate, God over there and us here.  John offers us Jesus’ words which open the truth that in Jesus the divine and human are brought together in his flesh and on the cross. We dwell with God now and are on the journey to dwelling with him more deeply.

     For me then, Jesus’ words are of comfort in the now. I can pour out my heart to him; tell him how it is exactly. I know it doesn’t mean he’ll sort it all out as I might think he should, or as quickly as I might wish. What I do know is that he is with me in it, alongside but also within, and that somehow my life is hidden in Christ’s. I am in my Father’s house already. That doesn’t always come to me in the instant – I can be as bothered as the next person. More and more though I know that the fact that God is with us, that we are enfolded in his love, gives a still centre from which we live. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life – not us. Strangely when we get that, it changes everything. We can then be active in our world from a totally different place: love not fear.

  Tell him how it is for you. Hear his words ‘do not let your hearts be troubled’. Allow him entry which may be in an unexpected way. Ask him to help you to understand more and more what his offer of the way, the truth and the life means for you, for us. We need his help every inch of the way on this journey in his house and to his house. Enjoy.