Where Jesus Is

John 14:3 – May 14, 2017

John 14-3 prepare a place, words

“Where Jesus Is”

Home. There’s no place like home.

I know this feeling is not true for all people, but it’s very true for many, many people, around the world. Many of us have a deep craving to go home, to be comfortable, with familiar people we know and love. Have you ever felt this way? Have you ever been away from home for a long time, and returned at last? Perhaps felt the satisfaction, the relief, the deep-down joy at being in your own hometown again? In your own neighborhood, on those familiar streets once more? And especially, in your own bed?

That is one of the deep emotions our Lord Jesus taps into in today’s passage from the Gospel of John, chapter 14. It is the evening of the Passover Dinner, the Last Supper. He knows His time on this earth is almost over. Jesus gives His disciples as much reassurance as possible. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?”

A place, especially for you. That heartfelt feeling of “home” is something that goes deep, indeed. Sure, many people grow up at home. Families are at home. Beloved pets are at home. Even all of our stuff is oftentimes at home.

Remember the movie “The Wizard of Oz”? That MGM mega-blockbuster made in 1939 had Dorothy, played by Judy Garland, singing a song early in the movie about what she imagined about a special place for her. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” was almost cut from the finished movie by MGM, because they thought that it slowed down the pace of the movie.

This longing, this yearning for a home somewhere far away, somewhere over the rainbow, is deep within the human psyche. As commentator Chris Lohrstorfer says, ““Somewhere over the Rainbow” encapsulates our own wandering heart’s desire for a promised land of rest and restoration. It speaks to our hope – our need for somewhere else.” [1]

The disciples, Jesus’s friends, often did not understand what He was about. They did not get it. Again and again we see how much they did not understand what He said. How often do we misunderstand the words of Jesus, too?

In retrospect, we can look at certain passages in the Bible and say to ourselves, “Oh, of course Jesus meant that when He preached to the people!” Or, “Naturally, Jesus was saying thus and so when He spoke to the disciples in that way!” Remember our Gospel passage for today: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?”

Also remember, the Rabbi Jesus had been an itinerant Rabbi for three years. That meant that Jesus had no permanent residence. He had no home! In Matthew 8 and the parallel passage in Luke 9, “Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.’”

Is anyone here familiar with that feeling? Not having a permanent place of residence?

One of my daughters is recently without a permanent residence. Earlier this year, she moved from her small apartment out east back here to Chicago—for some of the time. She sold the bulk of her furniture and put the small remainder in her father’s basement. She has a great job! But, she does not have a regular office to go into, and not even a place to stay permanently.

My daughter’s arrangement is a whole different concept for me! Imagine, being a temporary visitor in a place. Several people I know are resident aliens. Citizens of another country, they live here in the United States for an extended time. With school visas or work visas, they often cannot live here permanently. True, they can learn, go to school, go to work and provide for their families and loved ones, and go about all the other activities involved with living a full life, but they cannot have a full, deep sense of “home.” There’s no place like home, as Dorothy said.

Here in John 14, we hear Jesus letting the disciples know He understood them, deeply, intimately, completely. We know Jesus can understand us and our problems, too. He knows every tear that falls, even those silent and sorrowful tears that redden our eyes late at night. He knows all the pains and suffering that can come into our lives day by day (even out of the clear blue sky, like what happened to Lill).

One of my blogging friends, Marilyn, is a registered nurse who grew up as the daughter of missionaries to Asia. Marilyn has lived in a number of countries overseas and can speak several languages. She sometimes blogs about that elusive feeling of “home” that Third Culture Kids (like her) feel strongly. Some Third Culture Kids (now TCK adults) never have a permanent place of residence for very long, because they and their expatriate parents are so often on the move.

Yes, it is good to get comfy, take off your shoes, and have a cup of hot chocolate or steaming coffee or a cool iced tea. For others, finding “home” can be more difficult. So often, we look diligently for that elusive “home.” And, it is not always obvious or nearby. There is a yearning for it deep in the heart, so much like that yearning Dorothy had for a place somewhere over the rainbow.

Certain people do not associate warm, loving, caring things with their concept of “home.” With serious things in some lives like desperately hurt feelings, challenging people, awkward situations, and less than optimal living conditions, some people would rather not think of a specific place called “home.” I can see how they might feel really conflicted. Painful, even agonizing situations, unkind and uncaring people, places and things: sad and sorry, indeed.

However, Jesus shows us that finding that place called “home” is often not a place, but a relationship.  The next verse, from John 14: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

See? Jesus is not leaving His disciples all alone. Jesus understood about “home.” He understands our deep need for rest and restoration. He promised to get a place ready for us!

Jesus shares with us – His home, His inheritance, His position. We now are “children of God.” Can you imagine the great love that speaks to us? [2]

This is not only good news, this is great news! The absolutely best news that anyone could ever have delivered to them. We do know for sure, because Jesus tells us in these verses, that God will be with us and take care of us after we die.  So, we and every person we love who dies are okay. [3]

Today, on this Mother’s Day, we all can look forward to finally going home, where Jesus is. Where Jesus has gotten everything ready for us. Where there will be no more crying, no more tears, no more fighting or wars or conflict of any kind. Jesus has promised! Such Good News.

Alleluia! Amen.

[1] http://wbs.edu/2016/06/theres-no-place-like-home/, Dr. Chris Lohrstorfer

[2] http://wbs.edu/2016/06/theres-no-place-like-home/, Dr. Chris Lohrstorfer

[3] http://worshipingwithchildren.blogspot.com/2014/03/year-the-fifth-sunday-of-easter-may-18.html 

Worshiping with Children, Easter 5A, Including children in the congregation’s worship, using the Revised Common Lectionary, Carolyn C. Brown, 2014.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my regular blog for 2017: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and my other blog,  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!)

If anyone would like to check out my blogging friend Marilyn’s blog, here is one of my all-time-favorite posts of hers: https://communicatingacrossboundariesblog.com/2015/09/28/stupid-phrases-for-people-in-crisis/

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The Call of Wisdom (Repost)

(I was away from the pulpit and St. Luke’s Church this morning, so I did not preach a sermon. However, here is a sermon from some years ago. This uses the Old Testament text for today, Trinity Sunday: Proverbs 8:1-4.)

“The Call of Wisdom”

Prov 8 wisdom better than rubies

Proverbs 8:1-5

One of my very favorite movies is “The Wizard of Oz.” In it, three of the main characters are personifications of qualities within each and every person. I’m sure you remember the Tim Woodman, the Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow. The Tin Woodman wanted a heart more than anything, because he wanted to be able to love. The Cowardly Lion wanted courage, since he was such a scaredy cat, he was afraid of his own shadow. And the Scarecrow wanted a brain, because he wanted to have good ideas and to think deep thoughts.

Here in this passage we just read today from Proverbs, we have another personification. Wisdom is seen as a woman, and not just any woman. Wisdom is seen as a giving person, as an open-handed person. She is at the crossroads, or important intersections, and at the gates of the town, where the town business takes place, calling like a herald. She is waiting and willing to give out wisdom and understanding to anyone who comes by!

If anyone is simple, or needs instruction, prudence or understanding, Lady Wisdom freely offers the gift of wisdom to anyone who will stop and accept it.

Which of us lacks intelligence sometimes? Which of us stumbles and makes mistakes every now and then, or sometimes even more often than that? Here, Lady Wisdom makes her offer of understanding and intelligence to anyone. “To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live.”

There’s a complication, though. I’m sure you’ve known people who seem to know simply everything. Know-it-alls, that’s the only name for them. You can’t tell them anything, they won’t listen to anyone, they aren’t in the least teachable, and they go their own way. They wouldn’t even have the slightest interest in Lady Wisdom’s offer of wisdom, mostly because they’re so busy dispensing what “wisdom” they think they have to other people who haven’t even asked for it.

Let’s face it. It’s not only the know-it-alls who could use some wisdom from outside. Many of us today lack wisdom, and don’t even know it. Humanity’s situation is almost like a horse, wearing blinders. From what I understand, a horse is perfectly happy wearing blinders. Blinders don’t hurt a horse, but they very much restrict what a horse can see. That’s awfully limiting!! Not being able to see the whole picture, but forced to see only what’s straight ahead of you!  Not even knowing that I lack wisdom, or prudence, or understanding is a really tough situation. But it’s a real situation, one that many, many people are in today.

Let’s look at what the book of Proverbs says about foolish people, as opposed to wise people. Here’s a representative list from the first several chapters of the book: fools are called lazy, sluggards, lying, dishonest, ignorant, knowing nothing, complacent, and ignoring wisdom.

That description is pretty negative! Even mean and nasty! That’s one thing about the book of Proverbs. It doesn’t pull any punches. When the authors of Proverbs see something the matter, they name it. They call it as they see it, to use a baseball analogy. There’s nothing ambiguous or wavering about the word picture drawn by Proverbs.

What can be done about this situation? Is it hopeless?

The Epistle of James sheds some light on the subject of wisdom. Looking at Chapter 1, verse 5, let’s listen to the words from the Apostle: “If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.” So here, in the book of James, we have God making the offer of wisdom, again!

So, not only do we see a personification of Lady Wisdom in Proverbs 8, waiting for us, urging us to reach out for wisdom, but here in the book of James, God wants us to ask for wisdom! God is more than willing to give it. The Apostle James says that God gives to all, generously and ungrudgingly! That’s good news!

So, even when we’re faced with new, unknown circumstances or a different kind of puzzle, we do have somewhere to turn. We can go to God, pray to God for wisdom and understanding, and God will come through! He will not leave us alone and helpless, struggling in a pool of foolishness.

Can any of us imagine the Scarecrow in “The Wizard of Oz” NOT asking for a brain? That’s one great thing about that character! He wasn’t afraid to ask. He wasn’t shy. And neither should we be. We can certainly step right up and ask! And God gives to all, generously and ungrudgingly.

This free, gracious offer of wisdom can serve as a guide through difficult and puzzling cirecumstances. We can see that God is with us, and will be there for us through thick and thin, through the good times and the not-so-good times.

Whenever we’re uncertain, puzzled, in need of wisdom, God has made us the best offer of all–the offer of His wisdom. Praise God we have such a good and generous God, Who so willingly and lovingly gives us generous gifts and guides us along every winding road.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my regular blog for 2016: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. and my other blog,  A Year of Being Kind .  Thanks!)