Sunday Sermon May 10, 2020

I have come to realize that my video for Sunday did not post to Facebook. Right now, I am on my 3rd attempt to upload it. I thought it had successfully uploaded only to learn that it did not. Here is the written text for the sermon. The video should follow if Facebook starts working right for me. Happy Mother’s Day a little late.


John 14:1-14

“A Place Called Home”


Now I know that life is different for everyone, but I think it likely that when most of us think about the word home, it evokes a particular place, time, feeling, and perhaps most importantly certain people.


My mind easily wonders to memories of my grandmother and parents. My grandmother was a fastidious housekeeper. She had a strong German background and was very particular about how everything was kept. We always used to say that you could just about eat off her basement floor, but that is not to say anything bad about her. Her home was always our location for our big family Thanksgiving Day meal. All the sons and daughters and grandchildren on that side of the family would gather together for the meal, conversation, and the football game –and an extra piece of pumpkin pie. I am still trying to replicate the way she cooked up the green beans. Being clean didn’t mean that the family wasn’t welcome. She loved her children and grandchildren. Every year she handcrafted a new ornament to put on the Christmas tree for each of us and often she let us try out her new dessert creations. In truth, I sort of admired the cleanliness of her house.


This being Mother’s Day you have to give credit to those good examples of Grandmothers and Mother’s for the love and attention that they spent on their family. In the Reader’s Digest, Roderick McFarlane once wrote about something his grandmother said on their Golden wedding anniversary. “My grandmother revealed the secret of her long and happy marriage.” She said, “On my wedding day, I decided to choose ten of my husband’s faults which, for the sake of our marriage, I would overlook,” she explained. A guest asked her to name some of the faults. “To tell the truth,” she replied, “I never did get around to listing them. But whenever my husband did something that made me hopping mad, I would say to myself, ‘Lucky for him that’s one of the ten.'”   Roderick McFarlane, in Reader’s Digest, December, 1992


Sometimes life is like that. My Mom certainly exercised her share of patience with my Dad at times and certainly with us. I think Mom felt like she did enough cleaning when she was growing up, and so she wasn’t quite as particular as my grandmother. Our home wasn’t cluttered. My Dad’s number one rule seemed to be if you borrow something when you are done, you put it back in its place, but sometimes the dog or cat did get to hang out on the couch with us, and eating while watching the TV was not always prohibited.


It was a good home. A space to live and belong, and that was something that never really changed even after I grew up, got married, and started my own family. I moved out and things changed, but I knew I always could visit, and Mom would always have a meal ready. As long as my parents were around, there was always a place called home. This was largely the effect and work of my Mom. It was her joy to have us and to welcome us -her sons, daughter-in-laws, and grandchildren.


Home –There are those rare moments and places that resonate as the place where we belong. There are the ones around us who create and affirm that belonging. This being Mother’s Day I think it fair to argue that certainly Moms are usually a big part of that belonging. A cartoon in the Saturday Evening Post showed a young boy about five or six years old talking on the telephone, he says, “Mom is in the hospital, the twins and Roxie and Billie and Sally and the dog and me and Dad are all home alone.”


What is it that makes a place a home? Most likely it is a bit different for everyone, but probably the idea of home means something to most of us. It might be a place of our past, the place where we are at, or something beyond this life. Maybe it is a place we hope to create or someday find.


I think in part this concept of home and belonging is at the heart of our scripture for today. The text is part of Jesus farewell words as he is with the disciples during the Last Supper. He knows that his time with them is limited, Jesus reassures his disciples that his absences is not the end of their hopes and belonging. It is not the end but rather the beginning.


In this time, Jesus makes three statements that are rather remarkable and maybe a little hard to understand.


First, he tells them that he is going to prepare a place for them. He says that in my Father’s house are many dwelling places. The old translation out of the King James uses the term mansions. The NIV translates that word to rooms which probably makes the most sense, because houses have rooms. (After all how are we to understand mansions inside a house?) Generally, the word for mansion or dwelling place refers to a place to abide. Maybe we should just translate the word to home. The paraphrase version of the living Bible puts it this way, “John 14:2 (TLB) 2  There are many homes up there where my Father lives, and I am going to prepare them for your coming.” Maybe that is about right. In the waning moments of Jesus time with his disciples I think he was promising them not just a motel room or even a mansion, but he was promising them a home. There is a place with God to which you belong and always will. There is a place that in God’s heart will be incomplete without you -an eternal place called home.

Now I know that this text is often used at funerals, but I think it is really good to know at any time that God has a place for us that we can call home. That is what Jesus was telling his disciples, and Jesus was take on the role of being the host. Like Mom does when she gets your room ready and tells you that there is some leftover meatloaf and mash potatoes in the refrigerator for you, and don’t forget the apple pie if you would like.


Heck yeah, who wouldn’t want that. This is home! This past week I picked up one of those free publications you find in some restaurants. In it was piece written by a clergy member on one side and on the other a person who identified them self as an atheist. The question they both were answering was, “Is there life after death.” Of course, the clergy member argued for the reality of life after death, and the atheist basically argued that when a person dies, he or she simply ceases to exist.

It is worth considering that when Jesus considered this question his response was that you get to go home. Jesus had no doubt what-so-ever that there was life after death. He also made two other statements that I find relevant.


When Philip questioned Jesus about this plan and took the most obvious interpretation in wanting directions for how to get to this new home, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”


This statement leans us toward the fact that heaven as well as home has more to do with the people then the place. It is not so much a question of being a destination as it a question of relationships. Sometimes people get stuck on the all exclusive nature of Jesus statement. That is to say, the question is raised, if a person is not a Christian then does that mean that they are not saved?


Karl Barth was once lecturing to a group of students at Princeton. One student asked the German theologian “Sir, don’t you think that God has revealed himself in other religions and not only in Christianity?” Barth’s answer stunned the crowd. With a modest thunder he answered, “No, God has not revealed himself in any religion, including Christianity. He has revealed himself in his Son.” Now in some ways that doesn’t fully answer the question and I really am not going to do so presently, but it does make the point that I am trying to get at. What Jesus statement is telling us is that the way home is not a direction or a destination, but a person and a relationship.


A Sunday School teacher asked her second graders: “How many of you would like to go to heaven?” All of them raised their hands except one little boy who sadly said, “I’m sorry, but my Mom told me to come right home after Sunday School.”


If home and heaven is a relationship then that child had it figured right. Home and even heaven really is that place of love and calling.


The last point I want to look at is where Jesus told his disciples that they would do greater works them him and said, “If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.” This is another difficult text to understand when taken at face value. We know that God does not simply fulfill our every wish like some magical genie.


Rather, I think this is one of Jesus teaching statements. The statement is phrased in such a way that it causes us to hear it, think about it, and wonder about it. A lot of times Jesus would tell people things and he was speaking in hyperbole; that is in an exaggerated fashion to make a point. His words were fully intended to cause people to engage their minds and hearts and have to consider what difference such a thought might make in their own lives. In the process, we end up finding ourselves drawn closer to God. “If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.” Think about it. It is like someone giving you a blank check. The possibilities that our prayers in Jesus name will be answered according to what we ask is a tantalizing thought. Perhaps I should be careful about what I pray for. Maybe I need to spend time coming to know God’s will for my life better. Should I waste the opportunity for changing my world, and waste God’s time on small and insignificant matters? What if it is really true that God will hear and answer me when I pray? If that is the fact then I am never alone. I am never without infinite resources. I am never without a moment of victory no matter how desperate my earthly situation.


The point to all of this is the same. If the name of Jesus is powerful and effective within this life, then I am connected to someone mighty. That relationship that calls me home, connects me to life and God, also draws me toward a new and different life in the here and now.


It is about a place called home and the eternal resources of what God has made available to me.


How much of who I am do I have to credit my Mother and Father for? Now for me, I know that there is a lot of mother in me. Not only is there the genetics, but there is also the character and example of her life impressed upon mine. That which I have grown to be and found good and reasonable to make a part of myself.


Well when we pray in the name of Jesus, we are entering into a relationship. The presence and the life of Christ is being extended into our world through us. There is no magic in our prayers being answered, but there is an active relationship with God being lived out. I am grafted with the spiritual genetics of heaven and growing into the likeness of Christ.


So this Mother’s Day let the idea of home get into your thoughts and lives. What is home to you really. Maybe you might feel like you don’t have an Earthly home anymore or maybe you never really did. But if you can imagine home in a good way, know that that is where God is calling you and that is to what God is calling you to be part of. Not just in the hereafter, but in the here and now. Like a mother that never quits loving her children so Jesus is always making room for you to live and be in God’s presence. This is a connection for today that will carry us through and always carry us home. Amen.


Published by Rev. Russell

Pastor at the Lake City United Methodist Church in Lake City, Michigan.

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