Good morning, Friends!
Ever since New Year’s, we’ve been reading from the Gospel of John. Today’s reading is especially good for our worship this morning. Jesus is talking to his friends, and Jesus reminds them that God’s house is much bigger than we think it is.
“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? 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. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Thomas said to Jesus, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”John 14:1-7
Usually, when we read this section from John, we’re talking about heaven. “My Father’s house has many rooms. . .I’m going to prepare a place for you.”
Jesus is going up to Heaven to prepare the way for us to join him. Heaven is a big place, much bigger than we can ever imagine. There’ll be room for everyone. We’ll all be welcome! No one who enters to pearly gates will be turned away or sent back. Anything wrong we did here in this life will be forgiven. We’ll be welcomed home, and we can stay forever, and be reunited with all of our loved ones.
It’s a beautiful picture, and it’s one that many of us have placed our hope in. God’s house up in heaven is a beautiful place, and we all long to be there one day. Untroubled, without any of the worry or anxiety that fills our lives now.
God must have a whole lot of angels, putting up additions and extensions for all the people arriving there. Because Jesus never talks about there not being enough room for all his friends. There’s no quota up in Heaven. There’s no waiting list for a place to stay. Jesus has swung the gates open wide, and like the old hymn says, “Whosoever will may come!”
That’s good. That’s beautiful! That’s a heaven we all want to share!
But Jesus always challenges us. Over and over again, Jesus tells us that he wants to bring heaven down to where we are. He says, “Our Father who art in Heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your kingdom come. May your will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven. . .”
Those are the words of the Lord’s Prayer. We all know them. Jesus is saying explicitly, that our prayer should be, for what happens in Heaven, to happen here on earth.
When Jesus started preaching, he said, “The time is now, the kingdom is very near; turn your lives around, and put your trust in this great news!”
Once again, we see, Jesus is saying that what happens in Heaven, should be taking place here on earth. Jesus expects the heavenly way to be come the earthly way. God’s way needs to become our way.
So, if God’s house up in heaven has room for everyone, then I think we need to make our house here on earth as roomy and open as we can. We don’t want to be keeping people out. I’d be thrilled to see every seat full here. I’d be so glad if every classroom would be occupied.
It makes us happy when God’s house is full. A couple of weeks ago, we rejoiced when we had 350 people here at the fish fry. As I pointed out in my sermon, Jesus loved fried fish! Almost every seat was taken down in the fellowship hall. We had a little food left over, but not much. It was glorious!
Last Sunday, we had a special Sunday School session where Javier and Jennifer told their story. We chose the largest classroom, but so many people came that it wasn’t big enough. We kept carrying in extra chairs. We had people standing out in the hallway. We almost had more people in that one crowded Sunday school room than we had that day at worship!
They all came to show our love and support for Javier and Jennifer and their family. We listened to them, and we prayed for them. And I think that all of us felt, “This is the way church ought to be. This is the kind of church I want to belong to! We’re praying for each other, and supporting each other, and it’s real. Let’s be like this!”
For a little while last week, our house became God’s house. And we felt how much bigger our house could be, when our hearts grew to be more like God’s heart.
We all want to support Javier today. He came here, and he’s a part of our community. We love him, we love his family. He’s done so much and contributed so much to our fellowship.
In the support letter I wrote on Springfield Friends Meeting stationery to the U.S. government, I told our officials that Javier is a full member of our meeting. He has served as an elder on Ministry and Counsel. He volunteers for everything. He does more and works harder than ten other people. He is deeply spiritual. He knows Jesus, he prays all the time, he’s a wonderful example of how to be a Christian. We are so blessed to have Javier and his family among us!
But this morning’s scripture pushes us a little deeper. Because in the moments when we open our hearts and open our doors and welcome people here, we become better people ourselves.
We’re not just being nice. We grow, whenever somebody blesses us, by coming here. God’s house here becomes more like God’s house in heaven, whenever we make room for more.
It’s not about a bigger building. It’s about open minds, and open hearts. It’s about realizing that we are blessed when we welcome other people here. God is blessing us, by sending us people like Javier and his family.
As we pray for Javier today, for his safe travel and for a favorable decision for him, we’re also praying for our church to be enlarged, and for God’s house to be enlarged, here on earth, as it is in heaven.