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Since Holy Week rooms have featured many times in our readings.
The upper room;
the disciples behind locked doors;
and now the ‘many rooms’ of eternity.
Of course, alongside these reading we have seen services taking place in all kinds of different rooms as we each take part in worship from our own homes.
Place is important.
When I do a funerals visit I often ask where the person who has died liked to be.
Did they have a favourite room?
Was there a chair by a window where they sat and enjoyed the view?
Maybe a garden or allotment?
The places we choose to be can unravel a lot about us; about the things we value and the space where we feel safe; comfortable – ‘at home’.
Often we feel that in our homes we can ‘be ourselves’.
When the front door closes we can relax and stop worrying what anyone thinks about us.
Our appearance matters less; what we wear or if we’ve put our feet up.
Home can be the perfect place for us to unwind.
Of course this is not the case for everyone – but is the reality most would choose.
There’s a lot about rooms and home in John chapter 14.
It’s an account of the teaching Jesus gave his disciples after Judas leaves the last supper. Night has come and Jesus is eager to speak with his followers during these last hours of his freedom.
Given what’s about to happen the teaching at first seems to be about the afterlife. About a place where, after all the suffering that is to come, the disciples will be at home with him in eternity.
But I don’t think we can see it simply in these terms.
It falls to Thomas to ask the blunt question which takes the teaching further.
There’s no Sat Nav; there’s no road map; how on earth are the disciples supposed to get to their heavenly future?
Jesus presses home the teaching he’s tried to give his followers so often. He seems to tell them to stop thinking in a limited way.
Forget the map – you need a person. Jesus: the route; the reality; the resurrection. Jesus is the co-ordinates and the vehicle; the bridge and the destination.
This time, Thomas isn’t alone in his forthright speaking. Philip hears what Jesus says but wants a bit more – or a lot more.
‘Just show us the Father – just a peak, and we’ll be right with you!’ I don’t know who to feel more sorry for – Jesus or the disciples.
Jesus presses on. See me – see the Father. See the Father – witness the Son.
I find this conversation so reassuringly normal!
We are so like these disciples – well, at least I feel I am. We always want just a little bit more. More evidence, more proof. Because then it’s not our choice – it becomes a given.
But Jesus says it isn’t like that. There is a leap of faith, a step we are all called to take to find what our heart truly desires.
We need to prise our fingers from the side of the boat and step onto the waves. It’s never easy.
When we take that step we are promised that God will keep faith with us. It’s not just about the rooms to come – the home we will make with God in the far future.
What we learn from this Gospel is that we can be at home with God now.
We can ask our deepest questions and be answered with love. God doesn’t want a show of faith or a performance of belief.
God wants to love us as our ‘at home’ self. The honest self that makes no effort to play a part for the world.
These first 14 verses of John’s Gospel only ever make sense to me if we hold them in mind with verse 23.
Jesus has spoken about the future rooms, already prepared, in his Father’s house. But in his discussion with the disciples we learn that God isn’t just there in the distance, he’s here now, in front of us.
Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.
So in verse 23 we aren’t given the image of a God we’re moving towards but instead Jesus tells his followers about a God who reaches into us.
When we love God, Jesus and the Father come to us. Not just come to us, but promising to make their home with us.
Those many rooms are already in the lives of those who have welcomed God and embraced the Son.
I want to finish with a few words by the poet RS Thomas that capture this sense that our movement towards God is always met by an even speedier movement towards us. In his poem “Gloria” Thomas says this:
Because you are not there
When I turn, but are in the turning, Gloria
Many of us are having to learn in a new way what it means to be at home.
Perhaps we can use some of this time, and this experience, to reflect on the God who longs to be ‘at home’ with us.
Who, even as we make the most modest move towards that truth, is already at our side – loving our at-home-self more than any other version of our lives.
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