Yesterday I conducted a funeral which comprised a graveside committal in the morning and a thanksgiving service at mgpc in the afternoon.
In preparation I asked if there was a passage of Scripture that I should read and was told, without hesitation, to use John 14. The reason being that the elderly lady in question had been saying for some time that she expected her new room to be ready and waiting for her, and she was awaiting the transition.
This reminded me of a number of thoughts which I shared with the congregation.
The first of which was a story which a minister named Jack Knapp told me about his stays with my grandparents when he visited the town of Theodore in Queensland to conduct Presbyterian services in the late 1960’s. In his gregarious fashion, Jack would wander in and simply ask if his room was ready for him. And, thanks to the loving hospitality of my grandmother it always was.
The second is that, pretty much universally, we can travel all around the world, stay in places of utmost luxury, have people wait on us to meet our every need, but there is no experience of relaxation equal to feeling your key slip through the tumblers on the lock on your front door, walking in and flopping into your favourite chair.
The third has to do with what a funny construct the notion of home is anyway. I talk to people whose fondest sense of place and home can be attached to a handmade hut with a dirt floor, wood stove and outdoor plumbing they lived in forty years ago. Clearly it is not creature comforts that make a home, but the sense of relationships which those places represent in our memory that are our emotional anchor.
Which leads me to a fourth observation. For some people, home is wherever a particular person they love is located. Home is not so much a place as a relationship.
And I think this is the essential truth Jesus is conveying in John 14. As he prepares the disciples for his death and physical absence from their midst, Jesus is not seeking to comfort them with a view of the age to come which equates heaven to a five-star luxury resort. He’s pointing his disciples to the fact they will have relationships with God that will surpass all the resonances of that security of affection and place which their best memory of home conveys to them in this life. The Christian eternal hope is essentially relational, not locative.
On what basis does Jesus make that promise? Isn’t it impertinent, presumptuous and rude to simply walk into a place and behave as if it is home? How can we simply assume a relationship of love and acceptance with the Creator? Most of us fall into the pattern of adding up our lists of what we’ve done right and what we’ve done wrong, hoping the what we’ve done right list is longer, or contains sufficient merit so as to outweigh the what we’ve done wrong list. There can be a lot of uncertainty in that process if we’re honest with ourselves.
That’s what is so wonderful about Jesus’ words of assurance in John 14. He says that he’s the one who is going ahead to prepare a place, to make that relationship. And that he is the one who takes us there, who brings us into that relationship. The cross and resurrection describe his achievements in that regard.
All we need to do is recognise our need, set aside our own efforts and trust in him. Trust that Jesus is the reason why we’re acceptable to God and welcomed into relationship with Him.
Whatever season of life we are currently in, trusting in Jesus for our relationship with the Father, home is always waiting, a father’s love receives us.
Our room is always ready.