Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going." Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him." Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.
There are a lot of common, perhaps even cliche, sayings, about the idea of home.
There’s no place like home (accompanied by three clicks of red sparkly shoes.)
Home is where the heart is.
Home is not a place, it’s a feeling…
More recently, from the government in the midst of our current health crisis - Stay home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.
And from our scripture reading today, the word’s of Jesus - There is plenty of room for you in my Father’s home…I go to prepare a place for you there.
The idea of home conjured by each of these sayings is a little bit different, and a little bit different, still, depending on the context of each hearer.
Before we moved to London in March, Joel and I spent about 20 months traveling around the world - a time we spent purposely without a consistent home of our own. At first, it was exciting, moving every 2-8 weeks, constantly settling into a new place as we housesat for others and exploring new towns in new countries. But after about a year, it started to become less exhilarating and more exhausting.
Towards the end, the phrase “home is where the heart is” began to drive me nuts. I remember telling Joel once, in an exasperated tone, “home isn’t where the heart is, home is where you can leave your stuff.” I was tired of lugging all of our earthly belongings around in suitcases and relocating every few weeks. In the midst of near-constant uncertainty and chaos in our lives, home became less about my heart or who I shared it with and more about the mundane practicality of just having somewhere to exist in the world.
Now, a month and a half after moving to London and having settled once again into a home of our own, I can begin to appreciate that saying anew. I will concede that home is where my heart is...and where I can leave my stuff.
Of course, the very week we moved in, a new saying about home began circulating the airwaves. The message of the government to “Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save lives,” has ruled our choices these last six weeks or so. Other than going on daily walks, going to the supermarket, or going to the church for necessary work, we don’t leave our home. In the midst of near-constant uncertainty and chaos in the wider world, home has become a refuge - a place we stay to keep ourselves, and, more importantly, others, safe.
The words of Jesus in our scripture reading today were said to the disciples when they were in a time of near-constant uncertainty and chaos. Jesus is speaking to them in what is known as his “Farewell Discourse” - his last words to them before his crucifixion. In this same speech, Jesus has already told them that he will be betrayed by one among them and denied by another, he has foretold, once again, of his death on the cross, and he has warned them that, after being their near-constant companion for three years, he is leaving them, and going ahead to prepare a place for them.
No wonder the disciples are anxious. No wonder Jesus has to remind them “let not your hearts be troubled.” He tells them that yes, I am leaving you, but only because I go to prepare a place for you. And this place to which I am going, you already know how to get there. And where I am, there you will be also.
Thomas, dear, literal Thomas, questions Jesus, saying, Lord, we don’t even know where you are going - how on earth can we know how to get there? And Jesus, in these beautiful words of reassurance, reminds Thomas, and all of us, that we know how to get there because we know Jesus - and Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. We don’t need to worry about having a roadmap or point by point directions or a compass. We have Jesus. And he is all we need to be led home.
These words are most often read at funerals and for good reason - in the midst of the uncertainty and chaos of death these words remind us that our loved ones are going to dwell with Jesus in the house of the Father. Though they are leaving this earthly home, the only home they have ever known, we know they will not be alone.
But these words, these promises, bring us comfort not only in the world to come but in the world that is here and now. Jesus goes to prepare a place for us, yes, but Jesus is also with us here and now. This is the beautiful paradox of Christ. The already and the not yet. Jesus says, where I am, there you will be also. So the converse must be true, where we are, there Jesus will be also - if we only believe and trust in him.
So perhaps we need a new saying about home - There’s no place like home in Jesus. Home is where the Lord is. Home is not a place, it’s a feeling...of being with Christ our Lord. Well, perhaps those original sayings don’t need to be improved upon. Perhaps we just need to take this scripture into our newly untroubled hearts and trust in the Lord, that he is with us now and always, and he will show us the way, the truth, and the life.
And in him, we will always be home.
Oh God, thank you for giving us Jesus, the way, the truth, and the life. May we trust that in him, we will always be home. Amen.