As we begin, let’s take a look at our Gospel text from John 14:1-14, and read the first four verses.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. My Father’s house has plenty of room; 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.”
As a teenager, while on family vacation, we visited and toured Hurst Castle. Have you ever been to Hurst Castle? I still have vivid memories of everything from the welcome center to the bowling alley.
When ever I think of places with lots of room I often think of two places – College dorms and Castles. But dorms and Castles are quite different. Castles are elaborate and spacious while dorms are practical and crowded.
That was certainly the case of my freshman dorm. We were over crowded. They let too many kids in that year and didn’t have enough rooms to accommodate all the students. Space was at a premium! However, as the administration looked around, they noticed they could retool some space and make room – so they put some of us lucky kids in the student lounges. One lounge had something like 20 guys all bunked up together. Needless to say the dorm was crowded! We were packed like sardines. Yet this was one of my favorite years of College life!
If you’ve ever been to Hearst Castle – you know it is nothing like a College dormitory. While Hearst castle has 165 rooms and 127 acres of gardens, terraces, pools and walkways, it is certainly not a college campus. I remember being in awe as I walked the grounds of the Castle. I remember walking into a living room with what seemed to be 100 ft ceilings. The walls were covered with ornate art work and details and the dining room table was large enough to seat a small army. As we journeyed downstairs we stepped into a home theater with classic theater seats and a two lane bowling alley next door. There were three pools; with one indoor and looked like it came straight out of Europe with the most amazing mosaic tile work I’d ever seen. The grounds of the castle are amazing and I’ve talked about the place a handful of times with my wife and look forward to visiting it again.
As Jesus describes his father’s house – a place with plenty of room – my mind is often drawn to the beauty of the Castle. With all the imagery and word play of God’s Kingdom, it’s hard not to imagine such beauty and royalty.
I find the location of our text very interesting. We know Jesus is talking to his disciples, but where are they? Are they up on a hillside or down on a lake? Are they in the city or out in the country? If we look back to chapter 13, we will notice the dialogue of chapter 14 is found in the midst of the “Last Supper.”
Here we are, in the midst of Holy Week. Jesus has just stooped down and washed his disciple’s feet. He has just described to them the importance of being a servant, and that they too are to do as he does. He goes on to tell them in chapter 13 verse 35 (and I think this is key…) “Everyone will know you as My followers if you demonstrate your love to others.”
They are in the midst of Holy Week. Jesus had entered the city on Palm Sunday to excitement and celebration – and Good Friday is just a head of them. They had just experienced Palm Sunday, where the crowds came singing Hosanna’s and waving palm branches. The people were expecting a triumphant king. And here they are, just a few days later, in chapter 14, where Jesus is describing his betrayal, his imminent departure, and his father’s house.
I find the location of our text very interesting. Jesus shares with his friends that he’s going to be leaving them. So, obviously they’re a little discouraged. They don’t understand why they can’t go with him. They have followed him everywhere, for the past three years they’ve gone with him everywhere. So, they don’t get it. They are confused and they feel a little powerless and helpless. They ask him questions like: “Why can’t we go?”
What’s Jesus’ response to their confusion and feelings of helplessness? He says: “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father.”
Jesus tells them that by his going to the Father, they will be able to do greater things than they’ve seen before. Because Jesus is going, the disciples (and us) will be able to do greater things than the miracles he did.
I think the location of our text this morning is very interesting. Particularly as we have our friends with us who just got back from a long term missions trip to Africa. Particularly on the heals of the proposed events of yesterday. Particularly as we look at who we are; here as a local church, here in LA, here in California and in the United States.
In our Gospel text, Jesus talks about where he's going and how there is room for all of us. He tells us we will be able to do the great things he has done - and more!
I believe the Father’s House is big enough to include all of us, our brothers and sisters here and abroad. I believe God's house is big enough to encompass us and those in Africa, Egypt and Europe. I believe we have to think of God’s house as both figurative and literal.
As I read this passage, my mind can’t help but think about the Father’s house up in heaven. However, my practical mind always brings it back to the present. I’m always drawn to depiction found in the Gospel of Matthew which says it is here and now! God’s house is up in heaven, but it’s also here. Churches and Cathedrals and Synagogues are even commonly referred to as the House of God. There’s a practical, here and now, element to the Fathers house.
Jesus tells his disciples that by his going to the Father, they will be able to do greater things than they have ever seen before. Because Jesus is going, the disciples (and us) will be able to do greater things than the amazing miracles he did.
As I think about who we are, we are blessed, particularly here in North America. We are blessed with an abundance of resources.... what are we doing with them? How are we living and participating in greater things than the actions, activities and miracles of Christ?
We know God heals. We have seen his miraculous touch on the lives of so many. We know he feeds and nurtures. We have seen his provision in times of disaster. But we have to wonder – how do we do greater things than he did? How is it possible?
Perhaps it is not done individually. Jesus says in John 14 that we will not be greater than he, but we will do greater things than he. Notice it’s not an individual command. It is a corporate one. Together, we can do greater things.
This passage speaks to me about how we use our resources. We are to collectively utilize our gifts, relationships, money, and skills. We’re not to hoard them. As Matthew says, we’re not to store up for ourselves treasures on earth… We are to be actively involved in God’s Kingdom. We are to be actively using our resources, gifts and skills for His glory.
I can’t help but wonder: How are we living beyond? How are we participating in even greater things? How are we living out the Gospel? How are we living out the Good News? How are we continually living out God’s love as we daily interact with our local and global community?
The question really boils down to: “What are we able to do with the resources we have?” What are we individually able to contribute and what are we able to do together? As we look at our collective lives, what are we able to do specifically with this "house of God" which has many rooms? Our old building has lots of room, so how are we going to utilize this rich resource God has granted us? How are we going to be like the good steward and ensure it is maximized for God’s Glory?
Jesus tells his disciples that by his going to the Father, they will be able to do greater things than they have ever seen before. Because Jesus is going, we will be able to do greater things than the amazing miracles he did. How are we living beyond, and participating in even greater things? What might that look like for us?
What if had office space for nonprofits? What if space was given for developing and providing means to clean water? What would it be like to have a team of nonprofits working together, making this world a better, healthier place?
What if we hosted parent support groups? What would it be like to have parents, moms, dads, nannies and grannies meet-up in this building. Could there be a strengthening of relationships? Could our little faith community support and impact our community?
What if we went on mission trips? What if together we went to Haiti and helped dig a well? What if we went to Ukraine and cultivated a soccer field for an orphanage? What would it be like for those kids who were able to play on a grass field and drink the water of love?
What if we had showers for the homeless – Could our role in the Kingdom of God be to provide a place for people to wash, and find that simple dignity once again.
What if we gathered weekly for a meal together… where we collectively brought the ingredients and together prepared the meal. Would we make more food than we could eat? Would there be leftovers? Could those who have nothing – share at the table – and leave with something?
What if we forwent our Thanksgiving– and instead cooked up turkeys and mashed potatoes and homemade pies for the disenfranchised; for those who worry about being forgotten; for those who seek the familiar face of the traditions; for those who long to be part of the family!
The options are endless, and the question is before us! What are we going to do with the resources we have? What are we individually going to contribute and what are we going to do together? As we look at our collective lives, what are we going to do specifically with this "house of God" which has many rooms?
Jesus Christ, the humble king, came – not promoting a conservative ethic of hoarding – but one of giving. He came and loved others in ways unfamiliar to the world. He came and gave in unique ways. He came in humility, and he came that we may have life and have it more abundantly.
As Jesus describes his father’s house – a place with plenty of room – my mind is often drawn to the beauty of the Castle. With all the imagery and word play of God’s Kingdom, it’s hard not to imagine such beauty and royalty. But I’m not sure Jesus was speaking of elaborate and spacious Castles, relics of power and money. Rather, looking at his life and message, I think he was drawing us to the practical and crowded life of the dorm. He is calling us to a life of active, practical relational chaos. The college dorm is a crazy mix of hope for the future and brutal nights of hard active studying and living life together. It is a resource that is used and abused. It is overcrowded, yet it often stretches to gladly include one more. To me, that sounds a lot like the relational God we know!
The question is before us! What are we going to do with the resources we have? What are we individually going to contribute and what are we going to do together? As we look at our collective lives, what are we going to do in this "house of God" which has room to stretch and be used?
As Christ sits next to the father – those who believe in him, whatever we ask in his name, he will do. There’s room in his house and at his table, who are we going to invite? What miracles are we ready to be a part of? Hand in hand, together let’s embrace and share in his kingdom presence. Let’s step out in unique ways, and love!
As you go, participate in God’s active presence here and now. Go and Love!