You Are Never Far From Home

Easter 5

Traditional Sermon

Grace, peace, and the reconciliation found in love to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

First of all let me wish all the mothers in the room a Happy Mother’s Day.  The relationship between a child and their mother is unlike any other.  Sometimes that relationship is strong and loving; sometimes, it is painful and cold.  Regardless of the content of that relationship, the relationships we have with our parents have a long and lasting impact upon our lives.

In William Thackeray’s novel, Vanity Fair, he says, “Mother is the name of God on the lips and hearts of little children.”  Such a responsibility to be the parent of a child, mother or father.  To love, care, and provide for the needs of a child.  I know one of my constant prayers is to simply not screw it up.  Thank and praise God for the grace of God.

I remember when Meg found out she was pregnant, there was a moment where she was concerned if she was cut out to be mother.  She didn’t think she was a motherly person.  That resolved itself the moment she heard Elizabeth’s heartbeat.  Not only had she found her motherly side… she had found mother bear.  She would defend protect and care for that child with every ounce of her being.

My mother, Janie Carr, “Hi mom!”  Of course, she is not here right now, but she will listen to this sermon tomorrow, when I send her the recording.  She loves to hear me preach.  My mother has always been the peace maker.  Throughout my life, when there was conflict in a relationship, her instinct was to attempt to make peace in any way possible.  Even if the last thing we wanted in that moment was peace.

There was a lot of conflict sometimes, especially between my father and me.  Regardless of how bad the conflict had gotten and regardless of who had done what to whom, it was my mother’s sole goal in that moment to try to find some way to restore the relationship.

Now don’t get me wrong.  She and I have had plenty of tiffs and disagreements too.  Oh the stories that she could tell that I pray she never does hahaha, but there is one that I have never doubted.  That no matter where in this world I live, I know that I also dwell in her heart  and no matter what situation I might ever find myself in, she would go out of her way to make sure that there would be room for me.

The old saying goes, “home is where your heart is.”  I think perhaps it is more accurate to say that those who we love abide in our hearts and we abide in theirs.  Meg and Elizabeth will always abide in my heart and I pray that I always abide in theirs.  The idea of home takes on a much more important role than some mere tangible piece of property or a geographical location.

In the Lord of the Rings, Bilbo Baggins says: “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

When your concept of home is connected to the hearts of others in which you dwell, no matter where you might find your feet swept off to, you are never far from home.

In our text this morning, the disciples’ home has been wherever Jesus has been for a long time, but now there is a problem.  Jesus is saying goodbye.  This is his farewell to the disciples.

This leaves the disciples with a sense of uncertainty for the future.  Jesus has been the beacon that has lit the path before them and they are not sure they can find “the way” without him.

Soon they will lose him, albeit temporarily.  He will be sentenced to death and they all will flee in fear and/or deny knowing him.  As he is hung on that cross they will not been sure what the truth of the situation is and they will feel lost and despair not knowing where to turn.  They will panic.   They will lose their way and realize just how bad they had lost their way when he is raised.

Now, here they stand, Jesus saying goodbye and they are not sure what the future holds.  What will life and the mission and vision mean now if Jesus is no longer with them?  What if lose their way?

But Jesus’ last words are not merely goodbye.  They are comforting and instructional.  Jesus tells them that he is going ahead of them and that he is “the way.”  His Father’s house has many rooms, or dwelling places, depending on how it is translated.  Those who know Jesus will abide and stay with God.

They know the way.  The Holy Spirit will come and guide them; they will go forward and represent Christ in the world and do even greater works than He.  Each of them is to be as Christ would be for others.  They are to see Christ in those around them and be Christ to them as well.

This question and feeling of the disciples is a question I think we all find ourselves asking sometimes.  We feel as though we do not know the way.  From time to time we feel as though we are blind to the path ahead wandering around in the dark praying for glimmer of light. We are desperate to find “the way” ahead, but we see such evil, mean, and horrible things in the world around us and wonder, just where is God?  It’s an age old question.  Where is Christ now, when we need him most?

In reality, even when Jesus was right there with them, the disciples got things all mixed up.  If they got things mixed up with Jesus right in front of them, what chance do we have?  Life is complicated.  Everything in this world, most especially our relationships with others, are complicated.  Just for once, why can’t it just be simple?

Christ told his disciples that they know the way… that Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.  We know the way too.  Last week Pastor Sarah described the Bible as a map for our hike through life.  We have the Word of God; we have the Holy Spirit.  Psalm 119 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

God is with us as well.  In our Baptism there is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  We are all members of the body of Christ.  We abide in God and God abides in us and like the disciples, we are called to see Christ in our neighbor and be Christ to our neighbor at the same time.  Keep it simple… Love them as you love yourselves.  Christ teaches that when you look at them, see him and when they need Christ, be Christ for them.

He tells them and we read, “My Father’s house has many dwelling places.”  We are still in the book of John.  It is all about relationships.  I know I’ve said that in multiple sermons here in the book of John.  When Christ refers to God as Father, it is never teaching us the gender of God.  No…It is describing a relationship.

For some, who had abusive fathers referring to God as Father inhibits their faith and if they had a strong relationship with their mother, thinking of God as mother allows them to think of God as loving and caring… and vice versa…  For some God as father is what works because the relationship with their mother was the abusive one.  And for some, its God as grandfather or grandmother.

However you need to think of God in order to think relationally of God as loving and caring is okay.  That line from Jesus could have just as easily been, “my Mother’s house (or Grandfather’s house) has many rooms.”  From that standpoint it really doesn’t matter.  The point is to think of God as a loving parent or guardian who you can always count on to provide you with a place to go when you have no where else to turn.

In my very first sermon here, a year ago, I told you all about a key event in my life where I found myself sleeping on the streets in Louisville, KY in the back hatch of a car with no place to go, and no money to get there even if I did.  I won’t rehash that story here, but the point is that thanks to God I realized that indeed I had a place to go.   In my mother and father’s house there was a place for me.

The whole reason I wound up with no where to go was that I had forgotten something.  In my mother’s heart there were many rooms and I had always been dwelling there even if I was unable to see it.

Likewise, in the heart of Christ… in God there are many rooms and we already dwell there even if we are unable to see it.  This is what grace is all about.  This is what it means to dwell in the house of the LORD forever.  That is all the reason we ever need to say…

Thanks be to God…

And…

Amen.

Vicar Avery Carr

Vicar Avery Carr

Vicar

Vicar from 2016-2017, R. Avery Carr is currently completing his education at United Lutheran Seminary in Gettysburg.

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