The Triune God invites all into God’s life, where we are at home, and creates in us, together, a house of living stones where God lives and where all are welcome.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The Fifth Sunday of Easter, year A
Texts: John 14:1-14 (starting early, at 13:36); 1 Peter 2:2-10; Acts 7:55-60
Sisters and brothers in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me.”
What a precious gift at a horrible moment. Jesus just told Peter the worst thing he could, that he will fail Jesus terribly that night.
The disciples had their feet washed. They heard the command to love. They didn’t know what was ahead that night, or tomorrow, that incomprehensible Friday. But something was wrong.
Peter’s exuberant “I will lay down my life for you” is crushed by Jesus’ prediction of his betrayal. Imagine the stricken, horrified look on Peter’s face.
But Jesus immediately comforts him, maybe touches his hand. He looks at Peter and the others, equally afraid and shocked, and says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me.”
In their worst hour so far, Jesus tells them they will all, Peter included, always have a home with God. They all belong. They are beloved. “So do not let your hearts be troubled,” he says to them. “Believe in God. Believe also in me.”
This home Jesus promises gives us great hope, too.
In death we cling to the promise that Christ will take us to God’s home, where rooms are prepared. But Jesus is also talking about here and now, a present reality transformed by that future promise. These disciples can’t focus on life after death this night. But they can hear that they belong now, they are at home with God.
Home anchors our existence. To have a place where we belong, can be ourselves, where we are sheltered and fed. Where we can sit on the porch with loved ones, and have fellowship. Jesus is that home for these disciples. But in these next chapters he describes home with God as their continued reality, even with him leaving.
And it’s our home, too. Our way, truth, and life, that we are never alone, we always belong in God’s love, home with God. “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” he says to us. “Believe in God. Believe also in me.”
It’s a wonderful promise. But how can we know this is true?
Philip’s question is ours, too.
“If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father,” Jesus answers. “If you know me, you know God. That’s how you know this is true,” he says. “God took a home in your flesh, and that is me.”
In these words, and the words about the Spirit that immediately follow today’s reading, Jesus unfolds the mystery of the Trinity. The relationship, the oneness he has with the One he calls Father, the Spirit who comes from both of them. This is mystery beyond telling, but in Jesus we see the face of God. The love Jesus lives, dies in, and rises with, is the love of God. The words Jesus says are the words of God.
So we can trust when Jesus says we have a home with God. Jesus is the face of the Trinity to us, and shows that God is love for us. “Trust me,” Jesus says. “Trust me. You belong. You’re at home. So do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me.”
But what if we mess up?
We know ourselves. We know we fail. We know we don’t always love. We know we’ve done many things that hurt others, that hurt God. What if we really do badly? Are we still welcome today in God’s dwelling?
Well, can we mess up worse than Peter? Peter, the trusted lieutenant, who cursed and swore three times that he didn’t even know his Lord? Will we run away like the other cowards? Betray like Judas?
Maybe. But fully knowing what Peter was about to do, what the others would do, Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me. I’m going to prepare a place for you in my Father’s house.”
I don’t know. Maybe you can imagine such grievous sin you’ve done or will do that could exclude you. But you have only one answer to end your fear forever: the face of Jesus looking concernedly at you and saying, “Don’t be afraid. You will always be loved.” Saying, “do not let your heart be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me.”
Because we have a home with God now, where our hearts are at peace, surrounded by God’s love, and because we have the promise of a home with God after we die, we’re safe.
Safe in God now. Safe in the promise to come.
So we can be bold in our following. Like Peter. Three times denying his Lord, Peter was found by Christ’s risen love, and went on to boldly stand before authorities and refuse to stop preaching and teaching.
Because we are safe in God, we can be bold like Stephen. His ministry was to care for the widows and the poor that were neglected. He also preached, and that got him killed. He preached Jesus and the resurrection boldly, because he knew he was always home. When he died, like his beloved Jesus, he commended his spirit home to God, and offered forgiveness to his killers.
Because we are always safe in God, we can be bold, like Stephen, and help all who are in need. For example, those who not only struggle to know a home with God, but have no physical home in which to live. No roof over their heads, no porch to sit with family, no place to sleep. And we can be bold and help those who have lost not only their homes but their land, refugees driven out by climate change and unjust government, millions who wander, looking for someone to welcome them in. Safe in our spiritual home in God, we are free to be bold witnesses to God’s love by working with others to make literal homes for those who lack them. We are free to be Christ.
Paul once said our bodies are God’s temples, each of us bears God in the world. Peter in his letter today imagines something more communal.
As we’re joined together in our community, we’re linked like mortared stones, and together we are God’s living house.
And Peter says, as this living house of God made of living stones, we proclaim God’s love, the mighty deeds of the One who called us out of darkness into light. We become, like God, a home that opens to the world and invites people in. So they, too, can meet God. So they, too, can be surrounded and fed by God’s love. So they, too, know their home in the life of God now and forever.
Do not let your hearts be troubled, Christ says. The One who died and now is risen says, “Now do you believe in God? Now do you believe in me?” he says. “You are at home. And you are God’s home, God’s welcoming embrace to the world. Be that, so all may find their home, at last.”
In the name of Jesus. Amen