God has room for every­one

The Daily Observer - - NEWS - REV. DAN HANSEN The Rev. Dr. Dan Hansen is pas­tor of Zion-Mt. Zion Pas­toral Charge (The United Church of Canada), an ad­vanced can­di­date-in-train­ing with the On­tario As­so­ci­a­tion of Jun­gian An­a­lysts (OAJA), and lives in Ren­frew where he has a pri­vate pract

“Do not let your hearts be trou­bled” (John 14:1), said Je­sus in the gospel text for this past Sunday.

There is noth­ing to worry about. Je­sus will soon be de­part­ing, but the dis­ci­ples will be okay. There is noth­ing to fear. God’s house has many rooms. Je­sus tells them that there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, he would not have told them that he was go­ing to pre­pare a place for them.

So of­ten we hear th­ese words of scrip­ture at funerals. They pro­vide com­fort and hope to the griev­ing. As­sur­ance is needed. We want to know that we will not be alone, that there will be a place for us. We want to know that we will all be to­gether again.

Je­sus says that he will come and take us (dis­ci­ples) to him­self. One can­not find this dwelling place on one’s own, or at least can get there by one­self. Je­sus has to be in­volved. Je­sus will come and take peo­ple to that place. There, he will be with them, of­fer­ing on­go­ing com­pan­ion­ship. Our beloved ones rest in the arms of Je­sus.

Thomas, the dis­ci­ple who later on ex­presses the need to touch the wounds of the risen Je­sus (John 20:19-31), raises con­cern. Al­though Je­sus has just told the dis­ci­ples where he is go­ing, this dis­ci­ple does not get it.

Re­flect­ing his puz­zle­ment, Thomas says, “Lord, we do not know where you are go­ing,” and then adds, “How can we know the way?” (John 14:114).

Both the jour­ney and the fu­ture des­ti­na­tion of Je­sus are ques­tion­able. They don’t hit home.

And why should they? This does not seem to be the way the life of the Saviour should be go­ing. Suf­fer­ing and dy­ing? Leave-tak­ing? Pre­par­ing a place for peo­ple? Com­ing to them? That is not the tra­di­tional idea of a Mes­siah or of re­demp­tion. It is cer­tainly not what the peo­ple have been taught.

In re­sponse to Thomas, Je­sus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). For the writer of the Gospel of John, Je­sus is the way to God. He shows dis­ci­ples how to know God. Je­sus shows us God; in par­tic­u­lar, he re­veals the em­bod­ied “flesh and blood” re­al­ity of God.

Fol­low­ing the above ex­pla­na­tion by Je­sus about his re­la­tion­ship with the Fa­ther, Philip, an­other dis­ci­ple,com­ments: “Lord, show us the Fa­ther, and we will be sat­is­fied ”( John 14:8). Je­sus points out that he has been with them along time, and still they do not know what the con­nec­tion is.

Th­ese ques­tions and thoughts of the dis­ci­ples are rea­son­able ones. Like any­one, the dis­ci­ples want­tan­gi­ble proof and fur­ther ex­pla­na­tions. They don’t want to be in the dark.

If you do not be­lieve Je­sus, just be­lieve in the works, Je­sus sug­gests (John 14:11). That will be enough. By works he means signs such as chang­ing wa­ter into wine, the heal­ing of the of­fi­cial’s son, or the rais­ing of Lazarus.

But, as the text this Sunday goes on to em­pha­size, the one who be­lieves in Je­sus will also be able to do the works that he does, even greater ones, be­cause Je­sus is go­ing to the Fa­ther (John 14:12). In other words, Je­sus’ de­par­ture will un­leash power in the dis­ci­ples to ac­com­plish great things.

We might ask why we are read­ing a story like this dur­ing the 50 Days of Easter. It isn’t an en­counter with the risen Christ, since, as the story in John goes, Je­sus has not yet suf­fered and died. He is talk­ing about where he will be go­ing, and, if you read the en­tire farewell dis­course, Je­sus is tak­ing much time to do so!

The Gospel of John is about wit­ness­ing to the pres­ence of Je­sus Christ, and com­ing to be­lieve in him. The re­sult of such be­lief is that one will then go and share that with others, of­fer­ing his or her tes­ti­mony. The writer is also try­ing to con­vince peo­ple of Je­sus’ in­ti­mate con­nec­tion with God; that he shows the glory of God, full of grace and truth; and to draw peo­ple into the deep pres­ence of God.

We need Mother’s Day to bring to our at­ten­tion the im­por­tance of moth­ers and moth­er­ing. We all have had am other at one time. Our mother brought us into the world. In most cases, our moth­ers have raised us and in­flu­enced our de­vel­op­ment, in­clud­ing spir­i­tu­ally. Most of our dads were at work. But our moth­ers were at home with us. That has changed some­what in re­cent times, and con­tin­ues to do so.

With the world, on Sunday, we cel­e­brat­edthe pos­i­tive as­pects of mother hood, al­beit highly com­mer­cial­ized, and we were grate­ful for our moth­ers. We re­mem­bered all of their love, kind­ness, and gen­eros­ity; all of the spe­cial things that they did for us.

I also want to add, with my Jun­gian hat on, that how we have been “formed” by our moth­ers, or“moth­ered”by others, is grist for the Jun­gian mill, so to speak. Most of us have had both neg­a­tive and pos­i­tive moth­er­ing, and so what has been formed in us as we grew up is a rich op­por­tu­nity for re­flec­tion and anal­y­sis. As we re­late to th­ese emo­tional dy­nam­ics( com­plexes) that are now part of our psy­che (soul ), we will be­come more con­scious of both the per­sonal and ar­che­typal (col­lec­tive) dy­nam­ics of the mother im­age, now and through­out his­tory.

Un­like the world re­gard­ing Mother’s Day, on that Sunday in church, as we usu­ally do, we fo­cused on God and Je­sus Christ, along with the Holy Spirit. Through Je­sus, we were bap­tized and born again; we ac­cepted him as Lord and Saviour. As Chris­tians, we have died to our old selves, and been raised to new life, be­com­ing new per­sons in Christ. Hav­ing re­ceived the Holy Spirit, we have be­come part of the king­dom of God.

But there is some­thing else we need to at­tend to.

What have you no­ticed about the gospel read­ing to­day (John 14:1-14), or the one last week about Je­sus the Shep­herd and gate keeper( John 10:19)?You can hear it in Sunday’ s Epis­tle read­ing (1 Peter 2:2-10). Specif­i­cally, what qual­i­ties of God and Je­sus are em­pha­sized? Through the words and images of Holy Scrip­ture, what dy­nam­ics are at­trib­uted to their char­ac­ter?

Cer­tainly, it is ev­i­dent that God and Je­sus, as Fa­ther and Son, have some very ten­der parts. The way they care for us is much like a mother would do. Think about other read­ing sin the Bi­ble, as well as our hymns.

How do we pic­ture (im­age) God? Who is God for you? Who is Je­sus?

Re­flect on how Je­sus pre­pares a place for us, so that we can be with him. He also cre­ates the way for us to un­der­stand the lov­ing kind­ness, com­pas­sion, and faith­ful­ness of God. He puts God be­fore us, and with us, in hu­man re­la­tion­ship.

Je­sus brings God down to earth. Je­sus shows us how deeply God loves us, and, through His re­la­tion­ship with us, how far God will go in show­ing us full­ness of life.

With God, there is a place for us. There is a room for every­one.

In the heart of God through­out the uni­verse, where Je­sus re­sides, we are all at home. And that is not only af­ter we die, but also—even more im­por­tantly—now,as we learn to know God through the life, death, and res­ur­rec­tion of Je­sus Christ.

Like the dis­ci­ples be­fore us, we have the op­por­tu­nity to know how close Je­sus and God are, and, through the Holy Spirit, ex­pe­ri­ence that lov­ing re­la­tion­ship for our­selves, as chil­dren of God (who is fa­ther and mother of us all), and brothers and sis­ters in Christ.

This is not an easy task in to­day’s world. It wasn’t for the dis­ci­ples of old. Even be­ing with Je­sus, there were teach­ings they didn’t un­der­stand, in­clud­ing ones us­ing metaphors, para­bles, and sym­bols. This past Sunday, the first les­son from Acts about Stephen( Acts 7:55-60 re­minds us of what can take place for those who have a vi­sion of God’ s king­dom of heaven, want to par­tic­i­pate in it, and call others to such life. We have seen this through­out his­tory in the saints and mar­tyrs who have died stand­ing up for their faith, what they be­lieve, or stand­ing up for con­cerns that con­trib­ute to the greater good.

In to­day’s world, as our mother’s nur­tured us in our first birth, and we were re­born through Je­sus Christ, we have the op­por­tu­nity to ten­derly em­brace one an­other, to love as never be­fore, to pro­vide heal­ing and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, and to move for­ward in the Spirit of God’s emerg­ing cre­ation.

Let me con­clude with some pas­toral­words by Jean Va ni er. He says that our mis­sion as dis­ci­ples“is to give life, eter­nal life, and re­veal the face and heart of God to peo­ple. It is to be a pres­ence of God in the world where there is an ab­sence of God.”

He adds, “God’s works are not big mir­a­cles, which some heroic dis­ci­ples may be called to do, but all those works of sim­ple kind­ness and good­ness, which give peo­ple life and lead them to trust in them­selves and in God.”

GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

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