EASTER 5 Click HERE for Readings.
Often when we read this gospel we only think of afterlife. Perhaps this is because it is read at funerals and preached as an afterlife passage. Rarely does Jesus intend his messages to apply to "heaven" as in after we are dead. His concern is with life here and now. The kingdom of God is in your midst is how Luke reports it. Heaven (afterlife) is interesting but as the father, in a Woody Allen movie, answering the main character's question about whether he worries about what happens, you know, after? says "after? after? who cares - I will be dead."
Only God knows what happens after and God in Christ challenges us to make this world a place where all can experience the realm of God. In the Lord's Prayer we say each Sunday "your kingdom come, your will be done, on earthas in heaven." When we begin to read this Gospel through that lens we hear Jesus assuring us that no matter where we go we will find a home. He will prepare that place for us and be there wherever life takes us. buckaroo Banzaiin the 80s cult film says "wherever you go there you are." We learn as we grow up that the grass in not always greener somewhere else, we will not be a different person, we still take ourselves and our gifts and challenges with us. Without help we cycle around the same old stuff. The promise Jesus makes is that he will prepare a place for us by being the way, the truth, and the life. This is not a message of exclusion and damnation for those who are someplace else in their walk - it is a message of hope for us.
It is like going camping with an expert guide who knows the challenges and rewards of the wilderness. One who is with us showing us the path, who can read the signs of the wilderness, and who is ahead of us at the campsite with the tent set up and the dinner on the fire at the end of a long trek. It is a relationship with the One who can be trusted to lead us and who as the Psalmist says "holds our souls in life, and will not allow our feet to slip." and "who brings us to a place of refreshment."
Last night (Saturday, April 23) Passover began for our Jewish sisters and brothers. Our reading from Deuteronomy contains the question of why Passover is celebrated. "we were slaves in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out with a mighty hand" With out liberation we are all slaves to things that do not matter ultimately. We get caught in the struggles of position, power, honor, shame, addiction, abuse --- God wants something else for us. God wants us to live with justice and peace, and in community with one another and the creation. When we become children of God we are expected to assist with the bringing of this "heaven" to the world. As the letter of Peter says "Once you were no people, but now you are God's people:" "You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that you may proclaim the might acts of the One who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light."
The many mansions tells us that there are many places where we may find ourselves, there are many ways that God has of calling to people to join in bring heaven to earth, but we are assured that no matter where life takes us - Christ will be there preparing a home for us. We will never be strangers again - not to one another, not to the world, not to God.