"In my Father's house are many dwelling places": this was the passage at Morning Prayer this morning. It's a familiar part of John's Gospel (John 14: 1 - 14) and it's often used at funerals where the idea of life with God is understood to be more than we can experience here on earth, where the mystery of what happens when we die is held within a concept of a house (or mansion depending on your translation) that is beyond the space in which we live. People who have been bereaved will sometimes say to me that they imagine their loved one in a particular room, usually doing a favourite activity ... there's space for deeper theological conversations about this of course.
What struck me about this passage today, when we gathered in church as we do every Friday at 9.30am, is that the 'dwelling places' are also within the experience of life on earth, not simply beyond it. So there may be times when we are in a dwelling place where we are experiencing life in it's fullness, or a place where we are questioning and growing, or a space where we are doubting, or indeed a space where we are lost. In reading John's Gospel through this lens, then hearing Jesus say he "prepares a place for us" and that "we know the way", reminds me firstly of that promise of the kingdom that is now, not just to come, but that there is also that ongoing need to follow "the way, the truth and the life" always, now, today. If we lose sight of Jesus, or somehow adjust our gaze on what it is to be His church in a different direction, then there will be an emptiness to our gathering and belonging, and we will find ourselves in dwelling places where we are seeking, and trying to find fulfilment in those things that are temporal rather than eternal. We all know, don't we, that we can find a quick fix that may satisfy us for a while, but that we are left wanting more. It is in Jesus, the way the truth and the life, that true fulfilment is found: that living bread which means we will never go hungry again, in whom we can ask anything, as the Gospel passage from today ended.
I wonder what 'dwelling place' you find yourself in at the moment? How confidently do you turn to Jesus, as the way, the truth and the life? A relationship with Christ, and in Christ, and through Christ is what we're all invited to share. And I believe we find that expression most profoundly when we are within the dwelling place that is the body of Christ.
This weekend we gather as that expression in numerous ways. Very shortly I will be joining the gathering that is Messy Church, where through activity, celebration and hospitality we will be learning about how God meets us when we are alone and scared (another dwelling place perhaps). On Sunday morning, we will gather at 8.30am for our simple communion service. At 10.30am we will be celebrating a High Eucharist, with hymns and incense; at 12.30pm we are delighted to be holding a baptism, and then at 4.00pm we will be holding confirmation preparation for our young people.
In my Father's house are many dwelling places, and in our beautiful space in just a 48 hour period there are many beautiful expressions of church.
I pray that you will continue to find the way and the truth and the life in Jesus, in your physical and spiritual dwelling places.
With every blessing as ever