Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. (John 14:23)
I recently drove from Baltimore, MD to Fitchburg, MA where my wife and I currently live. I’m a transitional pastor for a local church. We were in Baltimore to visit our daughter and celebrate her birthday. On the day after our arrival there, we got the phone call we didn’t want to get on vacation: our brother-in-law (my wife’s sister’s husband) passed away from cancer. He was just 59 years old. We knew it was coming but . . .
We quickly made plans for my wife and daughter to fly to Minnesota to be with my wife’s sister. My plans called for taking two dogs and heading back to MA to continue my work.
Just about half way home, I drive just 10 miles south of my hometown: Poughkeepsie, NY. Just a quick right hand exit and in 20 minutes I can be driving the familiar streets of my childhood. It’s been nearly 50 years since I lived there, but despite some of the changes, I can still make my way around town and to each of the houses in which we lived. Every one is etched in my mind.
It’s always an odd nostalgia that catches me when I’m able to do this. It’s my home town but not my home. I remember my schools, my church, the parking lot of the bank where my brother and I raced our bikes, the parks in which my friends and I played football and sandlot baseball, even the small cemetery where my great-aunt and great grandmother are buried, and the old hang outs as a teen. But with each visit the a sense of detachment deepens. Vivid memories but not emotional attachments.
In fact, my wife and I have been recently discussing where our home is. Believe it or not, we are not sure where we’d call home at this point! We sold our house in CO to take this assignment. Our daughters live 2000 miles apart; one on the east coast and one in CO. We like both places but not sure that either is home now.
Which providentially brings me to this chapter of John’s Gospel. It gets lots of attention at funerals. But it’s really meant for the living. In it, Jesus makes some stunning life-transforming statements. Big ones. But I want to focus on a relatively small statement with big meaning that humbled me as I read it.
Jesus comforts the disciples after letting them know he’s “going away.” The meaning escapes them, but that doesn’t bother Jesus. They’ll understand soon enough. Now, it is enough for them to know that though they might be tempted to think they’re being “orphaned” by his going away, Jesus promises that he will be with them. In fact, Jesus says that he, his Father and the Spirit will “make our home with” them.
Think of it: the Father, his Son and the Spirit plan to make a home for themselves where you are! We don’t need to wait until heaven to experience glimpses and bits and pieces of what kind of home they are making of us. Your address may change, but not your home. As we prove our love for Jesus by obeying his word, we are the home of the Trinity.
Now, of course this is a “mystical” home (in theologian-speak) akin to our mystical union with Christ but it’s home nonetheless. In fact, there is more homeness in this home.
“Home” invokes lots of pleasant memories. It’s a place that poets write about and singers sing about: Homeward Bound by Simon and Garfunkel or Celebrate Me Home by Kenny Loggins and Two of Us by the Beatles come to mind. When you’re away from home, there’s a longing for it that you know when you get back there will restore your soul and soothe your mind. Home is the place that accepts us when the rest of the world rejects us, heals us when the world bruises us and rebuilds our confidence when the world laughs at or scorns us. Home means being rooted and safe. Home is the place where the pressures of performance are off and we can relax and be at peace with ourselves and others. Home is just the way things should be when everything is just right.
This is a chapter full of the language of family relationships. The home that Jesus, his Father and his Spirit are making of us is where the Trinity resides. Since you are reading this and I am writing it, we are not in our real home just yet. But the Father, Son and the Spirit have come to be “at home” with us. (And that’s a whole other blog!)
Therefore, this world will never be our home; “we’re just traveling through.” If the Trinitarian God is making his home with us, we can never be “at home” (read at peace) with this world. We can’t ever settle in. We can’t “take possession” of it the way we do when we buy a house. As I heard said recently, don’t set your happiness on something that you can lose. You can’t lose the home where the Father, the Son and the Spirit call home!
We are a home away from home when the Trinitarian God makes his home with us. We belong to a household. Christian fellowship expands and fills out this sense of being home while being away from home. The reflection of the Father’s house (i.e., real Christian fellowship) is the hearth that warms the soul when the world sends the chill right to the bone.
If you are longing for “home,” long for the home that the Trinity makes with you and enjoy the fellowship of the Spirit with other believers. You’ll never feel alone and you’ll always have a place of retreat for your soul.