Homily Easter 6

John 14:15-23 

As last Sunday, our Gospel reading today places us in the upper room, where Jesus and his disciples met for their last meal together before he was arrested. We hear his words now in the light of his resurrection, but his disciples heard them before – at a time not of joy but of fearful uncertainty.  

Jesus is offering his last words of guidance to his friends, and in them Jesus addresses one of the deepest of all human longings – to have somewhere we can truly call our home.

Yes, the conversation takes place during the last supper, but it could just as well have been a conversation between Jesus and John's struggling congregation of early Christians – persecuted and fearful -  or Jesus and us, for that matter, particularly at what is a time of change and fearful uncertainty for many.

But, actually, it can be heard as a conversation between Jesus, the Living Lord of the church, and anyone anywhere who has ever tried to follow him in this world. 

Because there is a real sense in which anyone who has ever found themselves in similar positions to those people he first left behind - people who wondered where on earth they would go from where they found themselves – people who felt they were losing or had lost some understanding of what they thought home was and what it meant for them.

For those disciples, both before and after Easter, home meant being with the one who made them feel most at home inside their own skins – their beloved teacher and Lord. 

The one for whom they had left everything just to be with, someone so inspiring, so charismatic, so full of life - that he had been for them irresistible, the sort of person they had never experienced before and would never know again. 

To be with him was to know the strongest and truest place they had ever experienced, a fortress of sanity, wisdom and compassion in a dark and decidedly dangerous world. 

In spite of everything that had happened along the way, everything they knew would happen or had happened to him - and maybe even everything they knew was going to happen to them as well - home was where he was because it was the place where they felt most fully themselves.

In his gospel account, John records a lot of talking by Jesus - almost as if Jesus is always trying to say whatever it is one more time to make sure they get it; and, of course, the disciples never seem to, partly because they were ordinary men, not deep thinkers or practised theologians, and partly because they were just afraid, that's all - afraid that their fate was going to be not much better than his.

18 ‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live.’ 

And one can imagine those frightened, confused disciples scratching their beards and looking at one another with blank, dull looks. "What on earth is he talking about!?"

So Jesus tries to say the same thing a different way.

20 “On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”

He's telling them that he's going where he needs to be and where they will be one day too, although they're not there yet.  Then, perhaps, he looks around the room and sees the blank stares yet another time, and says, 21 They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

Then Judas, the son of James, gets so frustrated that he blurts out, "What are you talking about!?  How will we see you and nobody else?" 

And Jesus tries one last time to say what he means, to show them where home will now be for them.

“Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”

Home, he tells them, is where people do what I do, are what I am.  Do that and you will be where I am, where God is.

At this time of deep uncertainty, we find ourselves in a situation like no other we have ever known.  Old certainties and assumptions have been swept away – the world is an unfamiliar and unsettling place. 

We long to be in a place of safety, a place where we can defend ourselves against the pandemic, keep control of our lives and fend off our fears. 

Was that how the disciples felt behind those locked doors after the crucifixion?  The world outside was full of threat and the future one of fear.

But Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you”, and then the words he had spoken to them a few days ago, at that last supper, began to make sense in a way they couldn’t before.

Home for them and for us is no longer a place, but a way of living;  home is where we can be most fully ourselves – free of fear, and brimming with life.

For home is not cross-referenced on a map, but wherever our lives speak of love.

    “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”

Home is where God is.