“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.” These opening words of our gospel reading this morning, spoken by Jesus at the end of the Last Supper reading in John are admittedly hard to sit with right now. I imagine many of our hearts are troubled right now. Given that Jesus had just shared that Judas would betray him and Peter deny him in his immanent final hour It’s logical to assume that there were many troubled hearts gathered with Jesus that evening. Yet, Jesus pastorally offers a comforting message to those whom he knows will soon grieve the loss of their friend and teacher.
Jesus shares that in God’s house there are many dwelling or abiding places, and that he is going to prepare places for the beloved community to abide with him. The word abide means to live or dwell, but also to continue without fading or being lost. Jesus’ statement harkens back to the Jewish law of hospitality, where it was expected that a household would open their home to any stranger who sought shelter while traveling, providing for the stranger’s needs. It was more than just a matter of being hospitable, but was rather the following of a commandment or mitzvah in obedience to God. Jesus shares with the disciples where he is going, and tells them that they know the way,promising that they will remain together. Thomas, confused by Jesus’ statement, asks for further clarification. “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” And Jesus continues to teach.
The way, Jesus refers to, is relationship, The promise of enduring relationship with God in Jesus. Jesus promises that he is going to the House of God so as to cement the abiding relationship between God and the beloved community. The disciples have heard this invitation that even in this separation that relationship is secure. That abiding is redemptive life here and now. Jesus is drawing on what abiding looks like. It’s this intimate relationship with Jesus that doesn’t go away no matter how distant we might feel. Jesus is the point of connectedness between us and with God, and the source of hope when our hearts are troubled. How have you experienced an abiding relationship with God? [Leave space for answers] When my heart is troubled one of the ways that I am reminded of that hope filled relationship in butterflies, the symbol of the resurrection that I hold most dear. Christian religion sees the butterfly as a symbol of resurrection because the butterfly metamorphosed from a caterpillar to a chrysalis and finally becomes a butterfly. The butterfly is viewed as representing endurance, change, hope, and life after the resurrection. It’s a reminder that after Jesus’ crucifixion and death there is still the promise of life and continued relationship with God in Jesus that we celebrate during the Easter season. It’s why I have butterflies on my stole.
Healthy relationships aren’t one sided however. Just as we abide with God, God also abides with us in the places that we find ourselves. A tweet by Ruth Wells that has floated around circles of ELCA clergy this past week reminded me of that. “God snuck home. No longer bound by the expectations of a ‘consecrated’ building [God’s] concentrated [their] efforts on breaking out. Now in the comfort of a well worn dining table [God] shares some bread, with some friends. And [God] laughs. And [God] weeps. In the sacred space of home.” These words paint a picture of God at home with each and every one of us, present to very human emotion shared around a dining table, the place where families gather together and troubled hearts are often found. During this time of separation it is my hope that we all continue to look for God’s presence in our homes, among our loved ones especially mothers and maternal figures who we celebrate this Mother’s Day, and that we seek God’s presence in the world around us. Thanks be to God.