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The readings for this Sunday are:
- Acts 7:55-60
- Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16
- 1 Peter 2:2-10
- John 14:1-14
- Link to readings
“You know the way to the place where I am going,” Jesus says.
With everything changing, everything deeply unsettled, with the promise of death and defeat hanging in the air, Jesus says “do not let your hearts be troubled.”
Don’t worry. Even though you can’t follow this time, you will later. And you know the way.
I’ve been reflecting lately on the simple things that I miss during these strange days of quarantine. Family, friends, and the ease of ordinary social contact. The simple, liminal space between things – a few precious moments of down time in the car between appointments, the refreshment of a quick bite to eat in a neighbourhood café. Smiling faces not obscured behind masks.
But what I think I miss most of all was the sense of certainty that I had. That we had. That each day would unfold more or less like the one before. That nothing could possibly disrupt our modern, comfortable way of life.
How naive that seems now.
Certainty is appealing. We devote all kinds of time and energy to building up a sense of certainty and security in life. Particularly in religious circles, there’s a temptation to cultivate the kind of faith that bends toward certainty. Do these things, and expect this result. Follow these principles, believe these propositions, worship this way, and all is well. But what happens when our usual structure disappears?
This is where the disciples find themselves in our reading from John’s Gospel. Everything is uncertain, and there’s no simple or clear way forward. Just anxiety. And these strange words of Jesus insisting that everything is ok, even in the face of crushing ambiguity.
I wonder if there’s an important lesson for us in this movement – of Jesus submitting to death, walking a road that we can’t follow, and insisting that we sit tight and trust.
The mystic, theologian and philosopher Meister Eckhart wrote, “let us pray to God that we may be free of God.” St. Augustine writes, “if you comprehend it, it is not God.”
I think that both of them are trying to suggest that there’s something about the death of God that invites us to be willing to let go of our preconceived notions of how things are supposed to work. That the comfortable box that we want to put God in can’t possibly contain him. Or us. Or the world. Things just don’t work that way.
What we’re left with is the abiding, generous, spacious promise that God is bigger than our understanding. Bigger than our fears. Bigger than the meagre houses we would build to contain him. Bigger than any virus. Bigger than death.
Jesus meets us in our uncertainty, but doesn’t offer easy answers – as much as we might want them. Instead, he offers companionship. The promise of relationship that will not end.
For in God’s house, there is room for each of us. And we know the way, because we know Jesus.
In these days of uncertainty, when the answers and habits that previously sustained us seem to fall short, when we’re pushed and stretched and feeling lost – may we know the presence of God and that peace that passes all understanding. May we pray to God to be freed from our notions about God, so that we might discover something new, and beautiful and astounding.