My Father's House
Published for the Fifth Sunday of Easter by Pastor Joel Pukallus
Bible Reading ;John 14:1-4
Jesus said ”In my Father’s House are many rooms”
My father’s house. What does that mean? We have always taken it to mean heaven, because Jesus is going there and coming back.
But I wonder how much we forget that Jesus’ mission was to usher in, and to draw people’s attention to, the kingdom of God coming. Right here, on earth, in our midst.
Today, I want to challenge that assumption that my father’s house is only in Heaven.
There is that home for us in heaven, that generations have longed to see, and it is a thought which has comforted millions of people, and taken them on to heaven in peace.
But think on this for a minute, one of the names that I have heard all my life that is given to churches is “the house of God”. “ Kids, stop running around in the sanctuary, this is God’s house”. God is our Father, and if these churches too are his houses then my Father’s house is not just in heaven. It is here.
We need to work in a new headspace, a new understanding.
If we think God’s house is only in heaven then I believe that we are limiting God a lot. Putting him in a box. And the God who is omnipresent, everywhere, universal, cannot be put in a box.
We don’t live in heaven yet, even though we are citizens of that place. Eternal life is ours, won through our baptism, but we have not taken it up fully yet in heaven. We live here on earth and God also lives here, as well as in heaven.
That’s why I am here at Redeemer Macalister today, another house of God. My Father’s house here on earth has many rooms.
Everyone has had a different experience of the house of God. Different fonts where they were baptised, different churches, different altars, different Sunday school teachers and Pastors.
But I still think we are not looking wide enough. Our focus is still too narrow.
So here, we go. In the house where we used to live in Goombungee, we put a big sticker on the wall, right on the paint. I hope they have forgiven us for that. But it was a quote from the book of Joshua and it said “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Do you know what that means to me?
That means that not only every church building I have ever entered, but every home I have lived in has also been My Father’s house. God has been there, before us, behind us, beside us and in us.
We have practiced being in the presence of God.
Now that we cannot worship together, I want to talk a little about one of my theories of worship.
There have been many books written about what worship is, why it is important, what we give, and more importantly, what we receive. (Being Lutheran, our focus is always on sacrament rather than sacrifice, in other words, we receive more from God than we ever give to him.)
Anyway I believe that when we do those little things that are part of the Christian life, like praying, reading the bible, looking for God in a given situation, we are practicing being in the presence of God. Getting comfortable with him, getting used to being in his presence. We are in our Father’s house, in his presence.
This rises in intensity when we come together for worship, we are in the presence of his church, other Christians who, like us, we are told are “Living stones” in the building of the church, we put aside a time to go to a place that is also put aside for this one purpose, and we concentrate wholly and solely on being in the presence of God.
At the moment, this focus, this rise in intensity has to take place in our own homes, still, as I said, rooms in our Father’s house, just rooms that are maybe being repurposed during this isolation time. It is hard to have same focus and intensity that we have in worship together in a church building. If you are like my family you talk about what is going on in the video, you get a drink of water, make sure you have a cuppa, take care of other details, but that’s okay. You are still in the house of God. For this time that you are watching this you are practicing being in the presence of God in a new way at home.
When this time of isolation is over, we will come back together as a church family, and all of you who are watching are welcome to join us if you can, if you are close enough. Why don’t we just keep doing videos and not meet together in the church buildings? More people could hear the message that way, and it would save on electricity at the church etc?
1. We as human beings are made for community. We NEED to be together.
2. We cannot get back to public worship soon enough, because for so many people, definitely for me, the great crescendo of intensity in our practice of being in the presence of God, where the wave of God’s presence crashes and breaks over us is when we come to the Feast in our Father’s house. It is about Holy Communion. Have you ever noticed that you can know someone on a superficial level for a long time, but when you sit down and eat together, you reach a different level of intimacy? You get to know people as they really are when you share a meal with them.
We are told that Heaven will be the wedding feast of the lamb, imagery of a meal in celebration. Again, we are practicing. Getting ready. By the time we leave this life and land on that heavenly shore we will be so used to feasting in the presence of God, that we will not be able to wait to be there.
It will not be strange for us, but wonderful to be in our Father’s house, it is what we have been training for all our lives. The practice is over, the real thing has begun.
So we are looking at how we can record our services and our messages once the Coronavirus isolation is lifted. And if you cannot physically come and worship with us or with your own church, we will love you to come and look us up, and join us online. But if you can join a church, if you can take part in that meal hosted by Jesus himself, then practice for the big game. Practice the presence of God.
And when that day comes, as it will for all of us, when your time on this earth is over, then go to your “forever home” as they say these days. Walk in with confidence, as one who has lived and died, and lived again, in their father’s house.