Sunday, May 11, 2003

John 14 --- He prepares a dwelling place for us, and we are to be a dwelling place for Him

This article in the most recent The Other Side is well worth the read. You may want to parallel this with the essay by our beloved Steven of Flos Carmeli on the same subject (written back in early September).

from the article:
In the same passage where Jesus speaks of preparing a heavenly home for us, he later turns the homecoming image around. To those who love God, he tells his disciples, he will send an Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who will live with us, and in us (14:16-17). And a few verses later, Jesus takes it even further: "Those who love me will keep my word, and my Heavenly Parent will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them" (14:23).

This is radical stuff. What does it mean for us to make a home for God --- here and now?

First, if we make in our lives a home for God, it's going to change us. Jesus isn't a delicate houseguest who leaves everything just the way he found it. Jesus moves in and renovates. Think of Zacchaeus, the "wee little man" who climbs up in a tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus. But Jesus stops the parade under Zacchaeus's tree and says, "Hey Zak, come down out of that sycamore, because tonight I'm coming to your house. Tonight, your home is going to become my home." And to the great chagrin of the religious leaders surrounding Jesus, he goes and has dinner with this despised tax collector (Luke 19:1-10).

Zacchaeus had been a collaborator with the Romans, exploiting his own people and making a nice living off of it. But before he knows it, after having made a home for Jesus in his life, Zacchaeus is giving half of what he has to the poor, and offering to repay four times the amount that he has defrauded anyone. If we make a home for God, God's going to do some remodeling.

Second, if our lives and our churches are serious about making a home for God, that will also mean making room at the table for all people --- including some folks we might not expect. The Letter to the Ephesians describes a faith community that has become a dwelling place for God's Spirit (2:11-22). The images are of reconciliation, peace, inclusion. In a community where God dwells, those who were once far away are brought near, the dividing walls of hostility, misunderstanding, and fear are broken down. Divisions of race, class, sexual orientation, nationality, economics, or even theology are breached by God's unconditional love for us all. The church which makes a home for Christ also makes room for the hungry, the homeless, the imprisoned --- the "least of these" in whom Jesus said we would meet him. Those who once were considered foreigners and aliens, to use Paul's language, will have a place at the table next to us. And it will change us.

Finally, if we make in our lives a home for God, we become partners with God in shaping this world. We take responsibility for our future, recognizing that the decisions we make every day are of great importance, for they either allow God's reign to be made real on earth as in heaven, or they prevent it.

In an article in The Other Side a few years back, Dorothee Sölle recounted growing up in Germany in the 1940s, and how her faith was shaped by the tremendous acts of courageous resistance that she witnessed as a child during World War II. She was part of a community that sheltered many Jewish families during the war. At a very early age, Dorothee learned that the way we live matters. The fates of innumerable persons during the Holocaust were determined largely by the decisions and actions of individual persons. For each family that responded courageously to the need, lives were saved.

It's been said that "God has no hands in this world but ours." When we make a home for God in our lives, our hands become God's hands, our lives an instrument for bringing about God's reign, here and now.

Do use the link and read it all!

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