“In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places…” John 14:2
A few years ago I saw an exhibit at the Minnesota History Museum. It was called “Open House: If these Walls could Talk.” It was fascinating to walk through the ‘history’ of one house in St. Paul — to hear about the different families who lived there: immigrants all and also to witness the rapidly changing technology which had marked their lives. (If you’re interested, there is a link to a more detailed description here.)
All houses have histories, of course, whether we are aware of them or not. In fact, while I have lived in a number of different houses, for the most part their histories have eluded me. Except the house I call home now. For you see, a few years ago I was called upon to officiate at the funeral of the woman who, along with her husband, actually built my house. So in visiting with her children, I was able to get a window — if not into the actual house itself, then into those who first called it home.
Indeed, I can only imagine the hope that filled them when he came safely home from war, they got married, and bought land on Meadow Lane where they soon put up the four walls which shelter their family. It was then just two bedrooms and a bath, a kitchen and a living room — all sitting atop a basement which they never felt the need to finish. It worked just fine as workroom and playroom and laundry room just the way it was. The house was small and sturdy and just right for them and their infant daughter — soon to be followed by a son. Only the children grew and before long they decided they needed more room. So they hoisted the roof right up and turned the attic space into bedrooms and another bathroom for the kids and they moved into the back bedroom downstairs — knocking out a wall and turning the other bedroom into what now serves as the dining room. And a few years ago I got to sit down with her old photo albums. I couldn’t help myself. I found myself looking for glimpses of the house that is now my home. I have to say that at first I was a little disappointed. For you see, no one actually took a picture of the house all by itself in all of its phases and transitions. Rather, the focus was always on the family. They can be seen posing in front of the house on the way to church or some other festive outing or in once case, simply relaxing out in the front yard which then didn’t even have trees to shade it.
So it is for all of us. All of our houses have stories — some of which we know and others of which moved on with those who lived there before us. Whether we can tell them or not, all of our houses hold histories shaped and shared by those who lived in them. Only truly, for many of us, the most interesting part of the story is not the ‘building’ itself, but those who built their lives inside it.
And so it is today that Jesus speaks to us of home, the very home that is being prepared for us even now. Certainly this home will be similar to the homes of our childhoods. It may, in fact, hold some things in common with homes we’ve bought and owned, fixed up, sold, and moved on from. Oh yes, all the places we have called home, if we are fortunate, may offer us some sense of the home Jesus promises his disciples now. Even so, I would guess it offers even something more, this home the promise of which even now can bring calm in the midst of our storms, peace in the midst of our worry, and hope to our despair. For even before the promise of ‘home’ itself, Jesus urges his disciples to not let their hearts be troubled.
I have no idea of what that home will look like, this place which Jesus goes to prepare for us today. Only this house? Its story isn’t marked so much by those who have lived there. Today we are reminded that this home is marked and made, shaped and molded by God’s love — by the builder himself. And this Builder assures us that there is plenty of room in this house — that the attic won’t have to be pushed up and the upstairs remodeled for we are expected — and when we arrive, each one of us, we will feel at home.
It is no wonder, of course that these words are often read at funerals — at that time when we need to hear them most of all. What a gift it is to stand still in the promise that when our time for ‘making a home’ here is done, a place is waiting for us for us in God’s own house. In the meantime, may all of our homes now be a foretaste of what is yet to come. May we be a part of making this so whenever and wherever we can. And may the promise that there is another Home waiting for us enable us always to live in hope for what is yet to come.
- What is the story of your ‘home?’ Is it in the design, the architecture, the furnishings, the people? How would you tell the story of your home?
- What comes to your mind when Jesus speaks of ‘going to prepare a place’ or a home for us? What do you picture?
- How does this promised future shape your present life now? How are we called to be part of ‘making homes’ in this world today?