Sixth Sunday in Eastertide

Sixth Sunday in Eastertide

We’ve all had the experience of hiring professional movers. But have you ever wondered what the experience of being a professional mover is like? Beyond just the back-breaking labor, there are some pretty unusual things that professional movers are hired to move. A quick search on the internet turned up a list of the following things that professional movers have been hired to move out of or into someone’s home:

A taxidermied pet

A live python

A single chair . . . from one room to another!

A whole room full of furniture . . . from a sex dungeon

A “full” cremation urn

And the kicker . . . a painting . . . of the client’s wife . . . nude.

When someone moves, it exposes a lot about their life that, in most other cases, is kept private.

This morning in John’s Gospel we hear about what we could call “God’s Moving Day”. And like our “moving days” this passage exposes a lot about God and what our relationship with God should be like. It also reveals the key to experiencing God’s “moving into” our lives. Here’s what the passage says.

Jesus said, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”

So, you see, God wants to move in with you. Jesus wants to take up residence in your home and in your life. God wants to be a permanent part of your family – and for you to be part of God’s family. God wants to dwell where you dwell. Go where you go. Live with you and as you live. But as Jesus makes clear at other times, God cannot (or perhaps just does not) do that without our consent or our participation. So, there are 3 things we need to do to help make this movement of God possible. We need to prepare, we need to welcome, and we need to honor.

So, first PREPARING:

You really can’t do anything without some degree of preparation. And that’s especially true when it comes to moving. In preparing to move, you have to cull through everything because if you don’t, the movers will literally pack everything, including your trash. Moving is also a good time to purge. Once you’ve gone through everything, you have a perfect opportunity to let go of or get rid of those things that you either don’t need or that you know won’t fit in your new home. And it’s the same with our spiritual lives. If we’re going to live the life that Jesus promises and wants us to have, then we have to get rid of the old junk.  Stuff like old hurts, old guilt from old failures, and what I would call “moral shortfalls” that have never been confessed and for which we’ve never really asked for forgiveness. Old resentments. And most of all, old habits that we know are not good for us. We have to let go of the baggage of the things we’ve done that have caused hurt to others and we have to let go of the things that others have done that have caused hurt to us.  When you prepare to move, you have to both pack and unpack.  It’s the same when preparing for God to move in.  Get rid of the junk in your life. Leave it at the altar. Jesus didn’t die so you could pack up your burdens and take them with you. He died so you could leave them behind.  While you’re PREPARING for God to move in: use the tools of confession and the acceptance of forgiveness that God has given you and then let go of the garbage in your life.

Second, there’s welcoming.

A moving van was standing in front of a suburban home. The husband and wife were busy tidying up the front yard when a woman who lived at the other end of the block approached them. She smiled and said very sweetly, “Welcome to our neighborhood. Here is a fresh pie I made to help welcome you to our street.”

The couple looked back and forth at one another with a kind of awkward embarrassment. After a few nervous moments the wife spoke up. “I don’t know quite how to say this, but we’ve been living here for three years. We’re not moving in, we’re moving out.

Some people are always welcoming. And then there are people who only seem to notice when people are leaving. We all want to make people feel welcome. But it’s not just what you do, it’s the attitude with which you take on the task.

When we Welcome the Holy Spirit, the presence of Jesus and God, into our lives; when the love of Jesus “takes up residence in your heart”, your life become the dwelling place of God. It’s no longer just a guestroom where God temporarily resides. We’ve moved all of our junk out specifically so that God, who loves us, can move in and make a home in our lives. And so that we can become part of God’s family.

Now the sad truth is, that we can certainly maintain our relationship of God as a guest. Some people do that on Sundays at church as a kind of regular “acknowledgment” of God’s presence. But the deeper challenge is to actually invite God in to be part of every day of your life. The difference between just acknowledging someone’s presence and actually welcoming them is that when you welcome someone, you genuinely engage in a relationship with them. You want to know them, and you want them to know you. 

We are part of God’s family, joint heirs, with Christ. But, as I said, only if we’re open to being intentional about inviting God in. Otherwise, God just remains a polite guest. And our lives are just a guest room for God to spend the night in. Which brings us to honoring.

Honoring is about more than just inviting a guest to come in.  It’s about respecting what that guest brings with them. In our relationship with God, it means respecting who and what God has called us to be as disciples of Jesus Christ.  The fifth commandment says, “Honor your father and your mother.” But that commandment means that we are not only to honor them, but we are also to respect and bring honor to our parents through our actions and our deference to their authority in your life.

That is, I think, what Jesus meant when he said: “Those who love me will keep my word.” It’s about having respect for and showing deference to God. If you love me, the proof of your love will be in your actions, in your faithfulness, in your willingness to live as I have called you to live.  Being forgiving and not vengeful, being generous and not greedy, being compassionate and not judgmental, being just and standing up for those who are treated unjustly.

And, importantly, these choices have consequences, because if we choose to live God’s way of love, we leave ourselves vulnerable to those who will choose to take advantage of that vulnerability.  But that’s the way it always is with love. You cannot love without taking the risk that your love will either be rejected or even used against you.  Still, to those fears (which are justified) Jesus reminds us that: “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” If we honor the place of God in our life and are faithful to the promises that we make in our baptismal covenant, then God promises to be part of our lives and to make our lives meaningful and blessed with the abundance of God’s love.

It’s a little like the story about a young woman named Sally. Sally was growing up, preparing to go off to college. Her mother had struggled to provide Sally with a good education – a difficult task given that her father had died several years earlier. Sally’s mother made every effort in her power to raise Sally the right way. Now Sally would be on her own – an exciting and frightening time.

Sally had strong reservations about leaving her mother alone to mind the farm and the chores. She was also nervous about having to find her own way without her mother’s guidance. As she prepared to meet the bus, bags packed and ready, her mother took her arm and said to her, “Sally, you’re gonna see things and do things you’ve never dreamed of, and you won’t know which way to turn sometimes. You remember how you used to tug on my dress when you wanted something, and I’d see to it? You remember how when you were too close to the road and I’d yelled to you to tell you to get away from there’?” Her mother gently reminded. “Well, I’m gonna be there with you in your heart, but it’ll be up to you to listen to what I told you. I can’t kiss your hurts when you fall down and skin your knee or quiet you when the big storms come rolling through. But I’ll be as close as a peanut in your pocket when you need me. If you’re afraid, I’ll stand with you. And if you’re hurting, you can feel me close by, and if you do wrong, I’ll whisper the truth to you, so you won’t do it anymore.” Tears came to both their eyes. Her mother opened the dresser drawer and took out a neatly folded handkerchief and placed it in the pocket of Sally’s dress.

Upon leaving, Sally felt completely alone. As she fought back the tears, she reached into her dress pocket to take out the handkerchief her mother had placed there. Then she noticed a knot in one corner just like her mother used to tie her milk money in her handkerchief. Upon untying the knot, she found a single peanut. And Sally knew that her dear mother would always be with her in her heart.

So, the Good News today is it’s moving day, God wants to dwell with you in your life. God wants to take up residence in your heart. God wants to be with you, as close as a peanut in your pocket.

But the key to that relationship lies with you.  Because in order for that life to become “real” you must PREPARING for God, you must WELCOME God, and you must HONOR GOD’s place in your life.

Let God move in and into your life, and you’ll never be alone.

Amen.