This is the most popular text chosen by families to be read at their loved ones funerals because it gives us such a vivid picture of the future reality that Jesus has promised to all those who love and follow him. This is one of the rare glimpses where Jesus speaks of what it will look like when we are with Him after this life. Part of why it is so familiar, is that there aren’t very many pictures or stories really nailing down for us what heaven is like. So we try to make sense and hold on to the few passages that seem to try to tell us of heaven. This passage is a picture of what we can look forward to after a life of following Jesus. (Plug for Surprised by Hope, NT Wright that delves into the passages that do speak of heaven)
However, we often miss the point that this picture of heaven is also a reality we can experience in the here and now as we learn to live as part of an extended spiritual family. To Jesus, God’s will, His Kingdom coming on earth as it is in heaven is a real prayer and expectation for his followers.
So then, this is also a picture of our lives here and now… As we look at this passage in that light we see the house where the Apostle Peter lived in Capernaum was a house with a number of dwelling places, or rooms. It was built so that individual families could live centered around a communal courtyard where they cooked and hung out as an extended family.
Jesus is using an example he knows will be familiar to his disciples/friends, so they can easily picture this type of life. It is familiar because it is like the way they were living at Peter’s and it is like their time with him on their travels on the road.
When Jesus tells them he is going to prepare a place, it is an extension of the extended spiritual family they have been part of for the past three years. Jesus demonstrated and taught his followers that they should not try to make disciples and carry out their mission alone or even just in small groups. They learned the power of living as part of an extended family. A shared life that supported each other in doing what God had given them to do. They could go out alone to do his work in the world or in small groups, but it is because they first are connected to Him, and then this family that was anchored to him. One thing to be sure, Jesus is telling us in this passage that community is important, both on earth and in heaven.
I am going to say it, it comes back to the triangle, first we are connected to God (UP), then community in Christ(our IN), His family which he says is our family, then from there we go out to our jobs, friends, neighbors (our OUT). The success of our out in so far as it is Kingdom related is grounded first in Him then community where we have backing and support when we go out.
As we live one life rather than a compartmental one, as we’ve been talking about the past few weeks, having an extended spiritual family is the place where we can grow and we see God bring greater fruitfulness in our lives outside our homes and families. We can go out knowing others have our backs. In prayer and love and other practical ways our community has our back, they are our support as we go out living in his grace and sharing his love. Community and our family in Christ helps us as we grow to live lives that more and more resemble Christ.
For me, this has been so apparent the past 25 days.
I launched the Kickstarter because I knew God was leading me to, through prayer and all the encouragement of the family of Christ around me. You know the line, ‘when you hear his voice’? I knew I’d heard His voice on this. It has been stressful and I’ve had to remember, especially in the beginning that I was stepping into something that God had told me to do, and I felt some anxiety at first. But as the days went by and the Kickstarter grew, I saw what felt impossible begin to happen. When you hear his voice it changes everything, I wasn’t guaranteed of the outcome, but I knew I was to take this step. When it seemed to not be taking off at first, after having read success story after success story, I kept thinking, ‘well, I know I’m being obedient, I am doing what God has clearly led me to do and it was confirmed over and over through my community of believers, so whether it hits goal or not, I know I am doing what God told me to do.’ And that was followed closely, by ‘why would God lead me in doing something if it wasn’t going to work?’ so I just had to throw myself into it fully and whether it funded or not, knowing that God and my community, my extended family of believers had my back and we all agreed it was what God was leading…
We had 25 days, no more, period. On day 11 we were at 10%. And then about day 13, it went from 10% to 22% and we were encouraged. But we were also aware (I am good at math) that there were only 12 more days, less than half the time to grow the other 78% and it seemed daunting. It wasn’t until day 18 that it doubled to 46% and all of a sudden things started to take off. We were hopeful and so encouraged.
And, MORE than that, the notes and messages started to come in rapidly. Notes, emails, texts from all over that contained some of the most encouraging words I’ve ever received. We were blown away. I can’t tell you how much these messages and support have meant. And will continue to mean to me, as I intend to print them out and reread them on days I am doubting myself.
Then in the next 5 days we went the rest of the way. It was astounding. Amazingly, astounding, dumbfoundedly, humbling, and amazing.
And all that to say, when in this passage of the gospel of John, Jesus talks about many rooms in His Father’s house, while it is definitely a picture of the life we’ll have after this one, it is also a picture of heaven on earth. When we live in faith and unity and purpose with one another. We are able to live now with glimpses of heaven. Through our life up with God, prayer, worship, asking ourselves what is God saying to me today and what by His grace am I to do? And through our life as believers in community and extended family, encouraging one another, building one another up, praying and supporting what God is doing in each other. And through our out in the world, our jobs, our coworkers, all those we connect with outside our extended church family. And with this glimpse into heaven, living now, even in our limited way, as it will be then, is the best way to live.
We are meant to see as we pray in the Lord’s prayer, His Kingdom come, on earth as it is in Heaven. Then and now.