John 14.1-14; 1 Peter 2.2-10
On my own?
I am a rock, I am an island.
And a rock feels no pain
and an island never cries. Paul Simon
It’s a lie! It’s a horrible, breath of hell, satanic lie! But you get that – right? You realise Paul Simon meant quite the opposite. It was a cry of anger and pain at loss and a desperate grasp at some form of defence. In fact John Donne the poet-priest said; “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of a continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as is a promontory were,…every man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind…”
No matter how much you want to protect yourself you can’t (I can’t, none of us can) live this life and especially the life of faith on our own. We can’t do it without anyone else, outside and aloof from the community of faith. “How wonderful, how beautiful, when brothers and sisters get along.” If only because it’s who we are – the community of faith, the household of God. There is a real temptation to say, (sounding super-spiritual all the while) that I only need me, God and the Bible, but it’s not true – it’s a heresy, and a dangerous one at that. But let’s have the words of God tell us the truth of the matter, about who we really are.
A great big house I have a lovely picture in my head of the first time we went to have a meal with Samuel and Dhruti Christian; Samuel was sitting in a chair, outside, waiting for us to conduct us into the house. We were blessed to know that he thought about us and was ready to bring us into his house when we arrived. Similar to the maori view of hospitality, where the elders will wait up all night if they know someone is coming, and then you are made to feel that this is your place from now on. That’s the kind of message Jesus was using to comfort His disciples (even though they didn’t understand). That He would bring them to places that He prepared for each of them, places in the midst of Jesus’ true “hometown”, His Father’s household that we call Heaven.
In this very accommodating realm, Jesus has already prepared our own distinctive place – not a mansion as in KJV, but rather a place to abide in Him, to relate to Him and to those who have also been brought to this heavenly, multi-apartment, palace. We are there because we belong to Him and have belonged to Him since the first flowering of our faith, not just us but all of those who preceded us and those who accompanied us and will follow us in the adventurous journey of faith.
This is a place of fellowship, not a place of sheltered solitude, where fellowship will be as we have never seen it before; where nothing obstructs our desire to know and be known, to love and be loved. And there is a sense that wherever we are now, we are actually members of that household, on the way to our home, with much to do before we get there.
A living building, made of living stones is the vision that Peter paints of our identity and place in God. He starts his passage with an invitation to relationship Come to Him as the best place in which to live out his earlier command to purity and love. He knows personally how graciously welcoming the Lord is. And yet his invitation is not because of grace but because this Jesus is in a unique way chosen and precious in God’s sight. Jesus is the living stone upon which all that God does among humankind is built, even though mortal humanity doesn’t want Him He is God’s choice for a foundation stone. So then we are encourage to allow ourselves to be built into His household, a spiritual house, in which we begin to live out the wonderful destiny for which we have been saved. Our identity is many faceted, there are different ways in which we are of the household:
First we are built on and around Him who is chosen and precious, which means there is no longer any need to live in, or fear, shame; we’ve been liberated from the threat of shame, because Jesus our Saviour is now the centre of all that matters. As a result we are: a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, a living demonstration of what God does when He brings people close to Himself. We have been included in the community through whom God has chosen to make His name and honour known; we are royal (daughters and sons of the King) and empowered; we are entrusted to be those who bring the world to God in faith-filled prayer; those whose greatest distinction is our likeness to Him who has saved us; our name is His name, our identity is entirely derived from Him and His work, His grace, His unifying love, the empowering, present Holy Spirit.
When we are built into God’s spiritual house we become people of His kingdom, his domain; this is now our place too, and the resources of this place become ours as well, as do the privileges and the honour of being a host now rather than a guest or visitor. It’s now our role to invite and welcome others into this cosmic, forever whanau of God. We now have a responsibility to point people to where they may rest, where and how they may gather, where and how they may be fed and refreshed. Together we sing, we laugh, we remember and recite our stories, we celebrate and we mourn together. Together we call the lost or misplaced to come home, to be refreshed and be reminded of where we belong and to know that our realm stretches way beyond the limits of God’s house out into all of His creation because it’s all His when all is said and done.
This is us, this is what we do, this is how we are. His. from Pete’s Page this morning.
1. Where do you draw your identity from? Family, culture, tribe, whanau, marae, church, friends? How does it work out that this is your identity?
2. What is your belief about life after this life – and how do we get there if anywhere? What security is there in it?
3. Living stones? What does that mean to you? Do you think your stone is exactly the same as everyone else’s or acre there distinctives and what are they likely to be? What difference does or ought it make to the way you structure and live your life?
Glossary of terms
“whanau” Maori term for family, that signifies the extended rather than nuclear family. It can often mean quite a wide network within a particular hapu.
“marae” Maori term for the place where the hapu or sub-tribal grouping meet together. It often has strong family and historical roots for the group concerned and will be in the middle of what they have always considered their home territory. It is the centre of cultural activities and of whanau gatherings for things like Tangis (funerals) and huis (talkfest, often about controversial matters, and quite often political).
“turangawaewae” lit. “a place to stand” often the marae. But it may be a significant location with strong cultural or historical meaning for either Maoridom, an Iwi (tribe) or hapu. Means somewhere you can speak freely and feel that you belong here like nowhere else in the world.