First Reading: Acts 16:9-15
9 During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ 10 When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.
11 We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days. 13 On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. 14 A certain woman named Lydia, a worshipper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. 15 When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.’ And she prevailed upon us.
May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us, Selah
2 that your way may be known upon earth,
your saving power among all nations.
3 Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.
4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide the nations upon earth. Selah
5 Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.
6 The earth has yielded its increase;
God, our God, has blessed us.
7 May God continue to bless us;
let all the ends of the earth revere him.
Second Reading: Revelation 21:10, 22—22:5
10 And in the spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.
22 I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. 25 Its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
22 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; 4 they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign for ever and ever.
Gospel: John 14:23-29
23 Jesus answered him, ‘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. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.
25 ‘I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, “I am going away, and I am coming to you.” If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.
CHILDREN’S SERMON: Home is spelled H O M E. Let’s do a group-think. What are words that start with “H” that remind us of “home? (Allow people to share briefly e.g. happy, healthy, here, hectic…)
Let us pray. God be gracious unto us and make your face shine upon us. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, my Rock and my Redeemer.
SERMON: “HOME IS WHERE YOUR HEART IS”
The 6 or 7 weeks after Easter are called the Easter season. We look at the meaning of the resurrection and the implications of Jesus being alive and active in our world – then and now. Our texts have been developing that belief. Jesus did die for sin (and because of sin) and opened the way to eternity with him, with God. But that does not seem to be the end of the story. The story goes on! Life did not stop at the crucifixion! Jesus rose and started appearing to his followers. Women saw him Easter morning. He appeared to two people walking to Emmaus on Easter afternoon. He stood in the middle of followers behind locked doors Easter evening. He appeared to Thomas and healed his doubt. He had breakfast with Peter and others and healed the guilt of failure and pointed them forward. He is creating a kingdom. The kingdom of God operates under a new commandment – Love one another! Our texts have shown how Jesus was and is our Good Shepherd. Last week we were challenged to include “the other” whom we may have considered a stranger. The Kingdom of God is not just for one ethnicity but for all people.
I would look at our text today and ask myself and you, what more can Easter tell us about the risen Christ? What do we need to tuck into our soul today? Jesus tells us, “‘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.” Jesus is not just our Good Shepherd and our God who leads us to new adventures, but Jesus is also our HOME.
I had to stop and think about this because as a child, home was the place I wanted to run away from. I have many memories of tension and disagreements that cloud the memories of the good times. So I looked up favorite sayings about home on the Internet and found this shortened list:
“Home is where our story begins…”
“Home is the starting place of love, hope and dreams.”
“Home is where love resides, memories are created, friends always belong, and laughter never ends.”
“What I love most about my home is who I share it with.”
“Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave, and grow old wanting to get back to.”
“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”
I would propose to you today that faith in the resurrection is knowing you have a HOME! It is a space where through forgiveness, we are always welcome just as we are. It is a space of safety and peace where we do not need to worry or be afraid. It is a space we venture from and can always return to. Jesus in God makes his home with us!
Home is a space of forgiveness.
“Those who love me will keep my word”
“Keeping my word,” sounds like obedience is a prerequisite to family with Jesus. Today’s text starts with words that sound to me very much like, “Just wait till your father comes home!” I think I felt that way as a child. Disobedience meant punishment. Punishment felt like rejection. Spanking was still the way to raise children back in the day. I still remember that last spanking in about 4th grade. My younger sister and I went to collect our dolls from our friend’s house and were to return in time for lunch. When we returned, I poked my head in the door and saw my parents at the table and the meal finished. I quickly jumped out and pushed my sister in. My father asked me, “Who came in first.” I pointed to my sister. Technically I thought I was right but I got two spankings. One for lying and one for being late!
The text is very clear that if we love God, we will obey God’s word. We start our service with confession because we are very clear that we have failed to obey, either deliberately or unknowingly God’s word and will. I am defeated to keep the law and God knows it. How can home be a space where I am safe – from others and from myself? The answer: Love covers a multitude of sins. Home is a space of love and forgiveness. The resurrection assures us of a home that is safe from the guilt of the past, from the accusations of the present, and the fears of future failures. Jesus died for all those things that separate people from each other and from God and shows in the resurrection that death cannot hold us.
Jesus comforts the disciples, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.” The burden of the law in God’s kingdom is met with the presence of the Holy Spirit who walks with us, reminding us when we forget and teaching us when we are ignorant. We forget and we are foolish but when we are home, we are forgiven.
Often today in the West, we hear this news very individually. I love the story found in Luke 5:17-26. It is at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. He is teaching and the house is crammed full of people listening. Four men bring their paralyzed friend on a mat and lower him through the ceiling. “When Jesus saw their faith, he said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven.’” Have you ever felt like God is so busy with the affairs of the world, dealing with wars and famines and illness that your little problem is impossible? Jesus responds to the faith of the paralytic’s friends. I think that is a beautiful picture of HOME. Busy, crowded, issues always being resolved but in the midst of all the happenings of this world, Jesus sees me and my friends’ faith and shields us from the critics that are always in the wings doubting us and him. Home is where I can enter sick, be healed, and be taught by the Holy Spirit. I do not need to be perfect.
Home is a space of safety and peace.
27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
Home is a space where we are forgiven and safe. Home is also a space of peace. It is a space where we do not have to be troubled or afraid. On Easter evening the ten disciples (Thomas was absent) and other followers gathered behind locked doors in fear and confusion. They were trying to get their hearts and minds around resurrection. By Pentecost that we will celebrate next week, a new dynamic was forming – the Church. This new “home” was unique partially because people heard God’s message in their own language – language did not divide. People were representative of the world’s ethnicities at Pentecost. No tribal fightings. No war over territories and boundaries. This new body was forming that had eyes, ears, toes, and appendixes – all had a role to play. We confess that we believe “4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, “6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:5).” The whole concept of peace was being redefined by the resurrection.
The story that comes to my mind is the conversion of Saul to Paul. Saul is committed to wiping out early Christianity but encounters Jesus on the road to Damascus. Jesus asks him, “Why are you fighting against me. Why are you so angry?” Saul who is blinded by the encounter, is ministered to be Ananias, a Christian, whom he had been wanting to kill. Paul comes to peace with others and with God. He has found peace not by following the wisdom of the world by killing and eliminating people who are different but by meeting the resurrected Jesus and then living by peace from above. He lives in harmony with God and people.
Perhaps the question facing us today is to ask ourselves what is troubling us and making us afraid? Perhaps our guts are silently churning because of world news, inflation, the journey of aging, finances or family conflicts we don’t talk about. There are so many things that would rob us of the peace that comes with the resurrection.
I have pondered how I would rephrase Jesus’ words “peace I give you” into language for my soul today. It seems to me the Holy Spirit whispers in our ears, “It’s ok. I’m here with you, working things out. Don’t be afraid. Don’t fret. I’ve got your back.”
28 You heard me say to you, “I am going away, and I am coming to you.”
Home with Jesus is a space of forgiveness and acceptance. Home with Jesus is safe from conflict, fear and anxiety. But Home is also a space of coming and going, freedom and agency. Jesus promises that he is always with us but sometimes he seems so silent. We are invited to partner with God in creating the Kingdom of God that the resurrection speaks to. Jesus says he is returning to the Father but he will return to us. We have now touched the mystery of the Trinity. We live in the tension that Jesus says he is returning to the Father and yet he starts by saying he and the Father will make their home with us. They are present but not seen.
Home is a space and not a place. I can be at home with God in my house, in my church, and even in my car. I have found God in the famine relief camps on northern Kenya, the cathedrals of Europe, the mega churches of the USA and even in the small fellowships like Bethany. God is not bound by size or place. His Spirit is with us wherever we travel.
Home is presence and not performance. We don’t always see God but we know he is with us. He does not always manage life the way we would like him to but we know he is still at home with us. Perhaps it is something like going to college. Even though we do not see our parents or friends, they are there. Perhaps it is something like letting our children grow up. We cannot be with them in person but we wait by the phone for a call or zoom meeting, an email, or any communication.
Home is a creative, unfolding process working with people, not a factory creating drones to do the wishes of the master. Home is a base and security we venture from to tackle dreams but it is also a place we return to for a cup of coffee, to report in, to celebrate, and to recharge our batteries. Home is a launching space and the space where we are always welcome to return and fellowship. Many homes in this world are not like that. I have been impressed with all the interviews with people returning to their bombed out homes in Ukraine. The interviewer often asks, “Why return?” The response is invariably, “This place is my home.” My story started here. My family roots are here. Here I find meaning.
Today we read that Jesus promises that as we learn to love and obey his commands, he and the Father will love us and make his home with us. His Spirit will guide us and we will find forgiveness. Being at home with God means acceptance without ifs, ands, or buts. Being at home with God means we are safe from conflict, from worry and from things that trouble us. Home means we are respected partners with God even when we don’t see him, don’t feel him, and doubt. The resurrection means he is present and working. He is whispering to us, “It is ok. I’m here with you and yours. I see you. I care. I’m for you and yours.”
29 And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.
Thank you, Lord. Let the people of God say “Amen!”