Richmond First United Methodist News and Events
Re: Richmond First United Methodist News and Events
Pastor Dan Damon, Richmond 1st UMC, 5-18-14
Where are the mansions Jesus is talking about in today’s gospel?
In Paris or Beverly Hills?
In Point Richmond?
In our hearts? I think there is a wisdom saying, “As without, so within.” Have you heard it?
[We may carefully joke about those who think they will be the only ones in heaven…]
Retell the Scripture Story
When we hear the stories of the Bible as children, we accept them at face value. We think literally at that age, and receive benefit from the hearing and reading of our Sunday School teachers. We sing songs like, “I’ve Got a Mansion just over the Hilltop…” or Somewhere in Outer Space God has Prepared a Place for those who trust him and obey…” We remember the songs and stories all our lives, but when difficult times come to us, and they come to us all, we begin to doubt, to question, to rebel. Some of us remain at that stage for the rest of our lives. We leave the church, never to return. But many of us learn to hear the stories of scripture and the songs of our childhood in a new way. We learn words like metaphor and simile. We learn abstract thought and begin to see that the way of God is like a drop of water in the ocean, or a mustard seed that grows into a tree large enough for all the different birds to build nests in it.
In the Gospel according to John chapter 14 Jesus speaks about going to prepare a place for us. He speaks about returning for us. He even says we know where he is going and the way to get there. This is before GPS and Siri were here to help us navigate.
Good old Thomas, using his logical mind, says on behalf of all of us, “We don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
This gives Jesus, according to John, the opportunity to say one of the greatest lines in his preaching career: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no one comes to God, but by me.” Of course this can be interpreted narrowly of broadly. In my childhood I was taught the narrow interpretation [The ONLY way, meaning only Christians will inhabit the heavenly mansions], but in seminary I learned to see this verse more broadly. All people of faith find and follow the Way of all ways to the mansion of the loving and compassionate heart. All people can learn to give love to others. Loving is a very natural thing, but loving can get interrupted by painful events in our lives. The good news is that we can always find the way back to loving ourselves, loving others, and doing some good in the world. Even on our deathbeds we can pray for others. We can forget ourselves, our fears, and our pain, as we love others through prayer. This kind of prayer is very powerful, indeed it is mystical in dimension.
Jesus then said, “If you have known me, you have known my Father.” This is the God within us. We can close our eyes to this reality. We can say there is no eternal love within our hearts, but we are deceiving ourselves if we say this. Love is real. It is eternal. We feel it now, do we not?
Philip said, “Show us the Father.” [We now use expansive metaphorical language for God that includes Mother imagery as well as Father, but in this passage in John we have a lot of Father language.] Imagine God for yourself using metaphors that work for you. This is part of understanding the “many mansions” image of John’s Jesus.
Jesus said to Philip, “Have you been with me for so long and you still don’t know? If you have seen me, you have seen the Father. I am in the Father and the Father is in me. The God who dwells in me speaks to you and does the works that you see. Believe in me, or at least believe in the works that you see.” Do you see any loving works around you today? Do you see lives being changed for the better? Do you feel any change in your heart as you listen to these words? Do you feel that God, Goddess, Goodness, or Love now dwell within you? Are you nurturing the very best that is within you?
Jesus said, “ You will do greater works than I have done. If you ask anything in my name, I will do it, because I go to the Father.” Wow! Greater than Jesus! Let us believe this, or at least act as if we believe it. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, was told to preach faith until he had it. Then, because he had it, he would preach faith. Try it on yourself first. Then share your experience, strength, and hope with others.
In my Father’s house are many mansions. If these are the mansions of the heart, what does your inner mansion look like today? Is it lovely and peaceful, surrounded by gardens, or is it more of a fixer-upper? Who is in charge of your mansion? Have you rented the space to a tenant who doesn’t care what happens in there? Maybe it is time for you to take stock and to make your inner mansion beautiful again.
This week Bill Thompson and I delivered food and diapers to a Mexican woman who lives in the Iron Triangle neighborhood of Richmond. She is caring for her young son who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheel chair. Her son attends Washington School. Someone at the school suggested she ask the Methodists for help. She called the church and the church responded. Thanks to your generosity there is still a Methodist church here in the Point. This little church is helping to bring clean water to people in Nepal through our missionary, Katherine Parker. [Google Katherine Parker Methodist and you will find her] We are caring for people in Iraq and the Philippines to name two more parts of our global parish.
The woman we met in the Iron Triangle this week also cares for her aging father at home. When she called me, she said we live in a house. When Bill and I arrived, she invited us in. She is worried that her water may be shut off. We did a little bit to help. Bill and I let her know we care. We may do more later on. We are working to change the unjust systems of society until all have what they need. Our basic human needs have to be met. This is real, but, wealthy or poor, we can have a beautiful inner life every day, if we cultivate it through prayer, meditation, study, and corporate worship. In my Father’s house are many mansions, Jesus said. What is the condition of your heart’s mansion today? Are you learning to trust what is within you?
Let us be in prayer.
Richmond First United Methodist News and EventsRichmond First United Methodist News and EventsRichmond First United Methodist NewFirst United Methodist News and