Where Is Heaven Exactly?
#WhereIsHeavenExactly is the podcast for May 14, 2017. Is all we have to cling to is a heaven far away? Is that what Jesus means when he is telling his apostles, “in my Father’s House are many mansions?” Not really, says Mark Kurowski. Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #farewelldiscourse #John14 #IamtheWay #IamtheTruth #IamtheLife #Believe #Indwelling #Word #Logos #Father #Son #HolySpirit #BigHouses #SmallDogs #SmallHouses #BigDogs
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For My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 5/14/2017 The 5th Sunday of Easter.
Please pause this audio and read John 14:1-14.
Where exactly is Heaven? When is Heaven?
When we read this passage from the “Farewell Discourse” section of the Gospel of John traditionally, as it has always been read, we read the first verse and stop. We get all misty eyed, buoyed up by the promise of future relief from this life. It says, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms,…I go to prepare a place for you.” It would be natural to think of this passage as some place far away that we will someday get to that gives us a reward for our faithfulness.
What if we read this passage differently? What if, as Dr. Gail O’Day writes in her commentary on the Gospel of John, this passage has to do with relationship? Remember how the Gospel of John begins by the Son, the Word, being in the beginning and coming to be one of us in Jesus? The full Godman: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14) On top of that, Jesus makes a fantastic claim that he “is in the Father and the Father is also in” him. (John 14:11).
As well, This “Farewell Discourse” is where Jesus prepares his followers to live life with him in the Eucharist and by his indwelling after he rises from the dead and ascends into heaven. In other words, how Jesus lives within US, NOW. “You ask me how I know he lives, he lives within my heart.” This may be the key to all those confusing passages in John where Jesus goes on and on with, “even as you Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” In fact, Gail O’Day makes the case that this passage is in the light of that indwelling relationship.
When God wanted to save the world, he sent the Son to be one of us and renew us. He was born our birth, walked our walk, talked our talk, lived our life, died our death, and rose to eternal life, taking us with him to the Father. It is this relationship with a mystical being that changes us: “You ask me how I know he lives, he lives within my heart” in Christ in the Father.”
I was once present at a lecture of the theologian and New Testament Scholar Luke Timothy Johnston who was visiting my seminary for a speaker series. It was at the time when they were fussing over what words Jesus said. There are scholars who think that much of the Bible is a fabrication and that they have color coded what words they believe are truly from Jesus and which ones are not. Johnston was outraged by this so called “Quest for the historical Jesus.” He said to us that the Church doesn’t worship a Jesus who once was, we worship a Jesus who is. We worship a Jesus who is an active force in us. He dwells within us because we believe in him. It is so simple that it is confusing.
He is in the Father, the Father is in him. When we believe, then the Father and the Son is in us. We should not lose sight of the fact that this discourse is to those who have not lost the earthly Christ to the Second Coming yet. The next passage is about the gift of the Holy Spirit to us. So, this passage presents us with an interesting thought: If the relationship with Jesus puts the Father in us and us in the Father, then could it possibly be that we are the many “rooms”, some translations say, “mansions” in the Father’s House, who is Christ? What if Christ is the house?
What if by the indwelling of Christ we have heaven present within us instead of some distant thing that we will get? That makes verse 12 even more powerful when it says, “the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do, and greater works.” If we have the indwelling of Christ, given in belief, baptism, and the Eucharist, then that means that we have the power of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit dwelling within us. If God is within us, then we have heaven within us. We are the many rooms in the House of God. We are the many mansions, in the House of God.
I like the translation “mansions” better this time around because there are these mansions by my house. I get it now. When I was growing up on welfare it didn’t make sense. You see, South of the railroad tracks by my house, which is in a more modest section of town, there is this gated section that is filled with these HUGE houses, mansions. They are about 50 to 100 feet apart, in a subdivision, really. They are massive. Seriously, they look like a country club and a Mary Poppins House had love children.
It was when we squeezed two foreign exchange students into our house to increase the Kurowski house population back up to five and through my new found love of running, that I discovered two facts about mansions. First, if you run progressively south from the northern border of my town the houses go from smallest to ginormous, the mansions. In proportion to the size of the houses, the dogs go from ginormous to micro pup. Seriously, that is what running a lot can teach you. If you put the size of a house in proportion to the size of a dog in my fair city, you would see big ‘X’ on the chart. If you have small house, you have a big dog. If you have big house, you have tiny dog. At least, that is what it looks like.
The second thing you learn is that the smaller the house the greater the number of people in the house and vice versa. It was when we had our foreign exchange daughter that we learned that in mansionville, in my town, that most of those very large homes had no more than three people living in them. The friend of our foreign exchange daughter who lived in mansionville, her family actually owned TWO of those mansions in which they split time. Really. So, here you have this incredibly large home with very few people living in it. In fact, there is mansion after mansion after mansion in that gated subdivision that has no more than three people living in it.
Now, before we start to condemn them, a thought came to me while studying for thissermon: those mansions are perfect metaphors for us. After reading the passage, they were perfect metaphors for the apostles. Look at the passage, they argued with Jesus about what he said. They said, “Show us the Father. Show us the way.” He said, “Didn’t you see me?” “I am the Way. I am the Truth. I am the Life. No one comes to the Father but by me. If you had known me, you would know the Father.”
This has profound implications. It means that you and I are mansions of the Father. We have space within us for more than just three people. We have space for so many people in the world. Put together, we are the Father’s House of many mansions that contain the Peace of Christ, the power of the Living God. Within us, is God dwelling, and redwelling through belief and the Eucharist, over and over. The only way that we should be troubled is if we stay victims of the Devil and this world instead of coworkers of the indwelling God and his mission. We get troubled when we take our eyes and hearts off Christ.
How many sins would we avoid if we just remembered that we are Temples of the Holy Spirit and have the indwelling of the Father within us through belief in the Son? How many times would we have stopped ourselves from despair by remembering who we are and Whose we are? What if our hearts should not be troubled because we are mansions filled with the power of God to heal others, love others to righteousness, and be a massive light shining on the hill? What if Heaven is not just a place that is coming, but a place that is and is within us because Heaven is in Father and the Father is in the Son and the Son is in us?
The comic strip Pogo, Walt Kelly the cartoonist, had this famous line, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” So, what if we don’t need self help because the help is from the Father who dwells in us in the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit? If so, then we need to change our thinking and remember that we are the source of peace and calm in this world. We ought not be toubled, not because there is some Heaven far far away, but because there is a Heaven and it is in us and there is room to share it with everyone. So, let’s turn our eyes on Christ, believe, embrace power of our Baptisms and the Eucharist, and change the world. Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2017.
Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian