Sunday, June 02, 2019

Where Do You Live? (Rerun)

7th Sunday in Easter (C)
Picture: cc Ade Rixon

My dear friends, if I were to ask you where you live, how would you answer? Assuming, of course, that you trust me enough to tell me the truth, and you don’t just tell me to mind my own business, very likely you’ll do what the rest of us would do. You’ll tell me your street address. But is that the only way to answer the question? What do you think?

Some of us may remember that story at the beginning of John’s Gospel, where Jesus answers this same question, where do you live, in a very different way. When two disciples of John the Baptist follow him, as the Lord is walking along the Jordan river, Jesus asks them what they are looking for. And they say to him, Rabbi, where do you live? Do you remember how Jesus responds? He doesn’t tell them his exact address. He doesn’t say Christ the King Church, 2221 Ang Mo Kio Ave 8. Instead, he invites them to come and see…

Why do you think he does that? When asked where he lives, why doesn’t Jesus just tell people his address? Perhaps it’s because he doesn’t have one. At this point in the story, he has already left his family home in Nazareth, to live the life of a wandering preacher. So, very likely, his address changes from day to day. He can’t say exactly where he lives. People have to come and see for themselves.

But could there be another deeper reason for the Lord’s response? Could it be that, for Jesus, the question where do you live cannot be adequately answered by repeating names and numbers? Could it be that what he wants to share with us is not his street address, but the location of his spiritual home? Not just where he lays his head from time to time. But where his heart finds rest all of the time. Could it be that what the Lord wants is to show us where he truly lives? Where he has always lived. Even from before the foundation of the world. His eternal resting place in the loving will of his heavenly Father. And the only way Jesus can do this is by inviting us to follow him… To come and see

To discover not so much the Lord’s street address, but his true spiritual home. So that we may live where he lives, and in the way that he lives. Isn’t this what Jesus is praying for, on our behalf, in the gospel today? Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, so that they may always see the glory you have given me… To be with me where I am. In other words, to live where the Lord himself lives. Not just to join him in heaven after we die – although that is a good thing to pray for – but to live with the Lord even now, on this earth. To live in his love, just as he lives in his Father’s love. This is the awesome gift that Jesus begs for us. For you and for me.

But what does this gift look like? Do we know? We find the answer in the other two readings. In the first reading, Stephen fearlessly proclaims the gospel, and is persecuted for it. He is dragged out of the city of Jerusalem, and cruelly stoned to death. And yet, the reading tells us that, even in the face of such terrible suffering, Stephen experiences the presence of God. I can see heaven thrown open, he declares, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God. Not only does Stephen see the glory of God, he is able also to imitate Jesus in forgiving his murderers. And even to pray for them. A sign that, even when he finds himself at a place of great trial, Stephen continues to make his home in the Lord. To live where Jesus lives.

We find something similar in the second reading, taken from the end of the book of Revelation. Here, the apostle John remains in exile on the island of Patmos. And yet, in his painful isolation, in his distant desolation, like Stephen, John too is able to experience the closeness of the Lord. At a time when he might so easily fall into depression and despair, John hears a voice reminding him of the identity of the One in whose hands he has entrusted his life. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End… This voice reassures John that he is not alone… I shall indeed be with you soon. And it also shows us that, even while on an island of exile, John continues to live where Jesus lives.

Sisters and brothers, in our readings today, it is clear that Stephen and John find themselves at different addresses. One is on an island, and the other is outside a city. Yet they both actually live in the same spiritual place. They share the same heavenly home. They live where Jesus lives, and in the same way that he lived. They bear witness to the good news of God’s merciful love for us. They able to look into the Lord’s glory, even as they lay down their lives for others. So that, what we find in their experience, is really the Father’s gracious answer to the Son’s fervent prayer in the gospel. Both in Stephen and in John, we find people who have received from God the gift to remain always in the presence of the Lord.

To constantly live where Jesus lives, even while we remain here on this earth. To keep making our home in the Lord, no matter what our street address may be. To somehow be able to see his face, and to hear his voice. To experience his presence, even in times of trial. Encouraging and consoling us. Accompanying and guiding us. Strengthening and inspiring us. Isn’t this what we all need so very much today? Especially those of us whose lives are often filled with stress and strain, or with loneliness and boredom. Those of us who may sometimes try to fill the emptiness within us with all sorts of apparently harmless activities that may soon become bad habits? Desperate diversions that may dull our pain for a short time, but can really do nothing to calm our restlessness, to shelter our homelessness, to heal our brokenness.

Perhaps it is especially for those of us who suffer in this way, that Jesus prays in the gospel. And the wonderful thing is that his prayer has already been heard. His request has already been granted. The gift has already been given. This is the good news that we are celebrating in this beautiful season of Easter. What we need to do is to keep taking the necessary steps to claim this gift for ourselves. To come to where the Lord lives. As did those first disciples in John’s gospel. To come and see. To surrender and to follow. And then to be sent out to help others do the same. Others who, like us, may be searching desperately for a spiritual home.

Sisters and brothers, on this 7th Sunday of Easter, if someone were to ask you where do you live?, what would your answer be?

1 comment:

  1. Only in God is my soul at rest
    In Him comes my salvation
    He only is my Rock
    My strength and my salvation
    My stronghold my Savior
    I shall not be afraid at all
    My stronghold my Savior
    I shall not be moved
    Only in God is found safety
    When the enemy pursues me
    Only in God is found glory
    When I am found meek and found lowly
    My stronghold my Savior
    I shall not be afraid at all
    My stronghold my Savior
    I shall not be moved
    Only in God is my soul at rest
    In Him comes my salvation

    John Michael Talbot - Only in God