Easter 5 – Year A – “Many Rooms”

Title:Easter 5 – Year A – “Many Rooms”

This Sundays’ readings invite us to consider our lives as a journey with Christ to a glorious, final home with God. The idea of "house" is brought out both in the Epistle and Gospel. In Acts, that journey includes both misunderstanding and suffering at the hands of those opposed to the gospel of Christ. 1 Peter teaches that journeying with Jesus means being joined with him into a spiritual house, members of a holy nation. Jesus in the John reading assures his disciples that their earthly journey culminates in an eternal home with their heavenly Father

In Acts 7, Stephen gives a lengthy speech to the Sanhedrin charged with judging him. It is a summary of how the people of Israel have disobeyed their God, and have rejected their prophets over and over again. The final straw came when Stephen declared that he saw Jesus standing at God’s right hand. Stephen’s audience understood the enormous significance of this claim and resisted it, fulfilling Stephen’s description of their nature (7:51-53). He met his end by being stoned.

In the Epistle, the Christian community is described in several interwoven images. It is a spiritual house. The symbol of Jesus as the cornerstone was frequently used in the early preaching, especially as a touchstone for response to him. To some he is precious, but to others he is a stumbling-block. The community is also a holy priesthood appointed to offer the spiritual sacrifice of obedience.

Finally, the titles given to Israel are extended to Christians. Their duty is to declare the Lord’s deeds. They are now a family, a nation, a people transcending all ethnic barriers, for they are God’s own who have received mercy.

The gospel reading is taken from the farewell discourse of Jesus, explaining the significance and implications of Jesus’ glorification (13:31–17:26). As God’s glory is revealed in Jesus’ obedient suffering, so Jesus’ glory will be seen in his exaltation by God. Thus, his glorification means his departure from the disciples and return to the Father.

John 14:1-14 begins with metaphor to a house. In God’s realm there are many dwelling places; Jesus as the Christ prepares a place for us – a future and a hope we can rely on – that enables us to experience eternal life in the here and now. We can face persecution, aging, and death because of our faith in God’s everlasting love. The trials we face now are part of a larger adventure of growing with God.

The passage becomes complicated by the words “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me.” Perhaps, Jesus is saying, “I am providing a way. It’s not up to you to decide who’s in and who’s out. Look at my life and you will see the heart of God. You will see God’s love for the lost and broken. Don’t place a wall where I have placed a bridge. Don’t decide the scope of salvation, and exclude those I love.” God’s way addresses us in many ways – just as there are many mansions – and we would do well to be generous rather than stingy about the scope of salvation.

Then, Jesus describes his own unitive experience with God. Just look at Jesus and you will see the heart of God: God is in me, and I am in God.The unity of God and Jesus is a unity of vision and aim, an alignment of spirit that releases divine energies in our world.

The reading draws out the meaning of Jesus’ departure for his disciples: it brings not separation but deeper fellowship. They will be able to abide with him always, in the body of Christ, the Christian community. Philip’s request to see the Father and so be satisfied expresses the human longing for a real and intimate knowledge of God. This desire is answered in the present. Jesus is the revelation of God in words and works.

The passage concludes with the promise that we can align ourselves with God, and then do greater things than we can imagine. What could these greater things be? Given the vision of Jesus’ life presented in the gospels, we could do greater acts of hospitality, spiritual nurture, and healing. We have powers we can’t imagine that can be released when we align ourselves with Christ’s way, letting Christ be the center of our experiences and letting God’s vision guide us moment by moment.