Service of the Word: Easter 5

COLLECT

Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life.  Give us grace to love one another and walk in the way of his commandments, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

GOSPEL

John 14: 1 – 6

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

HOMILY

My mother was an inveterate home decorator! She was forever stripping wallpaper and repairing lumpy, bumpy plaster walls so that she could hang the latest Vinyl or Anaglypta and keep her house in the height of interior design fashion! I have a very vivid memory of her standing in the living room of our old house in Parkandarroch Crescent, Carluke, with the walls all stripped and prepped, running her hand over the plaster, and saying: “If these old walls could talk, son, I wonder what they’d say?”

Since my days in Parkandarroch Crescent I’ve lived in another 12 houses but, no matter what house I lay my hat in and call my home, I always find myself at some point wondering: “If these old walls could talk, I wonder what they would say?”

No doubt the walls of some of the church houses I’ve lived in would have a lot to say about past Rectors pulling their hair out as they struggled to write their sermons and addresses. The Rectory I’m currently living in would certainly say that of the current Rector!! The walls in the rooms of some of my older houses would also tell of sons going to and returning from war; they’d remember midwives and doctors overseeing home births; they’d speak about shows of presents and wedding day preparations; they’d recall the passing of beloved family members.  They’d tell of quiet times and busy times, times of joy and times of sadness, times of raised voices, times of calm and cosiness.  In short, they’d speak about the people who lived in them and give a flavour of what they were like, how they lived and died.

In today’s Gospel reading Jesus talks about a house – his father’s house – the house from which he has come and to which he will soon return.  If the walls in the rooms of the father’s house could speak, I wonder… what would they say?  What would they reveal to us about the builder of the house, the owner of the house, the inhabitant of the house, God the Father, Jesus’s Father and ours?

Well, I’m sure, with all the sureness of faith, that those walls would reek with the incense of an eternity of prayer and holiness.  I’m sure that those walls would run with the condensation of divine love, mercy and forgiveness.  I’m sure that those walls would have an inbuilt elasticity so that they could expand ever outwards to make room for everyone.  I’m sure that those walls would shout out “Do not be afraid” for the owner of this house – God – is love and there is no room for fear in love. 

I believe, with every fibre of my being, that’s what the walls of the rooms in God’s house would say; and that belief empowers me to read with conviction this Gospel passage at funerals and to pray with confidence for the departed souls whose lives I celebrate at them. 

I also believe, with every fibre of my being, that we can have a sense of this on this side of the grave too.  Some church buildings have a numinous quality about them; they’re prayed in places, where the veil between heaven and earth has become paper thin.  Our own Christ Church is a place like that for me.  When I walk into the building I get a strong sense that holy things have been going on there for a long, long time. Its old walls are steeped in the fervent prayers and sacramental celebrations of many generations, they’ve witnessed a century and a half of sacred vows and promises, of beautiful acts of grace, kindness and generosity, they’ve heard countless sermons and homilies full of faith, hope and love.  It’s almost as if the walls resound with all that devotion and holiness. They reach out and envelop me (and others) with a calm and a peace that surely comes from above.

But it’s not just the walls of our churches that can emanate that kind of numinousness. The walls of our homes can emanate it too. In the week that lies ahead, as we face another week in lockdown, another week staying safe within the walls of the rooms of our houses, let us worship our loving God within them, let us act with his compassion and goodness towards all who live with us, let us offer them fellowship and hospitality, let us speak words of welcome, peace and love to them. And, when we are able to invite people back into the rooms of our houses, just watch to see if they sense the numinousness, and realise that they are in a house where God’s name is honoured, God’s will is obeyed, God’s way is followed. 

INTERCESSIONS

Heavenly Father, we know that, where two or three are gathered together in your Son’s name, you are there, among them, between them, within them. We know that you are with us now, listening to the deepest longings of our hearts, listening to our prayers for people everywhere, according to their needs, and for ourselves. As we mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day, we pause for a moment among the celebrations, to remember those who fought in the war, those who died in the war, those who returned from the war, giving thanks for the sacrifice that they made and for the peace that they achieved, a sacrifice we continue to honour and a peace we continue to enjoy and work to preserve.

We pray for the Church throughout the world, here in Scotland and in our Diocese of Glasgow & Galloway. We ask your blessing upon the staff of our churches and cathedrals as they work to ensure your faithful people are cared for pastorally and catered for spiritually. May our homes be sacred spaces, full of your presence, filled with your love. We hold before you our sick and anxious friends, remembering particularly Christine, Ian, Richard, Ros, Chris, Bill, Lorna, Joyce, Louyse, John, Avril, Helga, Karen, Colin, Margaret, Stuart and any known privately to us. May they know your healing, your wholeness, in their bodies, minds and spirits.

We commend to you the soul of George and James, who have died recently, and give thanks for the life of John, whose years mind falls this coming week. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace.

Merciful Father, accept these prayers, for the sake of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.