Long night - made only longer AFTER I fell asleep - and Brennan kept waking up. I'm not even going to begin to explain because I have no clue. The Bengals game was awesome - well, at least half was. Down 23-10 after the Jets scored a field goal on the opening drive of the second half (which I missed in the VERY SLOW concession line), they came back to score 4 straight TD's and only a last second hail mary TD made the game look close - 38-31.
Anyway, the day was great - but full. The Young Family potluck was fun - although my head was on a swivel as Brennan ran around and outside every chance he got. Luckily, he was more interested in the little rocks than in playing in the actual parking lot. My sermon went well. I got some good feedback - although I'm curious to get John & Becky's in a couple hours when we have our Monday meeting. Unfortunately, Bridgette said it was actually more confusing in the pulpit than when I read the original manuscript to her while she was driving. Hmm...
If you're interested yourself, feel free to read on:
I have a favourite morning ritual at home – and it involves leaving. It’s not exactly that I love to leave – it’s more so what happens as I’m leaving. It begins with me telling Brennan that I’m leaving – and I give him a kiss. Then, I turn to Bridgette and kiss her, reminding Brennan that ‘the last kiss is always for Mommy.’ Somewhere in the midst of this, Brennan begins to say ‘Bye Daddy’ – which I reply with ‘Bye Brennan.’ This continues as I walk out the door, into the garage, get into the car… all the while, Brennan with his face smooshed up against the screen yelling ‘Bye Daddy!’… and me replying “bye Brennan!” As I pull out the driveway, Brennan rushes to the front window where he continues to emphatically call out ‘bye Daddy!!” – waving while, I too, wave and say good-bye. It’s a pretty neat routine. It makes it so much easier to leave in the morning, knowing that he’s happy and excited. And I think it comes straight down to one thing – he knows that I’ll be back. We have a very similar routine in the evening when I pull in – Brennan pressed up against the screen door, yelling “hi Daddy!” as I exit the car replying ever-louder “Hi Brennan!” Brennan can be excited when I leave in the morning because he knows I’m coming home at night. It’s our little routine.
Coming from a broken home myself though, I know that this is not exactly a routine that plays out in all of our lives. It’s not so easy to say goodbye to someone when we don’t know where they’re going – or when or if they’ll come back. It’s not easy to say goodbye to a parent – or a spouse, not knowing whether this will be the last time that we see them. I think that is why the faith question put before us this morning is so poignant. We find it roughly in the middle of John’s gospel. John has described Jesus calling the first disciples, turning water into wine in Cana, baptizing, healing and teaching – all the while moving closer and closer to the final night spent with his disciples, explaining what will happen in the next few days – the betrayal, the trial, the crucifixion and his resurrection… Jesus has just finished predicting his betrayal – Judas has left the room and Jesus explains that he is going to leave and in the meantime, his disciples must love each other…
Simon Peter said, “Lord, where are you going?”
And Jesus replied, “You can’t go with me now, but you will follow me later.”
“But why can’t I come now, Lord?” he asked. “I am ready to die for you.”
Jesus answered, “Die for me? No, before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.” (John 13:36-38)
Ouch. I can just imagine what Peter must have felt like. Sitting there, yet again, singled out by his own big mouth, fated to deny that he knew Jesus in what may prove to be one of the most critical moments in Jesus’ life. But at this point, this is really just an aside to the story at hand – to the true dialogue between Jesus and Peter. You can see from Jesus’ initial response and Peter’s second statement, that the issue of geography is not what is at stake for Peter. It’s not really a concern where Jesus is going – it’s more important whether Peter can continue to be with Jesus wherever it is. Peter only wants to know where so that he could join Jesus.
I think it’s the same in our own lives, isn’t it? When my mom asked me where I was going when I was a teenager, she really wasn’t asking “where are you going?” –What she was asking was “Who will be there? What will you be doing? Will you be safe? Will I stay up half the night worrying about you?” Those are not the questions of geography – those are the questions of relationship. They are the kinds of questions we ask people who we care deeply about when they leave – whether we actually come out and say them or not. Sometimes, the question is simply “Where are you going?”
What Jesus is essentially saying is that his leaving is not going to break the relationship that they share. By his leaving in fact, it will begin a new kind of relationship – a deeper relationship than was previously possible. Jesus continues…
“Don’t be troubled. You trust God, now trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s home, and I am going to prepare a place for you. If this were not so, I would tell you plainly. When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know where I am going and how to get there.” (John 14:1-4)
Now, before we continue I want to backtrack a bit in the gospel of John. I mentioned earlier about Jesus’ first recorded miracle – it was a wedding feast in Cana – Jesus turned water into wine. You jump ahead a bit and you have John the Baptist talking about himself being the best man to Jesus – the bridegroom. And now we have Jesus, addressing his disciples and using the same type of language as you would find in the betrothal ceremonies of that day. At that point in Jewish culture, the process of becoming married looked quite different than it does now. It would usually begin with a negotiating process between the groom and the father of the bride. When they had agreed on a bride “price” the groom would be presented to the bride and he would offer her a cup of wine. She would have the opportunity to drink the wine, and accept the proposal, or refuse the wine and decline the proposal. If she drank the wine, they would be legally betrothed – bound as husband and wife from that point – but something very interesting would follow. Instead of the two of them running off to Maui for a two week honeymoon – the groom would tell the bride that he is going away – to prepare a place for her in his father’s house – in approximately 12 months he would return with his groomsmen to take her back to live with him – her entourage would follow and the party would take place once they consummated their marriage.
Is this not fascinating? Jesus’ words to his disciples – “There are many rooms in my Father’s home, and I am going to prepare a place for you… When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” Jesus is actually taking the Jewish betrothal liturgy and applying it to his relationship with his disciples. Peter asked “Where are you going?” – Jesus replied with “I’m preparing a place for you – because you are my bride – I have chosen you – and I am going to come back for you” Jesus is taking the relationship of his disciples to an entirely different level – no longer are we talking about children – maybe Peter’s question was something like a child’s, asking a parent where they were going – like Brennan asking Bridgette & I where we’re going when we go out on a date… but Jesus has an entirely different response, it completely reorients the whole dialogue – Jesus is looking at this relationship not as a parent and a child – but as a bride and a groom – on a deeply intimate level here – that is the kind of relationship that Jesus is talking about having with his disciples.
Now, I need to make an aside here that I think is very important. We have a tendency to look around us and see our world, our circumstances, and to imprint what we see onto God – onto Jesus. We use the word Father when we talk about God, which of course is fine if we’ve got a great father, but if our dad left when we were 6, or abused us, it’s tough to take that father image and put it on God. We’re talking about marriage here – which is fine if you’ve got a great marriage – where you’re still blissfully in love – but what about being single? What if you’re divorced? If all you’ve seen of marriage has been painful and bitter – how can holding up marriage as this intimate relationship that Jesus desires with us be helpful? Well, the truth is, all our human relationships are faulty. Family, marriage, friendships – we can’t look to these to describe God’s desired relationship with us. Instead, we have to look to God to understand what is intended of our human relationships.
You see – when Jesus turns the tables on Peter here – when he reformulates the image of their relationship – Jesus’ relationship with all his disciples – with you and me for that matter – he is actually going back to the original image that God provides with Israel. With Moses on Mt. Sinai – God created a covenant with a people who had just been enslaved in Egypt. This covenant bound the people of Israel to God – and more importantly God to this people. Time and time again, like you and I, they broke the covenant – they didn’t live up to their responsibilities – but God remained faithful. You see, that’s what Jesus is saying to Peter here. Jesus is saying – you may deny me tomorrow. You may be unfaithful to me and abandon me. You may betray me and cause me great pain. But the point is NOT what you do. The point is NOT your fickle feelings or your ability to live up to what you have promised. The point here – is that I love you so deeply and so intimately – so much more than anyone you have ever known – that I am telling you, right here and now – you are mine.
“Where are you going?” When we ask that question to Jesus, the truth is, we’re not talking about geography. Thankfully – Jesus’ response isn’t about geography either. Jesus response is about a profound love that will drive him to the cross to take on our sin – so that we can be invited into that intimate relationship with him and receive that deep and abiding love from him.
Here again the words of God through Hosea the prophet,
I will show love to those I called ‘Not loved.’ And to those I called ‘Not my people,’ I will say, ‘Now you are my people.’ Then they will reply, ‘You are our God!’”
Friends – God in Jesus Christ has claimed you as His own. He has loved you as his own – and he has prepared a place for you who are his own.
Liberty Presbyterian Church
Faith Questions Series #6 - “Where Are You Going” 10/21/07