As we are progressing through the Gospel of John as a team, this week we came to chapter 14 . . . and as we are about to say goodbye to the Pierces, the latest in a 16-year-string of goodbyes, and dialoguing with the packing Johnsons who will leave America and join us this month after their own trial of goodbyes, it was a good chapter to come to. Because in this chapter Jesus is saying goodbye to His closest friends, too, and He deals with some very key missionary themes of home and help and connection to God. First we get a concrete glimpse of our true home, the many mansions, diverse and spacious and prepared just for us. Since we find our Bundibugyo homes crawling with roaches or smelling of mold after even two weeks away . . the idea of someone going ahead and getting things ready is very appealing. Whenever we study the topic of home, however, a tension arises for me. There is such a strong theme through the Bible of pilgrimage, that we are strangers, sojourners, travelers, moving through this world where we don't quite belong. When we are reminded of this, there is a two-fold encouragement, to give us patience with all the things that are less than ideal, and giving us a vision of a final destination. On a journey we don't expect everything to be just like home, and we look forward to getting back. We can put up with a lot.
But though we are pilgrims and strangers, we also make homes wherever we go, and in their best moments those homes are a foretaste of Heaven. When we sense belonging, when we connect in community, when we surround ourselves with beauty and peace, when we sit down to good food, laughter, and music, these are all glimpses of the true home to which we journey. And so it is legitimate, even honorable, a high-calling this homemaking, to rest our souls and bodies in the early realities of eternity.
And that always leaves us with a tension: accepting our foreignness, not just to Uganda but to Earth, while simultaneously entering into the community and creativity of carving out a home. Another paradox, being settled travelers, home-body sojourners. Ready to leave, content to stay. Always weighing how much energy to put into homemaking, and how much to reserve for the inevitable moving, be that across continents or into eternity.
We live in transition, all of us, caught between the paradise of Eden and the paradise-to-come of a New Heavens and New Earth. That truth helps my heart obey the command in John 14: let not your hearts be troubled. Transition is not surprising. It is the atmosphere in which we dwell, and we will never completely get past it in this life. Jesus knew that, and He gave us a short picture of the goal, and then lots of promises. God is not just waiting for us to reach Heaven, He has come into time and space, so that there is a constant back and forth as we pray, and the Spirit comes, we believe, and He acts, a shuttling growing connection that sustains us and draws us homeward. And the glories of the chapter are bookended by two sober realities: we are sinners, limited people, who will blow it a lot of the time, even when it is really crucial that we have faith (see end of chapter 13, Jesus is saying all these great things to people who are about to desert him) . . . and the Ruler of this World fights us tooth and nail (end of chapter 14). I like that the promises of home and love and Spirit-led-power fall right smack in the middle of the reality of sin and Satan.
I wish I could put my arms around my team mates, my kids, my mother, my friends, protect all of us from the pain of transition. . .instead I can only share it, and go to John 14 together, to our choice of not-troubled and to God's gift of peace.