Households. Homes. Who is allowed across the threshold of your home at the moment? No one new. Our doors are meant to be shut to even family and friends. Our physical distancing is becoming increasingly hard.
There are just three of us living here in the Vicarage. Kim, myself and Katherine (our daughter, home from Uni). But if you were to count the number of people in our hearts and minds then that number would increase exponentially. Try it. Try counting up the number of people you have spoken to today: those you have emailed or been in touch with through Facebook, add in the shopworkers in town, the postie, those you’ve met on Zoom, the delivery driver and the person on the radio or TV. The numbers do add up: people who sometimes just ‘touch’ our lives but amongst them a fairly large number who live as part of our lives (not in our homes yet present to us in our hearts and minds).
Our gospel reading today comes wrapped in John’s direct (and yet, at times, incomprehensible) language, but, as always its best to start trying to understand what he’s talking about by stating the obvious.
Jesus, in this passage seems to be talking about ‘who is with us’, he mentions the Spirit of Truth ‘abiding’ with us. This Spirit he will ask the Father to send to us. And then he goes on to say that somehow ‘he is both in the Father and us’ and ‘we are in him’ and we are all loved by God the Father because we love Jesus. John, the evangelist and I will really have to have words some time about how complicated he seems to make things.
Except again, it seems to be about who is in our lives, who finds a place in our minds and hearts, who are we mindful of as we seek to live this one life that we are given?
Sometimes, it seems (says Jesus) that with folk the ‘lights are on but no-one is home’: or at least there is no-one willing to open the door to His presence. But there are people who respond to Him, who make room for Him and who then find that their guest brings a whole bundle of gifts from God, not least a sense of God’s living presence with them through God’s Spirit also coming to dwell in that person’s life.
Do you know the artist Holmann Hunt’s picture: the Light of the world? I’ve included it with today’s Facebook Post. Famously, this shows Jesus knocking at a door that is overgrown with weeds. It is a door that has no handle on the outside: it can only be opened from within – I suppose the painting asks us the question ‘will you open the door?’. Or, maybe you can remember Paul MacCartney and Wings’ song, ‘Let em in’
‘Someone’s knockin’ at the door
Somebody’s ringin’ the bell
Do me a favor
Open the door and let ’em in’
seek thou this soul of mine,
and visit it with thine own ardour glowing;
O comforter, draw near,
within my heart appear,
and kindle it, thy holy flame bestowing. Amen
Maybe these are helpful in helping us to understand what’s happening here? God the Father never ever forces himself upon us. If we want Him in our lives we need to ‘let him in’ and Jesus is the one who makes this remarkable suggestion a reality. Not just once, but each day, each and every day.
And perhaps you know Van Morrison’s song on the album Avalon Sunset: ‘When will I ever learn to live in God?’ That seems to be another part of what John is talking about here. Yes, ‘God in us’, but we also ‘in Him’ through Jesus. This is a genuine option for us it seems. This is what we are meant for as human beings, to be men and women charged with the glory of God, becoming the means through which His image can be seen here on earth as it is already known in heaven.
How does that happen? What John tells us is that ‘if we love Jesus’ we will ‘keep His commandments.’ This doesn’t mean we succeed all the time – it’s more that we have a mind to them, we try to observe them. As we do so, as we step out of our own lives and learn to love (which means becoming more open to others – possibly more likely to be hurt but definitely more human) then we find ourselves known and loved by God and sense His presence both within us and in those we have allowed into our lives (Jesus ‘reveals Himself to us in them.’) I am not leaving you orphaned, he says, I am coming to you – yes that’s true, in and through other people for those who have eyes to see.
There are some things you can’t learn just by reading a book. Whether its football, or parenting, or marriage, or cricket, or playing the piano – you learn these things by doing them. Just so with the life of faith in Jesus and a relationship with God, the Christian Life: you learn it by doing it. So how about opening up to having someone else living at your place? You don’t need to break any Government guidelines just begin each day with a prayer that makes room for God to work in and through you. The words of this hymn might do:
Come down, O love divine,
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St. Mary’s is open for private prayer each weekday from 10.00am – 4.00pm