May 4, 2013 - Where Squirrels Abide

Terry Pierce at St. James' Episcopal Church on John 14: 23-29:

Jesus said to Judas (not Iscariot), "Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.

"I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, `I am going away, and I am coming to you.' If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe."

 When my great nephew Townes visits our house, it is often the case that he isn't ready to leave when his grandmother or mother is.  His mom always says to him, Townes we're going to leave in 10 minutes and then Townes we're going to leave in five minutes.  With young children, we give them notice of what's coming next so they can prepare for the transition.  We do that in Godly play in the Sunday school too - telling the children, we have five more minutes to finish our work.

For the past few weeks we've been reading the story of how Jesus prepared the disciples for his coming death and resurrection.  Jesus does the same thing.  He continues to talk about his coming departure from the disciples.  Talking to us as his beloved children, he reminds us again and again that he is preparing us for his departure.

"Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.  We will come to them and make our home with them.

The word translated make our home with them is also translated as abide.  We will come to them and abide with them. 

Alyce McKenzie tells us that the word abide shows up forty times in John's Gospel. It may mean to stay, to remain, to dwell, to lodge, to last, to persist, or to continue. It can be negative or positive.  Guilt can abide and love can abide.  It can be literal meaning to stay in one place.  At a spiritual level, God abides in Jesus and Jesus abides in and with us.  We cannot bear fruit unless Jesus abides in us.  Jesus' words abide.  The Holy Spirit abides with Jesus.  Therefore the disciples abide with or in Jesus. 

Today, Jesus calls those who love him to prepare for he and his father to abide with us, to make their home within us.  If you love me and keep my word, I will live within you.   Jesus is going to depart from his beloved disciples but he promises them - If you love me and keep my word, I will be here within you.  This is not an I'll see you when you get to heaven promise; Jesus is promising that if we love him and if we keep his word, he and his father will make their home within us. 

David Ewart talks about what this scripture tells us about getting the house, getting ourselves,  ready for Jesus.  He tells us that we are being called to follow, to love and to abide with Jesus so that our "house" will be ready for Jesus to abide with us. 

"you cannot selectively choose only one part: 'I'll have the love of Jesus please, but hold the keeping the commandments.'" 

Jesus says, Love me.  Keep my word.  Abide with me. 

A few years ago my nephew gave my mom an owl house for Christmas.  We have tall trees and the idea was to put the owl house up in the top of the trees and invite owls to live in our back yard.  Getting up to the top of our trees proved to be difficult so the owl house got as high as it could go but probably not high enough for an owl.

My mom and I kept watching the owl house, waiting for something to happen.

One day my mom asked me if there wasn't something weird on top of the owl house.  It looked like the house had a rug on the roof.  We watched for awhile and eventually the rug moved.  We got the binoculars. 

Stretched across the roof was a squirrel, sunning himself (or perhaps herself).  Over the next weeks, we would continue to see the squirrel on top of the house and occasionally peeking out of the house, watching. 

Sometimes I sit in the backyard - I watch the squirrel and I do believe that he watches me. 

The house where he abides was not made for him.  I wonder sometimes how he manages to get in and out of the owl hole without falling out of the tree.  Sometimes I worry that we've raised up a squirrel who doesn't know how to make a proper home. 

"Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.  We will come to them and abide with them. 

Lots of the time, it doesn't feel like my house is ready for Jesus to make his home within me.  It's like inviting the owl to live in a house that isn't high enough in the tree for the owl.  Or inviting a squirrel to live in a house made for an owl.  I am an imperfect creature who neither loves nor follows very well.  My house has some deficiencies. 

My brother and his fiance are visiting from California this week.  They don't visit very often.  We've known they were coming for a month or so.  They're not staying in our house but you wouldn't believe what's been done to get the house ready  (this is a day when I'm sort of hoping my mom won't actually come to church because she may kill me after!)

We have new air conditioning filters and the carpets have been cleaned and all the stuff that's usually piled up on my desk has been put away and the laundry is all done - there's not a bit stuffed in my pantry - and the yard looks beautiful; the bird feeders have been cleaned and refilled...

I can't even remember everything that needed to be done to get ready...

We did everything we could think of to get the house ready and prepare for the party,

but one of my sisters had trouble getting there at the expected time

and the puppies didn't get a bath because I ran out of time

We are imperfect creatures who struggle to love and to follow as well as we'd like.

My brother and his fiance came to our house anyway, even though our preparations weren't perfect.  Our family broke bread together and welcomed new members into the family.    

We are imperfect creatures whose love sometimes misses the mark.

And still, Jesus will come to us and make his home with us. 

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