5th Sunday of Easter – A LSB # 461 v. 1, 5, 7 & 8
Text – John 14:2
In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
THE FATHER’S HOUSE
At her father’s funeral, a woman told her pastor that ever since she was a child she & her father had discussed life after death. They agreed that whoever went first would try to contact the other. They happened to discuss this again just two weeks before he died.
A few days after the funeral, the smoke alarm went off in her garage. In all the 28 years she’d lived there it had never gone off before. There was no smoke anywhere to be found, but she was not able to turn off the alarm, so she called the security company that installed it.
The next morning the smoke alarm sounded again & the reason finally dawned on her. She said aloud, “Ok Dad, I missed the signal yesterday, but I get it now! Thanks for letting me know that you’re safe on the other side. Now turn the thing off so I don’t have to call the security company again.” The smoke alarm turned off.
Immediately she called her pastor to tell him the good news. Her pastor replied, “Dear lady, if every time your father sends you a message, the smoke alarm goes off, just where do you think he’s calling from?” PAUSE
Class of 1973, let’s face it we are not getting any younger. Everyone in our class is now 50 years closer to heaven or hell, then when we were confirmed. Richard Nixon was president. A postage stamp cost 8 cents. Gasoline was 39 cents a gallon. The Dow Jones industrial average hit a high of 1051. Now, it can rise & fall that much in one day.
Not to let the rest of you off the hook, do you realize that all of you right now are older then you have ever been before? And every day you are alive that comes true all over again. “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2 ESV) Those are common words at Christian funerals, because people find comfort in them concerning the one who died. What if we look at those words – my Father’s house – as concerning ourselves, those of us who are still alive?
Are they comforting to you, or do those words speak of something you would rather not consider? My own death, your own death, what is that process going to be like? As with a lot of people, the thought of being dead does not cause me much concern. I’m confident in what Christ has done for me. But, how am I going to end up dead, that is a little more concerning.
Both my parents had rather long, drawn out journeys to their heavenly home. A good friend was killed instantly in a car accident. This spring, I officiated a funeral for a young man only 18 years after I confirmed him. There are many variations of death in between instant & long, drawn out. People die young, people die old & people die everywhere in between.
St. Peter wrote in the Epistle reading for today, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9 ESV)
As a pastor, I spend a lot of time thinking about & dealing with death. And my classmates asked me to preach for this service. Maybe right now they’re praying that God would call them out of the darkness of this sermon into His marvelous light. If so, the Gospel reading begins for them, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” (John 14:1a ESV)
Jesus is speaking to men whose hearts are far from tranquil. Peter has been struck by his Master’s prediction that before the rooster crows Peter will deny Him three times. Jesus had also spoken of His departure to a place where His disciples could not follow Him. Jesus knows that within a few short hours they will be shocked & stunned by His betrayal & crucifixion. Fear will overcome them & they will run away to hide. It is not a pleasant, happy time. Their lives have taken a hard left turn & they are about to go over the edge to a place they have never known. Maybe you’ve been there & it was not a horror movie that you were watching, but real life hitting you right between the eyes.
Jesus makes it all sound so simple, “Let not your hearts be troubled… In my Father’s house are many rooms.” (John 14:1a, 2a ESV) Life in heaven will be that simple. We’ll do everything right the first time with no doubts or worries, no mistakes, no failures. Our hearts will never be troubled & nothing will ever go wrong, but that is not the life we live here.
“In my Father’s house are many rooms” brings comfort to us here & now because we are not slaves of God who need to earn our keep. We are His children & He treats us with the greatest of love, especially when He allows discipline into our lives. It demonstrates that our heavenly Father is not just a fair weather friend, but one who will suffer & even die with us.
“All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness & mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me.” Hopefully those words still ring a bell in your heart & mind. They are from Luther’s explanation of the 1st article of the Creed. We were supposed to memorize it long it ago. I know at the time, confirmation class seemed more like discipline than a blessing.
Yet, from our more ‘mature’ perspective, I hope that you now appreciate how God blessed us during those first 14 years of our lives. We have so many memories tied to this church, this school, this community. It was the fabric of our existence for so many of our formative years. God used it, the good & the bad, to shape & mold us into who we are today.
Back then, in so many ways, we were being taught to resist Satan’s temptations to sin. Now, increasingly loud voices are encouraging people to celebrate sin, & even the destruction it brings. Many of the people preaching that ‘sermon’ have no idea what they are truly doing. They’re simply reacting to the hurt & pain caused by living in the brokenness of this sinful world. Satan’s attacks are damaging their heart & soul & mind & they need the peace of God that surpasses all human understanding. However, they’ve been taught to reject that instead of rejecting the sin. A few chapters after today’s Gospel reading, Jesus said:
“In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33b NIV) The key is, where do we find comfort when we are troubled? What solution did the God who created us, offer? Satan knows too well that even if we resist his temptations, you & I cannot eliminate sin & its effects. Sin is what sinners do, & sin does bring death. We cannot change those facts.
Peter did deny Jesus & His disciples ran away. Yet when Jesus rose from the dead, He does not celebrate their sin. He also did not condemn them. Instead, Jesus restored them in the hope that His forgiveness would change their hearts. At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus’ first sermon laid out that very same plan:
“The time is fulfilled, & the kingdom of God is at hand; repent & believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15 ESV) The plan is simple. In Jesus, the kingdom of God had arrived on earth. This acknowledges the existence of sin, otherwise, God’s kingdom would already have been on earth. Now His kingdom has returned & the first order of business for us is to repent.
You & I are called, not to celebrate sin, but to turn away from it. And immediately, upon turning away from it, we are to believe that God has forgiven our sin in the death of Jesus. Repentance is not about wallowing in the misery of our sin. It’s not about earning our forgiveness through suffering humiliation & embarrassment. It is simply turning back to God.
That repentance is a gift given to us by the Holy Spirit. We were asked to memorize that from Luther’s explanation to the 3rd article of the Creed: “…but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified & kept me in the true faith.” We have not been left to repent of our sins by our own power. In fact, we cannot by our own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ our Lord. It is Christ our Lord who does the rescuing so that each one of you may spend eternity in the Father’s house.
As human beings we are all looking to find comfort in our struggles, & there are plenty of troubles in this life. Satan offers his solution – celebrate sin. Put darkness for light & light for darkness. Call evil good & call good evil. Satan encourages us to be our own God; to worship our every desire.
Jesus offers His solution to the troubles of this world. He says, “Take courage, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Believing in Jesus as Savior from our sins is not easy. We need, & we have, the power of God’s Spirit, to do so. Believing in Jesus as Savior from our sins, calls us to the death of ourselves so that we can be resurrected in Christ.
That is the path to true freedom & joy. It is the path to eternal freedom & joy. It is the path to the Father’s house, & Jesus promises that He will come again to take us there. The next time you hear a smoke alarm, at least consider who might be calling. Then take courage, because Jesus has overcome the world. Amen.
I know that my Redeemer lives; what comfort this sweet sentence gives! He lives, He lives, who once was dead; He lives my ever living head. He lives to silence all my fears; He lives to wipe away my tears; He lives to calm my troubled heart; He lives all blessings to impart. He lives & grants me daily breath; He lives, & I shall conquer death; He lives my mansion to prepare; Jesus lives to bring me safely there. Amen. LSB 461:1, 5 & 7.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet