Following Jesus – Finding the Space for God. Lent Course 2021
Following Jesus—Finding the space for God
Our end, and our beginning . . .
‘Lucy stayed behind because she thought it would be worthwhile trying the door of the wardrobe even though she felt almost sure it would be locked. To her surprise it opened quite easily, and two moth-balls dropped out’ C.S. Lewis – The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardobe
As we begin our journey, I’d like to suggest an idea. That there are unexplored dimensions to us. That within us are hidden places . . . perhaps even something not unlike Narnia?
Initially as Lucy explored the wardrobe, nothing of significance seemed to drop out. I guess she could have left it there, gone no further. ‘Nothing to see here! Pass along now!’ the door could have remained closed, but Lucy opened it and entered in. (And eventually, others followed her lead)
But where is this going. After all, only a fool thinks that there is a door to another world inside an old wardrobe, or indeed a small child. As Miraz, the King of Narnia says to Prince Caspian ‘That’s all nonsense, for babies . . . Only fit for babies do you hear? You’re getting too old for that sort of stuff . . .’. You may well say that even in Narnia, people don’t believe in Narnia . . .)
Yet didn’t Jesus say that we had to become like a small child to enter his Kingdom?
Indeed didn’t he Jesus say something about seeking the Kingdom of God?
But what does that mean? Pause a moment and see what arises?
Is there a call there for you? Have you been seeking the Kingdom of God? What does it mean?
Houses serve as metaphors of our lives at all sorts of levels. I know that when I am puzzling over a question, often I will dream of searching the corridors of large old houses that I have known.
If we are fortunate, we live in a house . . . although the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head . . . perhaps there is an invitation there? To step outside of the boundaries of our house, of what we call ‘our life’? To explore a little? Perhaps our life has neglected rooms, hidden realms? Perhaps we haven’t really entered into it at all?
For example, considering not just our life but The kingdom of God; are we on the inside looking out, or the outside looking in . . .
Jesus after all has a habit of turning things inside out and upside down. “The meek shall inherit the earth!” “The first shall be last . . . and the last first” When Jesus speaks of entering the Kingdom of God, there are gates and doors. Some who thought they were in, find themselves on the outside and those whom are thought to be outside enter ahead of them. (Matthew 21:31) Indeed the first person to follow Jesus to the very end, is a common criminal . . . (Luke 23:43)
As we were reminded last week, The Gospel begins with an invitation to follow Jesus. So let us consider how this happens in the gospel of our patron, St John.
Perhaps as those who worship under his patronal care should we ask for it, we especially may find something here . . .
Jesus’ ‘call’ in John is unlike that of the other gospels. Jesus doesn’t call disciples in John, rather folk are drawn to him. Intrigued by him. Nicodemus looks for Jesus in the dark, the Samaritan woman at the well is led to seek after who he is. Shortly after he raises Lazarus from the dead it is suggested that ‘all the world has gone after him’, as some Greeks request “to see Jesus’’. In John we first encounter disciples looking for Jesus.
John the Baptist twice draws his disciples attention to Jesus. ‘Behold! The Lamb of God!’ The second time, their curiosity aroused, two of his disciples set out after Jesus. Perhaps we might follow with them?
Jesus turns and sees us following, and says, ‘What are you looking for?’
Take a while. Pause . . . Are you following him? Why? What are you looking for?
The disciples’ answer is typical of conversations with a rabbi. Jesus asks a question to which the disciple responds with a question of their own. (What question might you ask Jesus in response?)
The disciples asked him ‘Rabbi, where do you live?’ . . . houses again. He said to them, ‘Come and you will see.’ Jesus calls and invites us to follow him. Away from where we are. To where he is.
Away from where we are . . .
To where he is . . .
Perhaps we might want to stay where we are – to stay home. Perhaps if we wait long enough he will come to us. Or perhaps we are meant to go to him? If we think we know what it means ‘to go to be with jesus’, perhaps we’re in no hurry . . .
Take a moment to pause . . . Stay home? But where is home?
Home is one of the most powerful foundational images we know of as human beings. ‘Homelessness’ is not a Good thing. Being lost likewise. The story of scripture is one which from the beginning concerns our home . . .
“In the beginning”, two stories are told. One is somewhat like watching a construction project, the construction of a theatre stage for the drama which is to follow. Evening and Morning, the first day, the second day . . . elements of the stage are put in place. Light, Lights, water, dry land. It is well ordered. It is declared Good. Finally the Actor is put in place . . . and God rests form all his work in Creation . . .
Then the play begins. There is music, there is in the dramatic scene setting. The stage is a garden and water flows from it. It is intimate and lively in a way perhaps the first story isn’t. God encourages the actor into his role and sees what he will name all the animals. The actor seems at home on the stage, until tragedy strikes. He misreads his cue. He freezes. He hides . . . and finds himself outside of the garden, unable to get in, surrounded by thorns and weeds and with a flashing sword set in the Space which would give entry . . .
But something else shifts in the story. He is no longer lost in the role. Like an actor who forgets his lines, he becomes self-conscious. ‘He saw that he was naked . . . ‘ there is perhaps no more powerful expression of self-consciousness!
Nakedness. It is the most powerful metaphor of feeling ‘out of place’. All the eyes are on you. You want to be somewhere else, you want to hide . . . What are YOU doing here? And without any clothes on?! For shame we hide away . . .
In the story as the human becomes self-conscious, a form of alienation sets in. Is God telling him he is out of place? Or is he telling himself?? Things become confused. He has lost his bearings. Wherever he looks he finds his life as one of alienation, somehow shut out.
For many if not all of us, the Christian story is in some sense about finding our way home. Usually, and this is the reigning assumption in many ways, we talk about ‘life after death’, and ‘going to heaven when we die’
Take a moment to pause . . . Going to heaven when I die? But what does that mean?
Perhaps we are not hearing correctly. After all didn’t Jesus say that we had hearing problems? In the same way he goes around healing the blind, suggesting to us that we don’t see right, he also heals the deaf . . . Perhaps they are signs, but perhaps we have taken the in one way when they are meant in another?
Do we assume too much? Is it perhaps easier to think we know what Jesus means? Isn’t it always the way? We know what it is all about . . . After all, if we are certain about that we don’t have to trouble ourselves about it, and just get on with our lives . . .
Like the Garden, we discover ourselves to be outside of somewhere. Let us call it Heaven. That is the name we usually give it. But where is it? Who knows the way?
Jesus has come to take us home – to where he lives. That is why he tells us to follow him, to come and see.