Troubled Hearts

Wesley Chapel Episcopal Church, Wesley Chapel, FL
Preacher: The Rev. Adrienne R. Hymes
April 19, 2020 ● Morning Prayer Rite II
Second Sunday of Easter (Year 2)
Gospel: John 14:1-7

Posted by Wesley Chapel Episcopal Church on Sunday, April 19, 2020

When I was a hospital chaplain, our gospel reading in the 14th chapter of John today, was one of the scriptures read at the time of death. “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.”  I have stood in the temporary dwelling places of hospital rooms with families and nurses, reading this scripture as their loved one, or patient, took their final breath. When family could not get to the temporary dwelling place of the hospital room before their loved one died, I was alone with the body reading this scripture. The loss of life troubled my heart.

I have entered hundreds of temporary hospital dwelling places—inhabited by the living and the dead.  As troubling as it was for my heart to enter into places of complex human suffering and death, my heart was troubled less when I viewed each room as holy ground—holy, temporary dwelling places where bodies were healed of their infirmities and where souls departed this temporal world. And yet, standing on holy ground, my heart was troubled.

In our gospel reading, Jesus said first to his disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places” (vv. 1-2).  For context, leading up to this chapter, Jesus had washed the feet of his disciples, eaten the Passover meal with them, while foretelling the events that would lead up to his death. Jesus had been repeatedly preparing his disciples for the troubling reality to come, that he would be with them only for a little longer (Jn 13:33). Having communicated that troubling news to his disciples, Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

My sister and I were raised by our single mother, upon whom we depended, not only our survival, but on our healthy formation into adults. As early as I can remember, my mother would say, “You need to know how to take care of yourselves because I’m not going to be here forever.” Unlike my mother’s truthful statement, “I’m not going to be here forever,” our belief in the risen Christ assures us that even as he is physically absent from us now, that Jesus is truly present with us now and forever.

The current safer-at-home orders, and for many others, stay-at-home orders, may make some dwelling places feel like prisons. We know, too, that dwelling places are not immune to the destructive forces of nature, and indeed are vulnerable.  Even the term, “church home,” implies a dwelling place in which life’s sacred moments are celebrated and honored—baptisms; confirmations; marriages; and yes, funerals. In the midst of this public health crisis, the faithful are unable to dwell within the walls of the church. And, our hearts are troubled.

We believe by faith that Jesus will come again to take us to himself so that where he is, we will be also—a place, beyond any temporary walls constructed by human hands, which is divinely designed for the soul to permanently dwell eternally with the Father.  This dwelling place—accessible only by belief in the One who is the way, the truth and the life (v. 6)—will not feel like a prison, and can never be destroyed.

In the meantime, God’s faithful people are to set our minds and our hearts to dwell on Jesus Christ, and invite Him to dwell in us.   In the presence of the risen Christ, may we find the strength to move from fearfulness to fearlessness; from helplessness to empowerment; from despair to hope; and from troubled hearts to deeper faith.