A few years back a group of pastors and myself went on a pilgrimage of sorts to Spain. We had planned our trip to the extent that we had agreed on the day we would arrive, the day we would leave and where we would spend the first night. For a two-week trip to Spain, never having been to that country before, this was a bit out of my comfort zone, but the others convinced me that it would be fun. It was fun, but each time we looked for reservations in the next port there was always the trepidation of whether we would find a place to stay or not, including the most obscure. Surprisingly to me we were never left to want for a place. Moreover, with the exception of the last night, the accommodations were spectacular and cheap!
There was a lot that I learned on that journey, but one of the most important things I learned was to trust. I had to learn to trust someone I barely knew that he had a good idea of how things were going to work out, and I had to let go of my desire to be in control and be flexible to what was before us.
This week we encounter in the scripture one of the more popular funeral passages; John 14:1–14. There are many reasons why people pick this passage as a tribute. However, it is often that people make a choice of which focus they take. Sometimes people will focus on the salvific promise to faithfulness, while others focus on the dwelling places. Both are very important, but for me I think one of the most crucial aspects that undergird the whole pericope is the trust that we must have that our adventure will come out as it has been promised.
The pericope, interestingly, has very little to do with death and the afterlife. If you read it closely what you see is that Jesus is saying that Heaven has a place specially designed for you, so don’t worry about it, know and trust that this place will be there. Moreover, because we can have confidence in this “afterlife” we are called to live fully into the life we are currently in, uninhibited by those concerns so that we can do the necessary works of Christ in this world.
It was interesting on that journey to Spain that I took, by not planning the details or where we would stay, we focused on what we wanted to take away from this experience. Our theme being Transformation through baptismal renewal, we were able to visit and connect with people and God in very unique ways, having the flexibility to ask and discern what we needed and not be locked into an itinerary.
This worked well for our group, as we were able to experience God and each other in really exciting ways being transformed though trust and faith. While not everything was peaches and cream, it never is when you are with a diverse group, that trip taught me to let go and trust that things will work out for the best. In a very real way, it gave me a glimpse of the ultimate pilgrimage of life and to not worry about what my place in heaven is going to be like, but to live to the best that I can in this world thinking of how I can honor Christ with my life now.
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Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen