Troubles & Dwelling Places


Reflection on John 14:1-14 (By Pamela Langford)

“Do not let your heart be troubled” Jesus says. Is Jesus having us on? Here in the Macksville Parish we have had an horrific twelve months.

What with the drought and water restrictions, then the trauma and devastation of the fires; families now living in tents preparing to face winter, farmers still unable to get help with fencing to keep cattle safe, neighbours fighting with one another over wandering cattle. And then the Covid 19 virus overrunning the country. Aged care facilities in our towns are in total lockdown, people self-isolating, children being home schooled, businesses closed, many people in pain and difficulty because elective surgery has been delayed so the hospital beds are kept free in case the deadly virus rears its ugly head in our vicinity.

Despite what Jesus says about not letting our hearts be troubled, my heart is troubled at the state of the world and I suspect yours might be too.

I remember how I felt when my husband was diagnosed with brain tumours, (and my heart was greatly troubled) words that spring to mind: isolated, paralysed, overwhelmed, powerless, off balance, out of control, disconnected, afraid, despair, grief anger, insecure.

Have you ever felt this way?

The Bible says that Jesus was troubled.

John 11.33b says “Jesus was deeply moved and troubled” (About his friend Lazarus) And John 12.27a “Now my heart is troubled” - because Jesus was human, he dreaded the crucifixion which lay ahead.

So, I know that Jesus in his humanity knows deeply how a troubled heart feels because he has experienced it.

In the midst of a troubled heart the unspoken question is this: Will the centre hold or is everything collapsing around us? Thomas and Phillip are feeling the collapse. Much of the world is. Maybe you are too. Will the centre hold? That’s our question!

We know this John 14 reading well as one which is popular at funeral services. Death often troubles our hearts and at that time we seek comfort, security, and hope. And this reading gives us that.

It is a passage also about our troubles at the present time.

What if not letting our hearts be troubled means looking inwards, examining ourselves, our hidden and most secret places, being truthful and facing up to our lives and the world we live in?

Sometimes for me it is too difficult and painful to do this. I don’t want to do it. I feel doing it is like standing on the edge of a sinkhole with everything collapsing around me and I could go in soon. I have lost my centre, my very core is off balance.

How to rebalance, find my centre?

Thomas is a voice for everyone “Lord, we do not know where you are going? How can we know the way? “

Yes, how can we know the way? We have lost our stability, our base, our centre.

This is part of the human condition. Often it comes from circumstances we have no control over, other times it is the consequences of our actions.

Jesus says that is not a place to stay or live, it is not the life he lives or offers us.

If your heart is troubled, then it is time to recenter. Recentering doesn’t mean our problems will disappear, it doesn’t necessarily fix the problems, it means that our lives are tied to something much greater than ourselves, God, and we are not free falling into that sinkhole.

Jesus is reminding us that it is not the world and laws, it is not the church and her doctrines, it has nothing to do with our position and power, we are not the centre, nor do we need to establish it. We can’t.

We awaken to it. Jesus says we already know the way to the place of this centre.

“Lord show us the Father and we will be satisfied” Phillip says to Jesus. (And when I read this I always want to say “for goodness sake Phillip wake up!”). He thinks that the Father is apart and distant from himself.

The centre however is within. The Father’s house is within. The Kingdom is within. Wherever you go, there is the centre. Whatever you face, there is the centre. Whoever you are, there is the centre. Regardless of what troubles, there is the centre. Not because you are the centre but because God is within.

In the language of today’s gospel, the centre is the Father’s house and there are many dwelling places in this house. In the Father’s house there is a dwelling place for every troubled heart. I am not speaking of the afterlife and I am not referring to some celestial dormitory for those who have enough right belief and right behaviour. I am talking about dwelling places as the way God’s life intersects our own; mercy and forgiveness, justice, generosity, compassion, healing, love, beauty, wisdom, hope, courage, joy, intimacy.

These are the dwelling places for troubled hearts, places of recentering. Every time we live into and express the divine attributes in our way of being with our words or our actions, we regain our centre, restore balance and take up residence in the Father’s house. Amen.

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