A Place Prepared: Reflections on John 14:1-14
Jesus tells the disciples and us something important about "where" he is going. "To the Father" is perhaps a relationship, not a place. These many dwelling places reveal to us not changes in geography, but changes of heart. It is an ongoing thing, because it has already been done for us in some sense, and remains a future hope as well. Understandably, the disciples are uncertain about how to get where he is going. Jesus assures them that he himself is the way, hodos. In Greek, as in English, the word can mean path or road or can be used to mean way of life or practice. In this sense of passage, our journey with Jesus, spiritual and otherwise, is affirmed. Life with him is not a destination or an accomplishment—or a victory won—as much as it is a way of being and becoming.
A transformation happens. A change of heart from troubled to peace-filled embraces those disciples as they learn along their way that Jesus has come with them, and goes ahead to prepare a place. A destination like this changes everything. Companionship like this changes everything.
As a very young child I went every year with my family to Camp Wesley Methodist Church Camp in Ohio. On one weekend, we would reserve the whole camp for our church. Some folks would stay in cabins, but most of the families had tents or pop-up campers. I remember these trips fondly. We swam in the lake, sang, and ate together. In the evenings there would be a big bonfire with marshmallows for toasting. A couple of the fathers would go ahead of time to stack up the wood and find some marshmallow toasting sticks. They would get the fire going, then the rest of us would come. It was usually dark by the time we went to the bonfire, a trek down a steep hill and up another through the woods. Of course, the teenage boys in the back of the group did not help. They made scary noises and jumped out from behind trees. I remember terror. My best friend and I held hands and hoped for the best. One time we got lost and took so long that dad had to come find us. We had turned the wrong way and were going toward the lake and away from the bonfire hill. When we got close enough we could hear the others singing and see the fire. We made it. After that year, we knew the way. We never got lost again. Now looking back, those nighttime walks through the woods, listening for the hymns and looking for the firelight, are some of my favorite memories. The fear and uncertainty was gone, but we still held hands.
Home becomes a moveable feast. Even on those nights when we cannot fully trust ourselves or one another, there is a place prepared. And that makes all the difference in the dark.
Gayle Landis is the Senior Pastor of Lakewood United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas. She holds a B.S. in Education from Ashland University, Master of Divinity from Perkins School of Theology, and Doctor of Ministry from Perkins School of Theology. When she is not loving and laughing with the people of Lakewood UMC she enjoys reading stacks of old books, going to the theatre, and puttering in the yard. Gayle and her husband Dave have three children and live in Plano, Texas.