Reflections from The Hill – Stopping or Staying? – John 14.23-29
I am forever indebted to those who have helped me understand the difference between ‘stopping’ and ‘staying’, especially when it comes to relatives.
In the first, the idea is that your resting place is only temporary madness, while in the second, a more permanent state of mind is indicated.
Some of our friends were really out-there when it came to hospitality. Generous to a tee, one couple we knew actually erected a sign on their front lawn that read “Trespassers Welcome”.
I can’t recall whether it was the Council by-laws or the couple themselves that had the sign removed. In any case, it created something of a challenge for everyone. Bravery is not always pre-meditated.
Personally, I loved having people come over to our place: the bigger the house, the more people we could fit in. Today, though, living in a shoe box that gets smaller by day, my great sadness is that we haven’t really got the space for more than one extra bottom – and even that’s bit of a squeeze.
Preparing for the arrival of a guest/s has always been a bit of a drama, too. You do whatever is needed: wash the floor, vacuum the carpet, scrub the toilet (especially if there are little kids), and fill the pantry with food.
You do that rather than get the crumbs out of the cutlery drawer or paint the front door, things you do to avoid the onslaught of people.
(Just as an aside, I once knew a family that painted the roof of the house, redecorated the spare room and painted all the ceilings just before rellies arrived. The family still talk to us, which itself is a miracle.)
But what about staying, that more permanent arrangement; what about that? I confess that our home has been pretty free of people who come to stay in the sense we’re meaning, although a great aunt came close once. I’m glad she didn’t because I might have done something illegal.
Perhaps staying in a church-owned house created a problem for potential guests. Perhaps our own ‘keep-out’ vibes were too strong. Perhaps we were being over-protective of our own space, which I know I can be, even still.
In the Big Fella-department, hospitality is definitely an issue. We read about it in today’s Gospel Reading. Sure, I know He wants to come and stay, sure I know He wants to abide. Sure, I know He’s preparing a place. Sure, He’s got lots of rooms in His Mansion, which is a Good Thing.
The other side of that, though, is that He wants to prepare us for that place as well. Not just a case of getting the room tidy, or building an extension but actually working on our hearts to live with The Big Fella. That’s more than I ever did for our Auntie.
In His place, there are no unwelcomed guests and no-one will ever take away the ‘trespassers welcome’ sign simply because everyone is.
I once read the challenge in these words: “We are to make time and space now to welcome Jesus into our lives. Welcoming (Him) to abide in us as we abide in him is the primary and preferred way John describes discipleship…”
There will be times when disappointments overtake us and people will let us down. What happens then? Well, something like making a decision to not leave The Big Fella alone in an empty house, especially the one that He has prepared for us to stay in, might be a good start.