“In him there is no darkness at all; the night and the day are both alike.”
In our Gospel lesson, Jesus is assuring us, as he assures his disciples, that he goes ahead of us to prepare a glorious dwelling place for us in his Father’s house. Jesus, speaking on behalf of the Father, assures us that God does not break his promise to his people; God is with us in the present, and God is with us in eternity; we simply need to acknowledge that presence.
God, in the human person of Jesus Christ, came to earth for the purpose of living and dying as one of us. As we affirm in our creed, our Lord died an earthly death and descended to Hell; there, he looked into the face of evil and death, turned and walked away to rise from the dead, overcoming death, reigning triumphant over death. The human Jesus of Nazareth – the divine Christ the King has vanquished death – our greatest earthly fear vanquished – that we may have no fear of our earthly death – that we may be assured of a glorious and eternal dwelling place being prepared for us in the eternal house of our heavenly Father.
In this portion of Jesus’ Farewell Discourse, he prepares his struggling believers to face the Crucifixion and Resurrection. In previous verses, Jesus has told his followers that where he is going they cannot follow just now. Jesus is seeking to help them better understand their own earthly deaths in relation to the promise of eternal life – to accept the darkness in juxtaposition with the light. Jesus wants his disciples in his audience and us, his disciples of today, to be better aware of our own unity with Christ as believers – to know that we are one with Christ – to trust that God, through Jesus Christ, has kept his promise to redeem his people and all creation.
Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled; I go to prepare a place for you, so that where I am, there you may be also. I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
“Do not let your hearts be troubled,” Jesus said, as he anticipated the Crucifixion and Resurrection and sought to prepare his disciples for this horrific chain of events. We heard, also, the words of the Apostle Paul as he reassures us in his letter to the Romans that nothing – nothing – can separate us from the love of Christ and the eternal dwelling place he has promised. “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”
It is we, in our human brokenness, who seek to separate ourselves from Jesus Christ. And, Satan smiles. Satan nips at our heels, implanting temptations of all descriptions, tiny and massive – temptations of fear, a sense of being alone, feelings of being unloved or unworthy or inadequate, the perceived need for luxury, denial of the reality that life holds together both the dark and the light.
And, so, rather than drawing ourselves closer to the love of Christ for strength, too often we seek insulation in our addictions – seemingly harmless addictions that are relatively unnoticeable, or life-threatening addictions, physical addictions or emotional behavioral addictions – any behavior that seeks to separate us from the pure love of Jesus Christ, any behavior that brings anxiety in the place of our faith. The space in us that is cluttered with anxiety is space that has closed the door to God’s light. Our prayer is that our anxieties will be replaced with faith – that our anxiety of addictive behavior will be replaced by a more powerful addiction to prayer and faith in whatever time we have on earth.
We are not promised physical healing – all of us will eventually succumb to the wearing out of our earthly bodies; but God promises spiritual healing to all.
Barry Butler’s earthly body was beyond physical healing, but Barry was healed spiritually as God has promised. In the last weeks of his earthly life, Barry was eager for prayer and healing oil, confession and absolution, and Holy Communion at his hospital bedside. Barry was at peace that he was redeemed in the love and light of Jesus Christ. He knew he was loved by God; he acknowledged God’s presence in the healing grace of loved ones and strangers who surrounded him, bringing comfort and encouragement.
In spite of Barry’s addiction, God did not and does not love Barry any less; we cannot be separated from the love of God. There is nothing we can do to make God love us any less than he loves us; there is nothing we can do to make God love us any more; God’s love is pure and divine and unconditional. Barry was a father; he understood a father’s unconditional love for his child.
God doesn’t love us IF we are “good”; God doesn’t love us BECAUSE we are “good”; God loves us because GOD is good; God loves us SO THAT we can be “good.” God wants only what is truly best for us. Acknowledging our lack of separation from God -acknowledging God’s unconditional love, we desire to do those things that are pleasing in God’s sight – to be strong in the face of temptation and pitfalls, to seek faith in the place or anxiety.
Barry knew the love of God through Jesus Christ. As a young child growing up in this parish, the seeds of Christ’s love were planted; the light of Christ shined in his heart. You see that light shining in his smile in the memorial video that has been prepared. Barry walked as a child of the light; the light was there always; Barry dwells now forever in the light of Christ’s love; there is no darkness at all – no anxieties, no fears, no pitfalls, no pain – FOREVER.