Sermon for the 5th Sunday of Easter

Acts 7:55-60
Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16
I Peter 2:2-10
John 14:1-14

So, how about that housing market?  Pretty crazy stuff, huh?  So expensive.  Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to get a crackhouse these days without paying a million dollars?

You know, it seems these days in the Lower Mainland almost all small talk even with total strangers ends up like this, talking about housing. It’s like there is absolutely nothing else to talk about.  Well, that and politics, but housing mostly. Yes, it is expensive, I get it.  No, it is not my fault nor my relatives’ faults.  Yes, it’ll probably get way worse before it gets better.

You know what I mean, right?  It is such a hot topic right now.  I’ve seen countless articles analyzing why it is the way it is, and how much longer it’ll go up before that bubble bursts and then everything will crash, and how with the money we would spend to by a 500 sq ft condo in downtown Vancouver, we could buy like a castle in Nova Scotia.

So with all this talk about the housing market, it’s hard not to hear the words of Jesus in today’s gospel, “in my father’s house there are many dwelling places” and have our minds wander about the beautiful palace we could someday live in.  It’s hard to not to hear “many dwelling places” and think of all the space and rooms we could have for family, friends, and various activities.  It’s hard not to hear “house” in this market and not think about how any first-time home buyers these days either have rich parents that helped them, or inherited a house from their dead parents, or is a drug dealer.  It’s like that is the only way anyone could afford a detached home now.

That sort of makes this promise by Jesus all the more enticing, at least it does for someone like me, who after 20-ish years of renting still doesn’t own a house.  Of course, we know that Jesus isn’t talking about a literal house, I mean that would be crazy talk, but we figure Jesus is probably talking about something like heaven, where we will eventually go and live out the rest of eternity with him and God and our loved ones, right?  And of course that sounds great in the midst of this crazy market, because what’s better than getting what you can’t afford for free?

But this promise does more than that.  This promise brings down a barrier that we many of us may not even know existed, a barrier so subtle in some cases that we may not even have thought twice about it.  See, there is a barrier between those who own and those who don’t.   Those who own might not see it, but believe me those who don’t totally do.  The rising prices of homes in the Lower Mainland made this line between owners and renters even stronger.  Why?  Because the harder it became to own a home, the more likely those who actually are able to afford to own would not shy away from announcing that they can, which inadvertently draws that line between those who have and those who have not.  And I get it, these days being able to afford a house (that isn’t given to you by your parents) is a great accomplishment and you should be proud, but we seem to have this tendency to rub our accomplishments in the faces of others, whether we mean to or not.

And this isn’t just with housing, but it seems like this mentality creeps into basically every area of life.  Any time we do something faster or better or more correctly, it’s like we want the world to know it.  When we are right, we want it to be recognised.  And when we best someone in any shape or form, we like to announce it to the world.  I see this all the time in social media, as it is a great platform to show off your accomplishments.  For example, I know I showed you a puzzle a month or so ago, and this is another that I saw the other day on Facebook:















Any of you get it?  Who figured out what each food item was worth really fast and got 17?  Who realised that the last operation of the equation was actually to multiply and not add and got 70?  Who remembered at the last minute the PEDMAS order of operation and got 25?  Who just saw a bunch of beer and burgers and thought that just equals a good time to be had by all?

Anyway, the post where I saw this picture said, “comment if you got it” and something like 9 thousand people commented with at least one of those 3 answers that I listed and of course others felt the strong need to have to correct those who got it wrong.  There were even some heated debates on why 25 is more correct than 70 and so forth.

But through it all, I just thought… who cares?  It’s not like we’re awarded a degree by getting this right.  We aren’t paid to have figured out a random logic problem on social media.  We aren’t in anyway recognised by getting the answer correct.  Yet people need to share and announce their correct answers anyway… to complete strangers no less.  And so I see this need to share our accomplishments not just with this simple picture problem, or how invested you may be in the housing market, but in almost everything, all areas of life, every which way that we could squeeze out a compliment or a “like” out of.

But why?  Why do people seem to always want to rate themselves against one another?  Why do people feel the need to define themselves by how they compare to the others around them?  Why do we compete with each other as though there is some sort of prize for the one who has the most accomplishments or possessions under their belts?  …why do we feel a sense of justice and righteousness in pointing out the faults and failures in others?

I’ve come to the conclusion that this is just human nature.  It’s like we can’t help ourselves.  Feeling like we’re on the correct side of life is both enticing and addicting, and so of course we would fish for compliments when and where we can.  But the problem with that is when we start thinking our accomplishments and possessions somehow equate to our value and worth.  There is an issue when we think that the number of likes or comments on our social media feeds somehow make us better than those that don’t have as many of either.  There is something wrong when we feel the need to put others down in order to bring ourselves back up, or poke holes in the credibility of our adversary just to prove ourselves right, or even somehow eliminate those we don’t agree with in order to make ourselves feel righteous, whether it be physically removing them, ruining their reputation, or even… stoning them to death.

That’s what happened to Stephen the martyr, isn’t it?  He said things that people didn’t like, and so that was enough justification for them to kill him.  Sure, they thought he was blaspheming against God, but are we really the judge of that?  And even if we are, does that give us the right to execute our own brand of justice on them?

Of course not, that would be crazy (and actually really scary).  We, in this day and age are civilized.  We know better.  We will not stoop down to the level of judging others that we don’t know or haven’t harmed us.  Or so we’d think.  Try discussing politics with someone who voted differently from you.  Try discussing sports with someone who roots for a different team.  Try talking about the housing market with someone who doesn’t have the same status as you.  Sure, we may not want to kill the person of the opposing view, but we don’t often invite those kinds of conversations because we know they could get heated.

We are a people of likes, interests, and passions.  We have opinions, viewpoints, and paradigms.  We have a sense of what is right and wrong, true and false, moral and not.  And we are all different.  We all have different slants.  We all come from different places, different traditions, different set of beliefs.

And yet Jesus tells us that there is room for us.  Jesus tells us that there is room for liberals and conservatives, the rich and the poor, the homeowners and the homeless.  Jesus tells us that there is room for all people of all colours and of all shapes.  There is room.

Again, we aren’t talking about a physical house, and I don’t actually think we’re talking about heaven either, but rather I think Jesus is talking about relationship with one another, us living in community, diverse people from all over congregating together to care and be cared for, to serve and be served, to love and be loved.

See, the house that Jesus is talking about is this house of God, where we can gather together in unity, seeing the value and worth of each individual knowing that while we will have our differences, we are all still beloved children of God, called and invited, brought in and welcomed.

Jesus says don’t be afraid.  Don’t be afraid that you’ll be left alone in your individuality.  Don’t be afraid of where that line is drawn between you and the rest.  Don’t be afraid that there won’t be a place where you can fit in and be accepted, just as you are, in the vast and eternal kingdom of God.  That is the message of hope that Jesus brings, that our identities are not dependant on our accomplishments or possessions, but on the unending grace and mercy of God, preparing a place for us where we will know ourselves and each other, not entirely perfect but forgiven, gathered in, calling us out of darkness and into light.

So as the Psalmist says today, we take refuge in God, for God is our strong rock, a castle and stronghold keeping us and watching over us, rescuing us from all that may bring us harm.  We are part of God’s family now, this community, in this house with Christ as the cornerstone, reaching out in love and service to the world, revealing to all the gospel of God’s love and forgiveness for all people of all places.

This season of Easter and renewal, may we all be revitalized with the hope in Jesus Christ, that we may spread the welcome and acceptance of our community and our church, the eternal body of Christ.  Thanks and praise be to God.  Amen.

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