Summary: We talk about home as the "place you hang your hat." We say, "home is where the heart is." But Jesus teaches us that our true home is with God, which means we have to give God our hearts.
Home. It’s a word we tossed around all the time; a word we say all the time. When you hear the word “home,” what comes to mind? When you say the word, “home,” what are you trying to convey? At the end of the work day, we inform our colleagues that we are “going home.” A lonely college student navigating freshman year might say to his roommate, “I miss home.” We distinguish the place that is our “hometown”, and we center our activities at “home base.” Home can be a building, or it can be an entire community. It can be the center of activity, or it can just be the place where we are most comfortable—whether that’s with certain people or in a particular atmosphere. We’ve even created these now common adages that describe home. Some people say, “Home is where you hang your hat.” While others view home in a different way, saying, “Home is where the heart is.”
Whatever specific definition we may give to “home,” I believe it is generally true for all of us that home is a space of comfort, peace, and rest; a place where we can relax and be ourselves. And if that’s not true for us, then we spend our lives seeking such space. And in our gospel lesson for this morning, Jesus is guiding us on “the way” home. Jesus is making his final preparations for the end of his bodily life on earth, and he wants to give assurance to his disciples. Christ is going home, and he wants his followers to know that they have a home too. Christ knows the distress of this life; he has experienced it firsthand, as we know. And remember, the prophet Isaiah described the coming Messiah as “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” So as he addresses the disciples now, he gets straight to the point. “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”
But our hearts are troubled, aren’t they? We deal with it on a weekly basis, if not every day. We have financial troubles, or marital strife. We are overly stressed by our work or our child’s well-being. We fret and worry about the lack of time. We are burdened by medical issues, whether in our own lives, or the lives of people we love. We navigate this earthly existence, regularly reminded of our own mortality, and our hearts are troubled. It’s amazing how well Christ knows us, isn’t it? So he looks at the people he loves; believers, disciples, people just like us, and he says to them, “Don’t be troubled.”
“Fine,” we think. “But that’s a whole lot easier said than done.”
And Jesus knows that, too, because in the very next sentence he gives us the key to freedom from troubled hearts. “Believe in God, believe also in me.” Still a lot easier said than done, no doubt, but it’s a starting point. And it’s a lot less complicated than trying to navigate all the supposed solutions offered by the world. You know what I mean. The world tells us to go to a therapist, to change our diet, to exercise more, to watch less TV, to find a hobby, and on and on. I ran across an advertisement online this week that read, “You deserve to be happy. Start e-counseling now!” E-counseling? What? We could practically make a career out of trying to rid our lives of worry and trouble, and in the end we’d only have mixed results at best. Jesus just says, “Believe in God and believe in me.” At least it’s focused. Now to figure out exactly what that means.
The words of Martin Luther, the father of the Protestant Reformation, come to mind. In one of his writings, Luther asks the question, “What does it mean to have a God?” Luther then goes on to answer his own question by saying, “God is what you hang your heart upon.” In other words, the heart that is troubled is a heart not hung upon God, but one set in the ways of the world. So Jesus tells the disciples in this time of deep uncertainty: hang your hearts on God; hang your hearts on me. It sounds little like home, doesn’t it?
“Home is where the heart is.” “God is what you hang your heart upon.” Listen again to Jesus’ words: “In my Father’s [home] there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a [home] for you? And if I go and prepare a [home] for you, I will come again and will take you to myself[, home], so that where I am there you may be also. And you know the way [home,] to the place where I am going.” Now, I stuck “home” in there a few times where Jesus doesn’t use that word, but do you see what he is saying? What a blessed, comforting, beautiful message!