Scripture for the fifth Sunday of Easter: Acts 7.55-60; Psalm 31.1-5,15-16; 1 Peter 2.2-10; John 14.1-14
In the 1980s some whales were trapped in ice in the Arctic. The Russians and Americans, before the end of the Cold War, cooperated to break the ice and give them a path to freedom. I mentioned how encouraging this was to a friend, whose response was that it was a great waste of time and energy. The Education for Ministry study group of which I was a part at the time did a theological reflection on the incident, the conclusion of which was that it is possible for two people to look at the same thing and draw wildly different conclusions – and for both to be right. This is God’s world.
Into this world of God we will baptise a seven year-old. We are blessed to have a baptism, and to be able to welcome a new member into the Christian family. As we share in this outward and visible symbol of God’s grace and love, and inclusion, it is interesting to read a gospel passage in which Jesus speaks of God’s house having “many dwelling places” – which sounds very welcoming, inclusive and open.
Perhaps Jesus needed to tell this to his disciples because they were a rather mixed bag – representing quite diverse backgrounds and beliefs. Yet he drew them together in his invitation to be disciples, and encouraged them to blend their differences to make a difference in the world.
Jesus went on to say that the way to this inclusive environment of many dwelling places was through him. As followers of Christ, we need to hear both statements together. Whatever we may or may not believe about religious diversity, we need to remember that we do not own Jesus.
Even his initial group of followers experienced Jesus in diverse ways: one of the aspects of Jesus’ ministry was that he would meet people where they were, and then draw them to himself. He still does this.
One of the shadier temptations of Christian faith is to presume that our experience of Jesus is the only “way, truth and life.” That road leads by way of smug self-satisfaction to the delusional destination of spiritual superiority and the temptation to judge and even condemn others.
In reality, just because we have experienced the invitation and presence of Christ in one way, it does not preclude someone else having a different experience of Christ.
Christ can have many faces in our world.
A baptism ought to encourage us to think about our own baptismal responsibilities that go with God’s open welcome of love, and the promise that if we follow Christ, in the way that he shows us, then we will find ourselves disclosing the best that we are to the world, which is God’s vision and hope for each of us, in all our different ways. These are the doorways to the many rooms in God’s home that Christ prepares for us.