“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many (mansions). If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:1-6)
Even on the bad days when most of us would not have gotten out of bed, or changed out of pajamas, or skipped shaving, Dick was prepared. Well kempt. Ready to go. In his flannel shirt, khaki pants, and a smile.
It wasn’t a false smile either. He did have to grin and bear the pain he was in – without question. But his joy was genuine.
It was a joy shared with Carol, lived among his family and affirmed by his church friends and so many others who helped him bear the burden he was under. That joy made the burden light. His faith was prepared for that too.
Even on his last days, in his last hours. Somehow Dick was dignified. Put together. Ready. Prepared.
A place prepared.
Family meals around the table. Carefully planned and arranged so everyone had their place and knew it. In the same seat. Scheduled for the same time. Dependable on holidays and weekends. A place for everything and everyone. Everything and everyone in their place. It was as much about hospitality as it was in preserving tradition, or asserting some control.
It was preparation – done in love. High expectations yielding high results. A place prepared for you was not something Dick took lightly. It was something he carefully crafted (with Carol’s help), so not only you would have a place, but you would be missed if you are not in your place that Dick made sure was yours.
The grandsons knew that. They had their place. Not just at Sunday meals, lunches and outings, but in Dick’s very existence. A place in his heart so big and so pure and so genuine, I can say without question – without any kind of medical diagnosis – that the bonds you shared; that love prepared, kept Dick alive a lot longer than his body should have allowed.
It is a love prepared that includes Laurie, Steve, John and Robin, and 58 years of marriage. Carol, what a place Dick had prepared each day for you. A lifetime.
When I first came to St. Paul. Dick took me out to lunch the very first week. I think he was the first person to do that. Laurie joked that it was probably because one of the grandsons were not available. 🙂 Then she paused and said,
“No. That sounds like Dad. Of course, he did that. So that you would know that you had a place too.”
Exactly. A place. A place prepared.
In this gospel reading from John, Jesus talks about having a place prepared for us.
A place skillfully selected. A place intentionally chosen. A place carefully arranged.
Many mansions in the Father’s house. A place prepared for Dick. A place prepared for you.
Thomas isn’t sure what that place is or how to get there. He asks, “How can we know the way?”
Jesus responds, “I am the way, and the truth and the life.”
He is saying is you want to know the place prepared for you – come with me and I will show you. As Dick knew so well, Jesus shows us again and again what it is to walk in his way.
A way that reaches out to touch the sick and heal them.
A way that reaches out to sinners and forgives them.
A way that reaches out to the dying and gives his own life for them.
A way that reaches out to what we think is gone or missing or dead and buried, and brings life eternal.
A way that reaches out to our doubts and fears, and whispers in our ears,
‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me.’
A way that reaches out to strangers and welcomes them as friends.
A way that reaches out to our insecurities or lack worthiness and places in our hands an invitation with our name on it.
With an abundant smile and a place setting at the table so you always know you belong. Dick knew that. He lived that way. Gracefully. Faithfully. Humbly. Preparing places for all of us. As Jesus continues to welcome him and prepare a place just for him.
Sometimes we speculate on what that place is, or dream of what heaven might be like. But what if Jesus offers as simple a promise as a place at the table, on Sunday dinner, with enough places for everyone. With Dick and you and me and Jesus, all sitting around the table, welcomed, fed, cared for, loved. Smiling with a joy that is not our own, but a jot that makes each of us – complete.
What if that place is not as far away as we might think.
Today you are welcomed around a table – with bread and wine broken and poured – just as Jesus poured his life out for you. Given with a promise of Christ’s presence here at the table now and many mansions brought to bear among us. Shared with one another and with Dick and with all the saints in light.
It is a place prepared. A place prepared for you.
And it is no mistake. This place wasn’t offered because someone else wasn’t available, you are not a consolation guest. No. Jesus is to be the first one to make sure you know that you have a place. You always will.
Given with a smile. Carefully Prepared. Ready to Go.
“So that you would know that you had a place too.” Amen