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“In My Father’s House”
John 14:1-6


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Fifth Sunday of Easter—May 22, 2011

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The way we reserve flights and hotel rooms has completely changed with the advent of the Internet.  The “big three” travel sites, Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity, were all founded 15 years ago, and many other sites have been added since.  You may have your favorite, but basically they’re all the same.  It really doesn’t matter which one you choose; you’ll get to your destination just fine.

Many people think that’s what the various religions of the world are like.  Instead of the big three travel companies, in the realm of religion you’ve got the spiritual big three, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, and many other faiths as well.  You may have your favorite, but basically they’re all the same.  It really doesn’t matter which one you choose; you’ll get to your destination just fine.

However, Jesus declares in today’s Gospel Reading, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  You see, God the Father has given his Son Jesus an exclusive monopoly on reservations to heaven.  You must go only through him to book your trip and reserve a place there.  As Peter says in today’s Reading from the Book of Acts, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

The first thing you do when making a reservation is to check availability: Is there a place for you?  “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” Jesus says.  “Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.”

Most people make advance hotel reservations because it is comforting to know at the end of your journey there is a room waiting, a place reserved, for you.  Jesus promises that at the end of your journey through life you have a room waiting, a place reserved for you in heaven.  “In my Father’s house are many rooms. . . I am going there to prepare a place for you.”

Another important question when making a reservation is, what will it be like?  A nice part of making reservations online is that you can see pictures and read reviews of the hotel and the room you have reserved.  The Bible gives us a picture of what heaven will be like.  Paul says in Philippians, “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.”  Revelation says, “There will be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain.”  Jesus summed up in one word what heaven will be like when he promised the thief, who came to faith while dying on a cross beside him, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

You’ve probably been disappointed at times when the actual hotel or room didn’t live up to the online description and pictures.  But, with heaven it’s the exact opposite.  God’s problem is trying to describe for us something so wonderful it is completely beyond our comprehension.  Heaven will be far more magnificent than anything you ever imagined.  Paul puts it this way in 2nd Corinthians, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.” 

For most of us when making a reservation the #1 concern is, what will it cost?  The most expensive hotel room in the world is a penthouse in Geneva, Switzerland: $65,000 a night.  That would be $24 million a year for that room.  But, heaven is much more fantastic, and not just for a night or a year, but for eternity.  What will that cost?  How can you possibly pay for that?

The answer is you can’t.  You could never do enough to earn your way into heaven with your own good works.  As Paul says in Romans, “No one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law.” 

There are jokes about showing up at the pearly gates and trying to convince St. Peter to let you in.  But, Jesus says, “I am the gate.  Whoever enters through me will be saved.”  It’s not St. Peter, but Jesus himself who is the gatekeeper of heaven.  The Good News is you don’t have to convince Jesus to let you into heaven.  He’s the one who has already convinced his heavenly Father to let you in: “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to be with me, so that where I am you also may be.”

What did it cost Jesus to reserve a place for you in his Father’s house?  The real St. Peter—not the caricature in a joke, but the real Apostle St. Peter—tells us in his First Epistle what it cost Jesus to reserve a place for you in his Father’s house: “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed . . . but with the precious blood of Christ.” 

Martin Luther quotes this passage from Peter in the Small Catechism: “[He] has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death, that I may be his own and live under him in his kingdom and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. . . On the Last Day he will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.  This is most certainly true.”

Usually on travel web sites once you’ve made your reservation you have to make full payment in advance.  Jesus said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  And the book of Revelation says of Jesus, “With your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.”

Payment in full has already been made in advance for you for your place in heaven.  It was actually paid in full nearly 2,000 years in advance.  The Apostle John puts it this way in his First Epistle: “This is how God showed his love for us: He sent his only-begotten Son into the world for us to live through him. . . he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. . . and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from every sin.” 

Because of his sacrifice for you, your sins are all forgiven, your place in heaven is purchased and all paid for.  As Peter says in Acts, “Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”  “Trust in God; trust also in me. . .  You know the way to the place where I am going. . .  I am the way, the truth, and the life.”

A big difference between a trip you plan for yourself in this life and the final journey Jesus has planned for you to eternal life is the schedule.  Jesus says simply, “I will come again and take you to be with me, so that where I am you also may be.”  Your departure won’t be according to Central Standard Time, or Eastern Standard Time, but according to “GST,” “God’s Standard Time.” 

Jesus explains in Acts, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.”  The psalms put it this way: “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to pass. . .  But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God, my times are in your hands.’”

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to be with me, so that where I am you also may be. You know the way to the place where I am going. . .  I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Amen.

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