Tag Archives: dwelling

In-Dwelling of the Trinity

Worship The Holy Spirit by Lance Brown

Talk given on Easter 5 based on John 14:1-14

May I speak and may you hear through the Grace of our Lord; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me’.

We are being taken back to the Last Supper with Jesus still very much alive in the flesh. He has washed his disciples’ feet, foretold his betrayal and revealed it to be Judas Iscariot now in the thralls of Satan, given the remaining disciples a new commandment to love one another and foretold Peter’s denial of ever knowing him, but with a hint that eventually all will be well.

No wonder their hearts are troubled, events are moving so quickly and their emotions are about to be tested to the limit…and they don’t have the gift of hindsight. However, we do.

He tells them that he is going on ahead of them to prepare a place for them all be together again, and that they already know this place. This can be one of the most comforting and hope filled passages that is regularly used in funeral services.

Even so, I’ve often been puzzled, imagining what sort of place it would be. ‘In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places’. The original Greek word μοναί (monai) in the Kings James Bible was translated as mansion meaning dwelling place, from mansio, not as in modern usage a manor-house or palace. But μοναί literally means places to stay, to abide, to dwell, i.e. the rooms within a house.

But do our minds conjure up those pale pink sun-soaked Moorish Mediterranean palaces or the stark white of the infinite Matrix rooms? Or perhaps a replica of our favourite cosy living rooms? Perhaps we’re being too earthbound in our imaginations.

The fact is, unlike the disciples at that point, we do know the way to go; through Jesus himself, ‘ the way, the truth and the life.’ But are we like Thomas and Philip, still in the dark about what is happening? I would say we are – to a greater extent – unsure as to what the literal and physical outcome will actually turn out to be and I can live with that. It’s more about what it means for us here and now.

In fact it might not just be about a physical dwelling but an in-dwelling. Jesus will soon be ascending back to the Father and as yet unknown to the disciples, Pentecost looms, when each will be filled with the Holy Spirit and also those who believe in Jesus.

Immediately after our passage today, Jesus reveals that the Father will send the Holy Spirit ‘in my name’, who will be known to you because he abides in you (another form of the verb meno – to dwell or remain in) and suddenly the close interpersonal relationship of the Holy Trinity suddenly becomes a little clearer.

I say clearer, but as always for John it does become highly metaphorical and he uses the verb meno in many of its forms to mean a spiritual abiding. Perhaps we can think of it like this – if something or someone abides in someone, then that person is motivated by what abides in them and are dependent upon it or them. God the Father is spirit and invisible, yet he has shown himself in various ways, his most authentic presence of himself being in Jesus. ‘If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’

We also know that Jesus is his own human person, the son of God; and he is on the same page as the Father in all things, having the same nature of love and outgoing concern, not inward focused and prideful, and he has his own will.

However, all of Jesus’ provisions and needs are from the Father. ‘The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works’. But as John revealed at the very opening of his gospel, Jesus IS the very WORD, the intent, the purpose, the reason, the wisdom of God in the form of flesh.

Providing His spirit at Jesus’ baptism, filling him with this essential connection with the Father, gave Jesus the words, the attitude, the wisdom, the miracles and through consistent prayer, the will to accomplish his mission to get to the cross.

 ‘Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father’ and ‘If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it’. This is Jesus offering us exactly the same encouragement, support and ability through the provision of the Holy Spirit, as we try to continue his works here on earth.

All comes from God for us, just as it did for Jesus. Jesus had the Father dwelling in him – just as he and God dwell in us through God’s Spirit. We simply have to choose to accept his presence in us and allow our nature to be aligned with His.

Then and only then will we know the way to go

Amen

God’s Dwelling House

Bread and Wine

Back from my holidays… back from the land of ruby red wines and the paradox of soft crusty bread… back from a country where both of these elements are important not only in everyday life but which permeate those lives in an everyday faith.

Spain has some of the oldest and largest places in which to practice that faith, and one of the highlights of our holiday in Seville was the opportunity to visit some of these amazing buildings, where triumphs of architectural ingenuity sit alongside the brash gaudiness of high altars, reredos and quires.

One of the most interesting we discovered was in Cordoba, and I need to start with a brief history lesson to give an understanding of its significance even today. Now known as the Mezquita, it was  originally the site of the 7th century Visigothic church of St Vincent. The Visigoths were the Spanish branch of the nomadic german Goths,  and ruled in Andalucia until the Moroccan muslims (the Moors) pushed their way up through Gibraltar and began wide scale building projects.

Inside the Mezquita

However, they were sympathetic to Christian places of worship and initially divided the church – merely enlarging the building into a wide and airy worship space and adding a minaret. That was until 600 years later during the ‘Reconquista‘ when King Ferdinand III of Castile reclaimed it for the Catholic church and converted the centre of the mosque into a cathedral and the minaret to a bell tower.

What is particularly interesting to those in favour of creating inter-faith opportunities, is that over the past decade official entreaties have been made by Spanish Muslims to be allowed to pray in the cathedral, but to date these have been declined by the Vatican.

With every great building almost invariably comes a great tower – both an object of practical defence and making sure your neighbours know you’re there, especially if your install a few hundredweight of bells and ring them at every opportunity! I love climbing up towers but for some reason when I’m at the top my brain converts that desire into an ludicrous feeling that despite gravity holding my feet firmly on the ground my whole body will launch itself over the edge… still it never stops me attempting the climb

The towers of Seville Cathedarl, Giraldo Tower and Cadiz

The towers of Seville Cathedral, La Giralda and Cadiz Cathedral

Perhaps the triumph though was to be the visit inside Seville cathedral. Billed as the largest gothic cathedral and third largest church in the world, I had imagined that the highlight would be to sit in front of the high altar or the golden Retablo Mayor. This incredible work of human creativity is indeed the largest in the world, ‘It measures 20 metres high by 18 wide. It tells the life of Christ in 28 intricately carved niches. It has 189 small sculptures. There are four central scenes showing the Nativity, the Assumption of Mary, the Resurrection, and the Ascension of the Lord. The style is Gothic, but the sides are in the Renaissance style. The artists who worked on it include Pyeter Duncart, Jorge Fernandez Aleman, Alejo Fernandez, Roque de Balduque, and Juan Bautista Vazquez’. 

seville altar

The High Altar?

Perhaps you noted the was and the would be – because on this occasion it was hidden behind a rather disappointing 2D photo drape! To be honest though I have always been slightly ambivalent about the extravagance and garish nature of some of these monuments to God. On the one hand feeling impressed by the scale and artistry and on the other aware that God is not contained within a building however majestic it may be. Are these the types of places that God wants us to meet him in?

Biblically, it is true that he did agree that Solomon could build a temple in which he would dwell, having refused to let his father David do so.

Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord: It is not you who will build me a house to dwell in… You will have a son who will rule in peace… His name will be Solomon… He will build a temple for me……When Solomon had finished building the temple of the Lord .. the Lord appeared to him…and said to him: “I have heard the prayer and plea you have made before me; I have consecrated this temple, which you have built, by putting my Name there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.

Perhaps then there is something about creating such incredibly awesome buildings in order to demonstrate the glory of God’s majesty, even if it is not and could not be his permanent dwelling place – that space being reserved in our hearts

Seville Cathdral

A small part of Seville Cathdral

The audio guide, therefore, summed it up rather neatly. The architects of Seville cathedral had very clear design specifications, to make it “so grandiose that all those who see it will take us for madmen”. What a glorious way to be a fool for God!