The 5th Sunday of Easter, Year A, May 7, 2023
Rev. Misa Furumoto
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.” This verse from John’s Gospel just read has comforted and encouraged many people’s hearts throughout Christian history. And the following words of Jesus must have soothed even more powerfully the hearts of those who have lost their beloved ones. “In my Father’s house are many dwellings.” Other Bible versions translate “In my Father’s house are many rooms.” As a child, I loved to imagine what heaven looked like from this verse. It might be like a vast place with colorful flowers blooming, a peaceful river flowing, and a big beautiful rainbow in the sky, with many, many cute little houses. Or maybe it is like a luxurious mansion with countless cozy rooms. Either way, people are all very friendly there, and there is no trouble, gossip, or fighting among neighbors. Everyone is happy, and we never suffer from illness or accidents. Above all, we never die; we can live forever.
I lost my father at the end of last August. He was 88, and it was the right time for him to go, I believe. I knew and was sure where he was going to, and yet the sadness of not seeing him on this earth anymore tormented me for a long time. About five months later, just after the new year, my father suddenly appeared in my dream for the first time. He already looked old but in a good shape, and we were standing in line to get food in some kind of cafeteria. My mother was there too, and everything looked so natural and nothing strange. It was then I realized that my mother could not see my father. I came to myself and, still in the dream, I went near my father and said in his ear, “Dad, what are you doing here? You died.” Then we sat down on the couch and started talking. “So, how are you? How is life over there?”, I asked. With that big, wonderful smile I always loved, he replied, “It’s so wonderful over there. It’s got these big windows with a great view out of them. It’s so nice that I wanted to come and take your mom there.” “Oh no, no, no!” I said immediately. “No need for that. Mom is doing very well and happy here now. Don’t worry about her.” At that moment, I woke up. I felt something very warm left in my heart and I cried like a baby.
What am I trying to tell you from here? Yes, heaven seems to be a wonderful place, with lots of rooms with big windows. My father came back to me in a dream and told me so. But is that enough for me to believe? Because my father told me so in a dream? No, it is not. I believe it because Jesus told me to believe it. This is my faith, this is our faith. We believe in God and heaven not because someone with supernatural powers told us so, or because someone who died once and was brought back to life by artificial respiration told us so. We believe because we know Jesus. Thomas said at the time that he did not know where Jesus was going or how to know the way, but we who follow Him now know. That He was crucified for us, died and was buried, and rose again on the third day so that each of us can know that Jesus is the Son of God and that He can give us eternal life.
Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. If we know Jesus, we can know God the Father. Yes, that is how we can find the way to know God. We may not believe that Jesus is God just by being told in words. But if we know his words and the way he lived, we know that God lived with him. And what is certain is that God did not live only when Jesus was on earth. God is alive today and is always with each of us as we try to live like Jesus. When you feel like losing God, WWJD, ask yourself what Jesus would do. Of course, it is not easy to live like Jesus, but when you desire to live and ask God for help, He will send the Holy Spirit to let you know that He is with you.
And that place is already heaven. Whenever you know that God is with you, you have already been welcomed into His house of many dwellings. Yes, there is a beautiful place to go after death, but that is not all. It is the duty of each of us Christians to help God create heaven on earth. Let us spread the Gospel of the Lord Jesus and let as many people as possible know that they are welcome in the house of God.
In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.