In My Mother’s House of Many Rooms: The Fifth Sunday of Eastertide, May 10, 2020

The Fifth Sunday of Eastertide, May 10, 2020

(The service will be available at 10am here and on The St Bart’s Facebook page.)

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Sermon Preached on May 10, 2020 – Fifth Sunday of Easter
By The Rev. Dr. Nina R. Pooley
St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, Yarmouth, ME

Canticle of St. Anselm of Canterbury: A Song of Christ’s Goodness, from Enriching Our Worship
Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16
John 14:1-14

In My Mother’s House of Many Rooms

This morning we have a weird confluence of Mother’s Day and this text in which Jesus talks about his Father’s house of many rooms!

First, the text. Jesus is in the middle of saying goodbye to his disciples. He’s trying to comfort them in their distress, and to brace them for his death and resurrection. He wants them to know that he’s leaving – but he will always be with them, if differently than before. They’re meant to carry on with the work he has begun, and to keep following in the way that he has showed them. Their relationship will be altered, but it’s going to be okay. This is not the end of their mission and ministry, nor the end of God’s dream of what should be – just a change in how that mission and ministry will be embodied in the world.

While not an exact parallel, there’s some similarity to our current situation. We’re not together in person (and I miss that more than I can say) – but we are able to be with one another in a different way. Through technology and online worship, we’re able to be with everyone who wants to join us, regardless of where they are physically.

I know. In so many ways it doesn’t feel like enough. Being physically present in-person matters. The disciples understand completely – they don’t want this change in their lives either. Jesus is their Messiah, the one they believed would deliver them and the whole world. The one on whom they pinned all their hopes and to whom they’ve devoted their lives. And now he tells them he’s leaving. No wonder they are disoriented, unnerved and afraid.[1]

Jesus says, ‘Don’t worry, I’m going, but I’m going to prepare a place for you – and you know where I’m going. They aren’t convinced – ‘How can we know the way? Can you give us some coordinates, so we can find our way to “God’s house” once you’re gone?’ Jesus replies: ‘Keep going and I’ll be with you – because I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. I’m not just your ‘guide’, I am the Way itself. In the days to come you will be my body, my hands and feet and voice, for a world badly in need of healing, justice and good news.'[2]

Jesus says the same to us: ‘Keep walking in the Way, keep learning and sharing the Truth of God’s love, and keep living with hearts and minds fixed on God, and I will be with you every step of the journey.’

Which is good news – we aren’t alone in the midst of this strange and difficult time, even though so much has changed. It’s not just that our daily experience is so different, it’s that WE are. We’ve been changed. On most Mother’s Days – we scramble for a card, or flowers. Often feeling guilty that we haven’t done enough for another of life’s Hallmark holidays. Many of us would find it difficult to choose a card, a rhyming poem and a glossy card can’t rewrite and gloss over an extraordinarily complex and personal relationship.

This year we know better – as we struggle to get through this time of pandemic, nothing about this lends itself to a Hallmark moment. We’re learning to pay attention to what’s real, and what matters. Which is not whether our families are Hallmark card perfect, but that we are connected to one another. That the people who raised us, (whether or not they were related to us), the people whose lives have shaped our own – they matter.

A story, a St. Bart’s memory: Given both this Gospel and Mother’s Day today – I immediately thought of Eleanor Weston. She was a member of this parish quite a long time ago, she died early in my tenure at St. Bart’s. I had only met her a few times so, her two daughters filled in the pieces for me. Eleanor was a tough, hard-working single mom at a time when there were very few women who were divorced and raising their children on their own. It was a courageous path, one she chose to keep them all safe, but theirs was not a Hallmark card image of family. Eleanor worked outside the home to provide for her two girls, and she came home to work hard as a single parent. While the girls didn’t have everything they wanted, they had everything they needed, and they were safe and well cared for. One of her daughters talked about becoming a mother herself, and realizing how much work was involved, how it never seemed to end, and being stunned in retrospect that her own mother had managed as well as she had. She exclaimed – “There was even homemade pie! When did Mom have time to make us pie?!”

At Eleanor’s funeral we read this Gospel text, though we changed the words a little. “Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Mother’s house there are many dwelling places. 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.”

Whatever parent imagery you choose for God, this text reminds us that Jesus walks with us in good times and in difficult ones, in this life and the next. That we are connected to one another and God, regardless of time and space. And we will be reunited with all those we love but see no longer when we are gathered home to God’s self.

But for now, in the time we have to live this precious life, may we focus on what really matters: the people we’ve been given to love, and the work we’ve been given to do as we embody God’s Way of Love to a world badly in need of healing, justice and good news. Amen.


[1] Based on the commentary: I am the Way: SALT’s Lectionary Commentary for Easter 5,
[2] Based on the commentary: I am the Way: SALT’s Lectionary Commentary for Easter 5,