There Goes the Neighborhood!
Jesus answered him, ‘Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”
- John 14:23
Imagine standing in the driveway with a couple of neighbors and watching a U-Haul pull into a driveway next door. You believe you can tell from the contents being unloaded, from the vehicle they drive, and from the clothes they wear, that your new neighbors “not from around these parts” and that they’re well, different. You wonder if they’ll keep up the yard or put garish concrete statuary by the mail box. “Well, there goes the neighborhood,” you observe as you wonder what else might change. Have you ever wondered what it would be like if God moved in down the street?
For a good portion of my life—until my mid-thirties—I tended to think of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit as more or less hanging out in heavenly splendor, far, far away from my little pinhead location in the cosmos. Sure, I was a faithful Christian who attended worship regularly on Sunday, served on church council, taught Sunday school, and tried to live a good life in service to others. I prayed regularly but sort of figured that my prayers rose at spiritual warp speed to be heard at a location beyond the twinkling stars. I was here (on good ‘ol terra firma) and the triune God was way up/out/over there in heaven (wherever that is), but certainly not on my cul-de-sac.
While I understood cognitively that Jesus was present whenever I gathered with others in his name and for his meal, I must admit that I did not consider the divine presence to be what you might call “present tense.” I wasn’t one of those Christians who felt Jesus’ presence like some Holy Ghost Whisperer and who could report with inexplicable confidence exactly what God had in store for the next move on life’s Monopoly board. The idea of God moving in as tangibly as the U-Haul unloading next door was a mental stretch I hadn’t made.
It took a serious study of the fourth evangelist’s gospel for me to learn a thing or two about divine real estate and effective “signage.” Take this week’s gospel passage for example. I’d always focused on the “those who love me will keep my word” and “those who don’t love me don’t keep my words” parts of the message—black and white, cut and dried, do’s and don’ts. I totally overlooked that part about “we will come to them and make our home with them.”
Yes, not only does Jesus show up for dinner when we gather in his name, but he also goes with us when we leave the confines of our worshiping community. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit that is completely unmerited but so graciously given to us, God moves right into the neighborhood, into our homes and our hearts, and that changes everything.
With the triune God moving in and making a home with us, our way of living and being in community begins to look considerably different. No longer may Christians be content to be a “bedroom” community content to have no clue who lives next door, much less down the street. Instead, we are called to be more inclusive and are mandated to keep Jesus’ word to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. We can no longer consume without regard for cost and effect; effective stewardship of all aspects of life becomes our calling. There is no room to be isolated behind our own safe culturally gated communities and comfortable lifestyle security systems.
No, it’s time to draw back the curtains, open the windows, and let the winds of the Spirit blow. We are invited to take a seat on the porch, fire up the grill, and cook up a gospel dish to share. There goes the neighborhood! Thanks be to God!
Stewardship of Life
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