Making Space And Place For Others – A Sermon On John 14:1-14

“In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.” 

Today’s gospel (John 14:1-14) is a favorite for many. The imagery of the Father’s house with many dwelling places is expansive and inclusive. The assurance that Jesus goes to prepare a place for us that where he is we may be also is comforting and hopeful. And Jesus’ admonition to not let our heart be troubled is a reminder we all need at times. It’s as if he’s saying, “You got this. You can do this.”

This gospel is probably one of the most frequently heard gospels at funerals. I suspect I have proclaimed and preached this gospel more than any other gospel. 

It’s exactly what we need to hear when we are living in heart troubling times, when we’ve lost our way, when we’re not sure the center will hold and it feels like life and the world are collapsing in on us. And who doesn’t know what that’s like? It’s what Thomas and the others are experiencing. 

In those heart troubling times we want to know that there is a place for us in the Father’s house, a shelter from the storms of life. We want to know that we belong, that we matter and are included in God’s care of the world. We want to know that there is a way forward even when we do not know the way. I suspect we all know what that’s like.

I wonder what troubles your heart today? In what ways have you lost your center? What is causing you to feel like you’ve lost your way? What place in life do you need to get to? 

When we hear today’s gospel I think we often tend to focus on the many dwelling places in the Father’s house. We focus on the destination and ignore the journey.  But I think this gospel is about more than a mansion in the sky or an end of life reward. I don’t think it’s about some future time and place apart from today’s troubled hearts. I think it is about the journey through the heart troubling times of this life. 

Ultimately, that journey is about making space and place. That’s what Jesus says he is doing. “I go to prepare a place for you,” he says. Jesus is a place maker. He makes space and place for others to enter. 

Jesus is our place maker and place making is a divine attribute. Jesus is always creating space and place for us to enter into a greater fullness of life. They’re places of life, love, healing, joy; places of mercy and forgiveness; places of beauty, generosity, and hope. These become for us places of reconciliation and resurrection, both in this life and in the next. 

Think about the gospel stories you love most. I’ll bet they are stories about opening spaces and places – the prodigal son, the woman caught in adultery, the blind man having his eyes opened, the raising and unbinding of of Lazarus, the Easter story. 

I think we love those stories because they’re our stories. Through them we see the times someone made space and place for us in which to find ourselves, ground ourselves, and become more fully our truer selves. We remember times when others opened to us a room in the mansion of their heart and it made a difference. It offered healing, hope, and a way forward. It helped us recenter and recover ourselves.  

I wonder who has been a place maker for you? How did he or she make space for you? What difference has that made in your life? In whatever ways she or he made a place for you they were echoing Jesus’ words, “I go to prepare a place for you.”

Making space and place for others is a divine quality. It’s what God started “in the beginning.” It’s what Jesus reveals in today’s gospel. It’s what lives within us. We too can be place makers for others. It’s one of the ways God shares God’s life with us. 

My sense today is that people are waiting, needing, and even dying for a space and place to be opened to them. Wherever space and place are closed life is diminished, impoverished, and sometimes taken. Place making just might be an antidote to the pain, disconnect, and violence we see happening around us. 

Many of us, however, have been told or come to believe that we must create a place for ourselves in this life and world. If we don’t do it no one will. We’ve been convinced that space is limited and so we work to create a place for ourselves more than for others. We strive to make our place through comparison and competition, struggles for power and control, agendas, reputations, and accomplishments. Place making for ourselves is often grounded in our fear and defensiveness.  

Today gospel calls all of that into question. There are two signs you will never see on the door of the Father’s house: 

  1. “Reservations required,” and 
  2. “No vacancy.”

There is enough space and place for everyone. “In may Father’s house there are many dwelling places.” If we were to really take that to heart we would be opening doors and making space and place wherever we go to whomever we see. Isn’t that what Jesus did?

That’s how I want to live. It’s what I want for you and this parish.

Starting this afternoon St. Philip’s will, in a very intentional way, make space and place for others as we move toward the first anniversary of the May 24th shooting. On Sunday afternoons and on weekdays we will open the church for prayer and reflection. We’ll hold troubled hearts, we’ll share tears, we’ll offer prayer. Also on Sunday afternoons we’ll open and invite people to walk the labyrinth. We’ll journey with them trusting that even when we don’t know the way the path does. 

How might you be a place maker for someone today? Maybe it’s as simple as a smile or a word of encouragement. Maybe it’s coming to sit in prayer during the week or walk the labyrinth. Maybe it’s offering or asking for forgiveness. Maybe it’s the warmth and presence of a touch. Maybe it’s seeing and responding to another’s needs. Maybe it’s the long slow work of social justice and change. We make space and place in a thousand different ways. 

And while you are making space and place for another, don’t forget to make space and place for yourself. You need it too and we can only offer what we have. 

There are a lot of spaces and places to be opened. I sometimes wonder if we can do this, if I can do this. Jesus, however, seems to think we can. “Very truly, I tell you,” he says, “the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these.” 

“Greater works than these.” Maybe “Can we do this?” isn’t the question to be asking. Maybe the question to be answered is, “Will we do this? Will we be place makers for others?”

Image Credit: Photo by cyrus gomez on Unsplash


  1. Michael, your writings speak to me and I always forward to a few of my friends. I love how y’all are opening the church and grounds for the community. Janna 


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