Not because there is a verse that is my favourite, I'm really quite partial to many assorted verses and stories in the Bible. But there is one that I think God would want to make one of my favourites, at least that is the conclusion I draw from ending up on that verse so often when I practice unstructured devotions.
This is a funny verse for me too, I am always surprised when I end up there. It is a verse loved by the advocates of a pie-in-the-sky ideal of heaven, you know that notion of heaven that is divorced from creation in which many suppose we will be yanked away while God sorts out the cosmic mistake of the universe. The more I've studied, prayed and lived my Christian walk the more I find reasons to reject that sort of eschatological nightmare. So perhaps it is God's infinite wisdom that this verse would continue to dog me, a balancing perhaps.
The verse is found in my second favourite gospel - John. In one of my favourite sections of John, which is why I'm always surprised to end up here in the oddest ways. The verse is found in chapter 14 right at the beginning:
"Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you. I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also." John 14:1-3 NKJV
What I love most is that this passage is far from clear, far from simple. For instance, the word mansions is really a word for dwelling places. I remember the first chink in the otherworldly heaven proposition was realizing that scripturally God's dwelling isn't a building or a temple - it is us. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit. So this verse is primarily for and about us.
When I read this verse I remember that this is Jesus encouraging his disciples in the face of what is to come - the cross. He isn't trying to prepare them for their deaths, but rather for their lives as Christians in light of the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus. This passage is about orientation before it could ever be construed as being about destination. That orientation is invitational and rooted in a mutual indwelling - which of course Jesus expounds on in the same set of talks.
The invitation is that what Jesus goes to do (mission) becomes our mission. Jesus is making it so that his promise of "I am with you always" will become the abiding reality for the missional Church. He is dealing with all that stands in the way of making the indwelling of God in us a frustrated reality, namely our sin. And he is opening wide the conversation - many dwelling places implies that what we are called to missionally is huge and is for all of humanity (or at least a large portion of humanity). It also implies that it is uncomplete without this mutual indwelling, that God invites us into our role in the mission of Jesus.
This mutual indwelling means that not only does God come to dwell within us, but we too dwell in God. That might seem a stretch from this verse, but I think the rest of John bears it out. The importance here though is that it is God's initiated movement towards us in history that makes it all possible. We can be with Jesus because Jesus is with us. In fact Jesus continually breaks into history to be with us, receiving us to himself so that we can be in God and God in us (and so that God can be All in All).
Just marvel at how imminent that is. Creator God, the Father and Mother of all that is, chooses to dwell in us. The Holy God sends his only Son to deal with our seperation from God, in a way that invites, and never forces, us to respond to God's love. God accepts and receives us because of the accomplished work of Jesus. When we live in the light of that we too receive the mission of making that love apparent to the whole world. This verse is too important to be swallowed up by some fantasy rapture scenario.
Hmmm, who to tag. Let's see: Chris, Byron, Kenny, Len and David.
I didn't do my research well enough - two of those blokes are already tagged (Byron and Chris). So please add: Steve and Jamie