Tuesday January 5, 2016
John 14: 1 – 6a
How do you say good-bye each day to family or friends when you are leaving your home in the morning, or your workplace in the evening?
Is there something you usually offer?
Perhaps “Have a good day!” or “Tootaloo!”
Or perhaps it’s often a gentle reminder, like “Don’t forget to make up the bed”
Maybe you simply wave or wink or give a hug.
I don’t do the same thing every day when I leave my house, but occasionally, as I’m going out the door, and no matter when I’m planning on returning, I’ll simply say
“See you at 4, eh?”
Many of you will know that these are Peter’s words, uttered most every weekday for years as he headed off to work at Community Living.
I love this goodbye because it promises so much to come. For Peter, 4 o’clock each day was more than simply a time of arrival back home. It was tea or hot chocolate…it was checking in on dinner prep and sneakily manipulating the ingredients….it was taking a seat on the couch or his favourite wing-back chair…it was re-uniting with assistants who had been on days away.
Embedded in Peter’s farewell was always the promise of communion to come.
The words read so beautifully by Ruel signal the beginning of the section of John’s Gospel commonly referred to as the Farewell Discourse. Jesus has just finished his last supper with his friends. He has just finished the scandalous washing of his disciple’s feet. He has just acknowledged the coming betrayal and denial of Judas Iscariot and Simon Peter. He has just offered his new commandment that his friends love one another.
And so his words of farewell begin with the promise of communion to be shared again. In the first of many images used over the Farewell Discourse, Jesus describes the place of reunion-communion to be a house with many “dwelling places.”
Some translations of the bible will use the word “room” instead of dwelling places, but I want to invite you all to ponder with me for a moment today this word “dwell”.
It seems to me that to dwell means more than to simply “be”. Dwelling has a certainty quality and depth. It suggests that something else is going on beyond just sitting around.
I turned to the dictionary for help, and this is what Merriam Webster had to offer.
To dwell is:
To remain for a time; to live as a resident; to keep the attention directed (i.e. to dwell on); and to speak and write insistently.
Some scholars argue that the Greek word (mone) used by the Gospel writer suggests that to dwell is to commune with God.
Dear friends, Peter Porter was a dweller! He dwelled in his favourite chair, he dwelled as faithful member of the Green House. He dwelled by the cheeseball at the side of Rob’s pool. He could dwell on the whereabouts of any number of articles of clothing, and, well, he knew something about speaking insistently.
Many of us who had the great privilege of knowing and living with Peter can safely say that there was more going on for Peter in that the Green House couch or chair than just sitting around.
Peter was a dweller
I realize now that I needed to come to L’Arche, among other reasons, to learn a little about dwelling. And this was Peter’s great gift to me when I came to know him 18 years ago. It was his gift to many before and many since.
How do you get to this place of dwelling? How do we know what it’s like? This was Thomas’ question.
Jesus’ answer was simple. Follow me to the dwelling spaces, for I AM the way, truth, and life.
Peter drew me and so many into the privilege of dwelling with him through his own way, his truth, his very life, which we celebrate today. Consider with me, briefly, these parts of Peter’s precious years with us.Peter’s way led us. Peter’s way was rooted in the very sacred routine of his ordinary, daily rhythm. Waking and dressing, putting important items in his pocket for the day, getting his teeth clean and organized, morning greetings, breakfast, securing lunch bag and coat and shoes, waiting for his ride to work. There were variations of these over the years to be sure, but this was the “morning” way. And this was just from 7 to 8:30 and just Monday to Friday! There was Saturday breakfast out, Sunday church, cooking with Carl, watching TV (mostly the show “Friends” in his last years), supper, prayer, bath, bed. And then there were the weekly and yearly “ways” – Friday night Dayspring, followed by the bar; vacations with housemates, anticipation and celebration of his beloved Christmas season, and – the highlight of each year – the Santa Clause parade with Rob.
Peter’s way flowed with the sanctity of the ordinary, one of the great bedrocks of L’Arche formation. Peter’s way, its simplicity, its repetition, its predictability prepared daily the dwelling places of communion.
Peter’s truth led us. Peter loved the truth. Peter loved HIS truth. He loved it so much, he would never tire of double, triple, quadruple checking certain plans to be correct.
Go to church today? No work today? You coming back? Where’s Carl? Rob comin’? No more tie, eh? See you at 4, eh?
Peter helped me and many others come to terms with their own anxiety, worry, and need for certainty. An anxious Peter was not always easy to dwell with, but then who is? His truth was rooted in those parts of his “way” he loved the most. He loved church, and so he asked. He loved Carl, and so he asked. He loved dressing casually, and so he asked.
Peter helped me understand that our anxieties come from an honest search for and desire to be rooted in what we feel to be true. In this way, anxiety is often a part of the very fabric from which faith is woven.
And, boy, when uncertainty became reality, when Peter’s truths were confirmed, his joy, contentment, and peace became much more powerfully contagious than any worry. On many Friday nights at the Dayspring services I had the great privilege to witness truth realized as Rob and Rhona walked through the door, and a trip to the bar with friends– Peter’s true Friday night communion – was confirmed. And Peter’s frown of worry – rooted in love and hope – became a devilish grin of utter joy – rooted in the very same love and hope.
Peter’s very life led us. It is a life that is wholly shaped by friendship. And Peter never dwelled without friendship. He moved with intention among the rooms of the Green House, continually searching dwelling spaces with others. His Green House friends of this past year have testified that Peter had no interest in a room without other people. Countless friendships were birthed in the Green House kitchen when, as a new assistant chopped salad for dinner, Peter would wander in and utter this person’s name for the first time. It’s been described as magic to have Peter call you by name.
Perhaps the greatest gift of Peter’s life is his unlimited space for dwelling with those he loved. I’ve heard several people say over these last days of how special, unique, and loved Peter made them feel, as if they were the only person that mattered, THE MOST IMPORTANT person in Peter’s life.
Raise your hand if you received that gift from Peter.
You are right. You did and do matter more than anything.
What Peter offered his friends is what God yearns for us all to know. You are loved dearly without limit or comparison, and YOU – your body and being – are in fact the dwelling space of deep communion with God, who is love.
Peter, your life on earth was given to nudge us into belovedness. Thank you for preparing that space while you were here. Thank you for dwelling so faithfully with us. Together with loved ones gone ahead, you now help prepare yet a new space for us with the communion of saints.
I can’t be certain, but I’d like to think it’s always mid-afternoon at the heavenly banquet.
So, see you at 4, eh?
Chris Jarvis lived with Peter at the Green House in the 1990s and remained a close friend of his. Chris is the Dayspring Coordinator at L’Arche Daybreak and manages the High School retreat program.