By Dan Spragg
Rev Dr Lynne Baab was the lecturer in Pastoral Theology at Otago University between 2007-
2017 and contributed to our studies through Knox from time to time. In 2017 she and Dave,
her husband, finished their time in New Zealand and returned to Seattle. Lynne has written
recently that Dave has a chronic lung condition and that if he was to contract Covid19 this
would most certainly be fatal. With this in mind, they have been ‘sheltering in place’ since
early March (If you are interested you can read her ‘spiritual diary of sheltering in place at www.lynnebaab.com).
I kind of like the term ‘sheltering in place.’
It seems a little warmer than ‘maintaining social distance’
Or, being in quarantine,
Sheltering in place.
For me, it conjures up imagery of what one does when unexpected wild weather is
encountered while camping or tramping. You zip up the tent door and wrap a blanket
around you. If you are walking, hopefully, you make it to the hut to hunker down and wait
out the storm.
There is an aspect of this in what we have been doing – hunkering down until it is safe to
venture out again, not only for ourselves but especially for the vulnerable amongst us.
Like all wild and unexpected situations – whether it be dangerous weather or a pandemic –
there are troubling aspects to it!
Here in Aotearoa, we have done exceedingly well. And we are exceedingly lucky that, due in
part to our geographical location, we have been able to knock this thing on its head before
it got away on us. But still, we have not got away unscathed and there are still plenty of
unknowns in our future.
Are you troubled? Do you have things that you are worried about? Where are you at with
this unprecedented situation now that we are seven weeks in?
The opening words in John 14 are, ‘Don’t be troubled.’
This is the opening line of what’s known as Jesus’ ‘Farewell Discourse.’
He’s beginning to head towards his troubling end and so he wants to lay a few things out
for his followers.
It might be good for us to remember for a moment that leading up to this point a few things
have happened which may have given the disciples cause for feeling troubled.
The setting is ‘the last supper’ occurring on the Passover not long before Jesus is arrested.
At this meal Jesus proceeds to wash his disciples’ feet – an act that turned the image of
leader, power, status, on its head.
He announces to the group that one of them plans to betray him – slightly troubling to say
He commands them to ‘love one another’ – this is to be the identifying mark of his
And, he predicts that Peter – when push comes to shove – will deny him.
Jesus knows the path he is on and in all these events, one can feel the urgency and anxiety
of the situation rising.
But, he goes on to say,
‘Don’t be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me. My Father’s house has room to spare.’
Despite the ensuing chaos and the unsettling nature of events… don’t be troubled…
While the disciples’ situation then and our global pandemic now are different, there are
Future plans abruptly interrupted.
Normal routines and rhythms upended.
Heightened danger and risk.
Which of course leads to,
The emotional and mental strain.
The questions of, ‘what next?’
The wondering about, ‘what could be?’
Jesus says, ‘Don’t be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me. My Father’s house has roo
I wonder, could this be a timely word for us? If you imagine Jesus saying these words directly
to you, how does this make you feel?
You may have noticed that I have used a different translation of scripture today. I like the
way this translation puts, ‘My Father’s house has room to spare.’ It’s quite an inviting
Theologian Robert Jenson picked up on this and wrote of the ‘roominess of God.’ Typically
this passage has been interpreted as being about heaven as a ‘place’ but instead of going
down this easy and well-worn path, Jenson linked God’s roominess to the idea of time:
“‘What is time?’ My answer is created time is room in God’s own life. If creation is
God’s making room in himself, then God must be roomy… this roominess of God
should be thought of as his ‘time,’ that God’s eternity is not immunity to time but his
having all the time he needs.”1
Time is room in God’s own life.
God must be ‘roomy’
God has all the time that is needed.
Doesn’t this paint an inviting picture?
Personally, this makes me want to jump to make this statement in relation to Jesus’ words:
In the household of God there is enough room for everyone and everything. So, don’t be
troubled. Trust in God. God has all the time that is needed.
Needed for what?
For all to be well and good.
In uncertain times.
In unsettling times.
With an unknown future.
With your own doubt that you are up to the task,
or have anything to offer for a solution.
Even in moments of confidence when we do have
something to say.
Trust in God because in the household of God there is time for it all.
There is time enough for all of you.
There is time enough for all of your doubts and fears as well as all your new
and crazy ideas.
God has all the time in the world for you! Trust in that.
1 Robert Jenson, “Aspects of a Doctrine of Creation,” in Colin Gunton, ed., The Doctrine of Creation (London, 1997), p24.
If you have ever spent time seeking shelter from wild weather in a backcountry hut you will
know the time of rest and refuge that this is. To get out of the wind and rain, perhaps being
able to light a fire and boil some water for a hot drink – now that we could call an essential
service at that moment!
‘Sheltering in place’ there for as long as needed is most definitely a gift of time amongst
other things. How often does joy return once a little warmth is felt?!
It seems to me that this is what trusting in God during uncertain times is like.
When time is uncertain – we can trust that God has all the time that is needed.
While speaking with his disciples, Jesus was interrupted by Thomas, who asked,
“Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?”
It sounds to me like he was asking, how will we know this to be true?
If we are to trust in God, how will we know that God is with us?
How will we know that we are ‘with God?’
Jesus answered, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life.’
How do we know during these uncertain and unprecedented times that we are found with
To know God, we follow Jesus; ‘the way.’
Follow in the way of Jesus. Live as he lived. Do as he did. Speak as he did. Live it and we will
know the ‘roominess’ of God. Live it and you will know refuge and rest as well as
empowerment and energy and the wide and open vistas that open out around us, for this is
what is meant by truth and life isn’t it?
I wonder, as the unfolding of this pandemic plays out all around us if some of our concerns
about what will happen, what we may or may not be able to do after this thing settles
I wonder if indeed these words of Jesus are a helpful word to us at this time as we ‘shelter
What does the future hold?
Well, the way of Jesus is how we will discover God’s sense of time.
It is how we will know the blessing that is the shelter of God through the storm and it is
how we will know the vista that opens up when the storm clears.
‘Don’t be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me. My Father’s house has room to spare!’
(Come on in, and see for yourself!)