John 14: 1-14

Do not let your hearts be troubled… Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.

In the name of God: Divine Creator, Beautiful Savior, and Sacred Spirit. Amen.

Anyone know who Huguette Clark might be? She is the daughter of W.A.Clark.  Not ringing any bells?

I would rather suppose not, as I had not heard of her either until I read the book “Empty Mansions” by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr. It is a fascinating book about Huguette and her mysterious life of seclusion. It is an intriguing account of the rise of her father back in the 1800’s. W.A…. born in a log cabin, is the story of the quais-rags to riches rise of a man born on a farm and in his hay day was most likely the most wealthy man in America. (Superseding Rockefeller.)

Back in the day, W.A. built a mansion in NYC on 5th avenue which consisted of 121 rooms for his family of 4 (wife and two daughters). In the process of building, what some would call a monstrosity, he ended up buying companies along the way when others he was purchasing goods from would appear to be “gouging him.” He effectively became the competition rather than the consumer to these firms. Raised as a Presbyterian, by a very religious mother, he converted to Episcopalianism as it was more fashionable for those with wealth! (How about them apples?!)

To make a long story short, Huguette inherited a huge amount of money and server posh places to live. Filled with all sorts of fine art (Renoir, Monet, Degas, etc) and collectables from all over the world, these homes were kept up for decades. However, she was never seen to set foot on any of these exquisite properties or to enjoy the amenities they would have afforded her. Sadly, she died in May, 2011 at the age of 104 at Beth Israel Hospital. However, she had lived in a hospital (initially Doctor’s Hospital) since 1991, when she was admitted for basil cell carcinoma which had eaten away half of her face, but from which she survived, unbelievably. (20 years in a hospital!!! And she had NO INSURANCE!)

An incredibly sad story of a woman who lived at least a while in glorious splendor, exposed to high profile people, in mansions with many rooms, only to be alone and sick. Her heart was troubled and she was afraid.

And then today, John tells us about another mansion…. A place of hope and a future. Along side that, he reminds us to not let our hearts be troubled. Have faith in Jesus who goes to the Father and we will be able to do as much as he did if not more.

How does that information sit with you? How’s it working for you? (For some I know… quite well!) Whose heart is troubled, at least some of the time? I have to admit, my heart is troubled more often than it is not. If it is not about the state of the nation, it is about the state of the church, or the state of my loved ones. God seemed to have given the women in my family a most generous portion of the “worry gene”…. And there are some highly troubling things going on in the world. You would have to be in a cloister, under a rock, head in the sand, or in the wilderness to escape it.

Gosh, that does not sound very promising or hopeful, does it? How does one escape the troubling stuff and rely on God? How do we quiet our hearts? As per usual, Jesus spells it out quite clearly today. Believe and do the works Jesus did… BOOM!  Drop the mike!

Easier said than done, eh? It is hard to believe and trust in a world in which we are accustomed to having immediate substantiation or something tangible to hang our hats on, or get our grubby little hands into. We long for assurance, for certainties, for proof of the pudding.

If you have built castles in the air,

your work need not be lost; that is

where they should be. Now put the

foundations under them.

-Henry David Thoreau 1817-1862

Guess what? We only get pieces to a very vast and complex puzzle. God gives us the pieces in people, places and things around us. We have to try to get the pieces in place to see what fits. Sometimes we come close only to find the piece is not quite 100% and has some gaps. So we pull it up and try something else. However, God sees the puzzle in its entirety. Our job is to be faithful and continue to plug things into life circumstances, consistently. It is like building the foundation under the castles in the air put into place.

Something beautiful happened the other evening at the Greene. I went out to supper with several close friends. We had a lovely, soul enriching visit we all delighted in. As we were on the outside of the restaurant giving each other “good bye hugs” a husband and wife walked past us. And suddenly, they got caught up in the hugs and good wishes. We found out that he was celebrating retiring from teaching after 33 years. A group of Muslim women and wee ones were standing by with their kids playing in the water. And several of them smiled at the encounter. I know that some of you are not huggers/touchy/feely folk, but in that moment of celebrating friendships, others were brought into the foray and the world seemed a little less troubling. Our hearts were all lighter. For those instances, life was not fearful. What IF…. Just what IF…. More of that sort of activity was going on in the world? What would or could the end outcome be?

Moral of the story…. Life does not cease to be troubling. If Jesus is talking about their hearts being trouble in approx. 33CE, obviously it is a part of the human condition, because it is still going strong today. However, we are given the tools to make life a bit less troubling in our midst. The tools to make others, as well as our own hearts, lighter and more buoyant. The tools to allow fear to be dispelled at least for a bit.  One puzzle piece, one action, at a time!

Living in the moment, piece by piece, building what we can with what we have… faithfully, and with belief to back us,…. Merton said eloquently…

We are most truly ourselves when we lose ourselves. We become ourselves when we find ourselves in Christ.

-Thomas Merton 1915-1968

Contemplation in a World of Action

The TV show “The Jeffersons” (1975-1985…. Some of you weren’t even a twinkle in your mother’s eye as yet!!) had a theme song… “We’re movin’ on up, to the East Side, to a deluxe apartment in the sky…”  We may not be moving to the East Side, but our destination apartment in the heavens is being made ready as we speak. Let us work to build the foundation that begins here on earth!

Let us pray….

God grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can;

and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;

Enjoying one moment at a time;

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;

Taking, as He did, this sinful world

as it is, not as I would have it;

Trusting that He will make all things right

if I surrender to His Will;

That I may be reasonably happy in this life

and supremely happy with Him

Forever in the next.


Hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people. Amen.