"In my father's house are many mansions." John 14:2
The first time I heard this architecturally confusing Biblical verse -- at the funeral service of a relation who'd always lived in a hospital bed as far as I was aware -- my immediate thought was of the residential equivalent of Russian dolls' houses. Specifically, one outer Buckingham Palace which revealed progressively smaller Buckingham Palaces hidden within the larger palaces, Buckingham Palace being the most mansion-like building I knew of at the time.
Later, as I came to understand the workings of the world, the palace was supplanted by an image of many nested Blandings Castles, complete with lords, ladies, pigs, and winsome gels and their unsuitable young men. I have yet to decide whether God is Lord Emsworth or P. G. Wodehouse himself.
Perpetually distracted by such thoughts, I've never appreciated the religious implications of "in my father's house are many mansions," if, indeed, there are any. In fact, contemplating the subject only raises more questions:
Are the mansions all Tudor constructions, like Blandings, or will there also be Elizabethan halls, Jacobean courts, Gothic piles, and so on?
Is it just the mansions themselves or do we get the gardens, water features, gazebos, Temples of the Winds, decorative fountains and all the other picturesque embellishments?
Will there be domestic servants and kitchen staff in the mansions? It takes a great deal of labor to run a great house, after all. I mean, has God even watched Downton Abbey?
All things considered, surely even the most zealous of Jesus freaks must admit this "many mansions" phraseology does appear to be a rather unrealistic view of the real estate available in Heaven. Or at the very least it is an inadequate, antiquated translation of the original from a less overcrowded age. The world's population has increased unimaginably since King James gave his seal of approval to the edition of the Bible that bears his name. Even if there are many, many mansions in God's house there still wouldn't be enough room for everybody.
If you ask me, a twenty-first-century rendition of John 14:2 should read something along the lines of "In my father's house are many futons." Alas, I think anyone under fifty will understand what that means for the afterlife and its probable comforts.
Here endeth the lesson, although I don't exactly know what we were supposed to learn from it. Still, how very much like listening to a real church sermon such uncertainty is! Amen.