It came as a revelation to me, though I will quickly admit that what comes as a revelation to me is often common knowledge to others, but over the course of the past year or so I’ve come to a new understanding of this Book we gather around every Sunday. It is a book about many things, of course, and in many voices, but through all its twists and turns, through all of the stories and moments, through all of the encounters holy and mess-up, a concept, a dream, shines through. Home.
It’s a big word of four letters—home. It is the place of dreams and sometimes nightmares, of safety and sometimes fear, but in the Bible, it seems to me, it is the place forever sought, and in moments divine and wondrous, found.
Eden? Home and home lost. Egypt, home and prison escaped. Canaan, the Promised Land? Home given. Home claimed. Home lost again. And in the midst of exile, in a strange land, the prophet Jeremiah tells everyone to settle in, to make home again. Home, really? Home, the prophet says.
And then, the return. Jerusalem and the Temple rebuilt. Home again. Then home conquered by outsiders. What is this place now, this place that is ours but isn’t? When will it feel like home again?
Have you ever been there? Home, really home—a place of love and safety and fulfillment where you are free to dream and try and stretch? Have you ever lost it? Are you still looking for it? We are haunted by the home we are yet to find, it seems to me.
Into this world of home-shoppers Jesus came, born in a strange town, in a place built for animals, a refugee in Egypt, who grew in wisdom and truth, only to be dismissed by his hometown, who made his home among us, but with no place to lay his head. Come to me, he says, abide in me. Home? Home. Our home is with and in the one who welcomes us, who embraces sinners and seeks outsiders.
He brings us together in his body, the church.
Ah! The church! Is the church home for us? I long to call it that. It is a place of safety for our children, a place of acceptance for you and me, a place where we can grow and stretch. Yes, it’s definitely home, unless it isn’t, unless you’re the outsider who feels unwelcomed or the one who once knew home but now feels forgotten. Like all the other places we call home, it is and isn’t.
Maybe it is better to think of church as the place where we practice for the home we are seeking. The Bible describes that home as the peaceable kingdom, the heavenly city, where Christ’s love is the light, and the river of life flows. It’s the place God is bringing to fulfillment, the new heaven and new earth. Only when God is finished will we truly know home, but in the meantime we practice.
We practice by making the church a safe place for all who seek God, for all who long for home, for all who feel lost out there. We practice for the home God is building by building our homes and our church on God’s love, the love we see in Jesus, who embraces and forgives and welcomes.
And when we’re not sure, when we mess up and find ourselves rambling around a building no longer home, we look once more to the Book, and we remind ourselves of the Savior in whom we abide and the place God is preparing. And we practice some more. On the way home, there is home to be found together.