14 May 2017
Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight< O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. Amen.
When I was a child we moved twice each year. In the spring when school got out we moved from Hull, Massachusetts to Northwood, New Hampshire. Then, in the fall, just days before school started again, we moved back from Northwood to Hull. Summers, in New Hampshire, we lived in my Grandmother’s house next door to my cousins. During the winters, in Hull, well, we occupied a succession of houses that were occupied by their owners in the summer months and rented out rest of the year. It felt normal at the time but I suspect that it set the stage for what has turned out to be a lifetime of moving from one place to another. One thing I know for sure is that all that moving has left me wondering where exactly home is. And, some vague notion of “home” speaks to the deepest longing of my heart still. I’m not alone in that of course. The lessons this week might well leave us all wondering about that sense of home. In particular, I wonder, what makes a place a home? Some would say that home is where you hang your hat. Others define home as where the heart is. I’ve always been intrigued by what Robert Frost once wrote. “Home is the place, where when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”
All those ideas speak to those close human connections that bring a sense of being at home. Home is where family is, where friends are, where you are known and loved. However we define it home has a special place in the human heart. The phrase “to feel at home” expresses one of our deepest longings. Maybe some of you recognize, and connect with, the words to the traditional folk song made popular by singer Van Morrison. It’s titled “I want to go home”. One line stands out in my memory. It goes something like this: “I want to go home. I feel so broke up, Lord, that I want to go home.” That expresses something true, doesn’t it? Especially when we feel lonely or abandoned, lost or restless, especially when we feel full of doubt or despair, we want to go home. I imagine that even for people who have not moved as often as I have, people who have found a dream job and a lasting mate, people who live all their lives surrounded by family and the familiar, the human heart is restless. We long, most of us, for true, lasting, genuine peace. We long for a place for our hearts to call home. I think that St. Augustine got it just right when he wrote this of God: “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.” The Gospel lesson today is taken from Jesus’ farewell address to the disciples. He is preparing them for the time when he will not be with them any longer, at least not in the flesh. It is as though Jesus was deeply concerned that those disciples not feel abandoned. Did he fear that they might find themselves feeling lost, homeless in a sense, once he had gone on? He speaks to them, and to us, directly about that longing for home. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may also be.” Here’s the thing. Our true home is with God. And even though we don’t have, can’t have, a flesh and blood relationship with Jesus, we can still be connected with him. Jesus has prepared a home for us with God. Our true home is ultimately not a place at all. Our true home is a relationship. We find our true home in and through our relationship with God. “Lord, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.” Indeed. Of course, there is more to this than meets the eye. Two things are true at once. On one hand the fullness of our relationship with God lies firmly in our future. At the same time, we can know the reality of this precious relationship right now. We can experience a foretaste of our eternal home right now, right here in the present. Every time we do the works that Christ commands us, loving one another as Christ loved us and gave himself for us, God’s love makes a home in us. Every time we reach out, to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, comfort the broken hearted, God makes a home in us. Every time we step beyond ourselves to invite any of God’s children to join us, welcoming others in ways that lets them feel at home at God’s table, God makes a home with us. Annie Lamott is one of my favorite authors. She writes about her life and her struggles. She writes about her faith. In her first memoir, “Traveling Mercies” she writes about her life before she was adopted into a church and she writes about what it is that has kept her part of that church. She started going to church shortly before her son was born and notes that in the first 12 years of Sam’s life they missed church maybe 10 times.
She paints word pictures that show Sam at the beginning, snuggled in people’s arms as he was passed around from person to person. And later, trying to wiggle free of the hugs those same people wanted to give him. She talks about how their Pastor, Veronica, shared herself with the community telling stories and even singing from the pulpit. Lamott tells how Veronica challenged her and how she found herself starting a Sunday School as Sam and the number of kids in church grew. She tells a story about a little girl who got lost one time. The girl was about 7 and she ran up and down the streets frightened and crying. A policeman stopped to help, put her in the police car and drove her around until that girl finally recognized her church. She pointed it out and announced, in her most grown up voice, “You can let me out here. This is my church and I can always find my way home from here. Lamott writes: “And that is why I have stayed so close to my church. No matter how lost or lonely or frightened I feel, when I see the faces of the people at my church I can always find my way home. It’s a pretty good description of the very best churches. They are places where we together help one another, and those we meet day to day, find the way home, home to where God has prepared a place for us. “You have made us for yourself, Oh Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.” Amen