May 10, 2020 / 5th Sunday of Easter / Richard Holmer
1st Reading Acts 7:55-60 / 2nd Reading 1 Peter 2:2-10/ Gospel John 14:1-14
God Is Our Home
There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. Dorothy clicked the heels of her ruby slippers and repeated that mantra until she was transported from the Land of Oz to her beloved home in Kansas. Finding a way home is a familiar theme in the stories that are told down through the years – from Homer’s Odyssey, which traced the travails of Odysseus as he struggled to make his way back from the Trojan War, to one of my all-time favorite movies: Planes, Trains and Automobiles. That movie follows the hilarious and calamitous adventures of Steve Martin and John Candy as they try to get home to Chicago from New York in time for Thanksgiving. Those two are the oddest of odd couples, and their conflicting personalities threaten to drive them apart. Yet they are bound together by their common desire: to get home. They finally make it to Chicago, and go their separate ways; Martin leaves Candy at an L station. As Martin rides the train toward home, he reminisces about all the wild moments the two have shared, and he recalls hearing John Candy say, “I haven’t been home in years.” So he goes back to the L station and finds Candy still sitting there. When he asks him why he hasn’t gone home, he reveals that he doesn’t have a home, and that his wife actually died 8 years earlier. Martin brings Candy along home with him, and the movie concludes with one of the most moving and heartwarming homecomings I have seen (it chokes me up every time). There is nothing like coming home.
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For the past couple months, most of us have been pretty much stuck at home. It can get monotonous, repetitive and boring. These days, we’re not thinking about getting home – we’re thinking about getting out and about. Yet despite our raging cabin fever, despite our desire for a change of scenery – we can still appreciate how blessed we are to have a home. We can all agree that be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home. In the words of Robert Frost: “Home in the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” (Thanks be to God.)
We recognize the enduring value of having a place to call home. And yet, spiritually speaking, we also know what it is to feel homeless, adrift – longing for an eternal home. Another Poet, Maya Angelou, describes this heartfelt longing: “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are – and not be questioned.”
In our souls we can experience a kind of restlessness, feeling out of sync, disconnected – like strangers in a strange land. I know I have felt that way. Perhaps you have, too. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews describes the faithful men and women who lived before Christ, waiting for God’s promise to be fulfilled:
Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home.
People of faith have this in common: we are pilgrims heading for our true home.
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As an adult, Jesus never had a house – he was always on the move. Yet Jesus was always at home – always abiding in and with his Father. At the Last Supper, at a moment of great anxiety and uncertainty, Jesus seeks to calm the fears of his disciples. Today we hear Him say to them: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” How can Jesus say this? He has just told the disciples that one of them will betray him. He has told Peter that he will deny even knowing him three times. The disciples sense that everything is about to fall apart. Yet Jesus encourages them to be at peace for this reason: they have a home. It’s not a home made with hands. The disciples had all left home and family to follow Jesus – and now they fear they are losing him. They are experiencing the peril of homelessness. Jesus offers them words of compassionate comfort and hospitality. He speaks of the home that is prepared for them: He says:
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 and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.
To be with God is to be at home. Jesus shares the good news: “where I am, there you may be also.”
Author Pierce Brown speaks to this truth about home: “Home isn’t where you’re from – it’s where you find light when all grows dark.” True, right? Jesus Christ is our light that no darkness can overcome.
The good news that John proclaims throughout his gospel is that God wants to be in relationship with us – to be AT HOME with us and in us. This theme is announced in the first chapter of this gospel: “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known” (1:18)
God took on human flesh in Jesus so that we might recognize and welcome God’s deep desire to be in relationship with us – to be at home with us, and us with Him. Now, at the last Supper, Jesus assures his friends that there is plenty of room for them to be home with God. Just a few verses later in this same chapter 14 at verse 23, Jesus reiterates this promise: “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them, and make our HOME with them.” And then Jesus says again at verse 27: “Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
God is our home – now and always. This is reassuring, and also mysterious. It’s wonderful to have an eternal home. It’s also hard to conceive exactly how this works! Our home is not somewhere “up there,” up in the clouds. Home is not the sweet bye and bye. Heaven is not about a place – it’s about the relationships that truly make a place our home: Loving relationships with God and with the people of God.
To be at home is to abide in and with God:
- Like sheep in the flock of our Good Shepherd
- Like branches on the true vine of life
- Like living stones of a spiritual house.
To be at home with God…
- Is to know we belong
- Is to be welcomed and embraced
- Is to be at peace
- To experience God’s Shalom: harmony, wholeness, completeness.
Take a moment. Take a deep breath. Feel the peace only God can give. Jesus did not tell his disciples that their troubles were over, that everything would be smooth and easy from now on. Jesus doesn’t promise us a problem-free life either. He tells us not to be troubled or afraid – but not because there are no dangers or threats. The dangers are quite real. Jesus tells us not to be afraid because we have an enduring home with God.
In some of the closing words of Revelation, we hear the promise again:
“God’s home is with humankind! He will live with them and they shall be his people. God himself will be with them, and he will be their God. He will wipe away all tears from their eyes.” (Revelation 21:3-4)
Friends, we don’t have to find our way home. God has come in Christ to be at home with us. There’s no place like our home with God.
Thanks be to God.