From The Pastor’s Heart

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“Your Home, God’s Home”
by David P. Aslesen
May 3, 2020: Fourth of Eastertide

It was Oliver Wendell Holmes who once said “Where we love is home.” Wonderful sentiment and just perfect for a refrigerator magnet, right?Not so warm and fuzzy is this quote by Rodney Dangerfield “A girl phoned me the other day and said ‘Come on over, there’s nobody home.’ I went over. Nobody was home.’” No respect. Jane Austen wrote “There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.” Is that a pre-pandemic sentiment? Hmm.

Our May worship series “At Home with God” explores how God dwells on earth and how God’s presence in the person of Jesus Christ prepares us to be at home in God. In this sheltering in place time, without worship in our church building, which I’ve often heard named by some of our Sunday school children as “God’s House”, we are offered the opportunity to consider how God dwells among the PEOPLE regardless of physical structure and as such, how God in spirit came to dwell in Jesus and how God dwells where the people are EVEN in our own our homes.How are you at home with God this morning? Sit back in your front row couch seat and let us pray…

Holy God, we are thankful to be at worship today. As we invite your wisdom to help us understand how you are at home with us, we pray in gratitude for our place in your kingdom and the places in which we live. We are mindful of those near and far whose houses are threatened today by storms, fires and floods. We pray for those without a safe and/or permanent shelter due to human-made injustice, violence, poverty and war. O God of Love, bless us as we and our homes make room for you to abide. In Christ, we pray. Amen.

What makes your home special to you? What about your home would you change? What about your home makes it hospitablefor you and for your guests, both pre and post-pandemic, right? Add this question onto the list I’ve already given you: how might your home help you to discover more about God’s presence in your life? How might YOUR dwelling place reveal the love of Christ to the world? Where to start? It begins with the heart. But first…

In his commentary on our psalm, W. H. Bellinger, Jr.writes that in ancient Israel, crisis brought a response of gathering AT the designated holy place under the leadership of priests and other leaders. There the community articulated the crisis in ardent prayer to God to seek God’s help and deliverance. Psalm 90 is such a lament from a people in a time of crisis. But the history of ancient Israel also reveals times in which gathering together physically wasn’t possible due to enslavement, war, exile; temple and/or land to be occupied was not available. Ancient Israel lamented that it couldn’t worship God in a designated location.Yet, God still came to dwell.

The psalm gives praise to God who, regardless of a physical structure, remained the peoples’ dwelling place. Writes Bellinger, “dwelling place” here carries the sense of a place where one can hide and find help or refuge. Such a place is a divine gift revealed as relationship rather than any particular location. The testimony of scripture confirms that God is our unending shelter, our refuge throughout the generations. God’s dwelling with humankind extends beyond mortal life for all eternity. Christians know this attribute of God best in the person of Jesus Christ in whom the living, breathing, loving, presence of God came to dwell upon the earth. Within Jesus’ we find the divine gift of God’s enduring love for all times and circumstances of our human life.

I need such a gift to dwell with me. How about you? Hold this question in your mind and heart as we remember God who promises in the psalms and in Isaac Watt’s hymn to be our help in ages past and our hope for years to come.” Long before this pandemic human experience of sheltering in place, Henri Nouwen wrote “Hardly a day passes in our lives without our experience of inner or outer fears, anxieties, apprehensions and preoccupations. These dark powers have pervaded every part of our world to such a degree that we can never fully escape them. Still it is possible NOT to belong to these powers associated with sin NOT to “build our dwelling place”among them, but to choose the house of love as our home.” I wonder if this isn’t what the mission of Jesus was all about; to dwell among us, to journey with us from sin to faithfulness, to help us abide in love and thus be at home in God.

Chris Haslam notes that the gospel of Luke emphasizes how Christ came for all, all sectors of society, all peoples, as the embodiment of God’s welcome for all into the kingdom of God. In our gospel reading, Jesus crosses all sorts of cultural bounds to dwell with Mary and Martha; boundaries like being alone with women who are not his relatives and, by going into their house, endorsing the economic ability of a woman to own her own home! Cool! Welcomed through the door, crossing the threshold, sitting at table, offered hospitality; the son of God was there!

We note the women’s responses. Martha is distracted as she maintains her commitment to being a good host. Is she distracted or not wanting yet to engage with Jesus and his teaching; other than the housework what might be keeping her from his side?Mary is right there at Jesus’ feetand eager to learn. Weoften applaud Mary’s example while pitying Martha’s choice, right? There is room for interpretation, isn’t there?Together, Mary and Martha’s story of hospitality is“vintage household Christianity.” To their home, God in Christ came to dwell! And this is rather extraordinary and uniquely intimate and awesome and holy. But where else does Jesus wish to reside?

As Jesus enters the home, Mary makes a priority to be present to him. She opens herself to recognize the gifts Jesus brings through the door and through his teaching. Martha’s distraction helps us to ponder: how ready and receptive am I for the gifts Jesus wants to bring to my life.“Lord, prepare ME when I am READY?”Martha assists us to come to terms with, perhaps, our own distractions and hesitations to fully receive Christ. I’m glad for Martha and Mary. We can learn from each woman the way of discipleship. What of our homes and hearts need to be made ready for God’s gifts? Over the next few Sundays we’ll talk more about home as a tool of God’s blessings. For now, how is the news that God wishes to be at home, to dwell IN YOU,gift to your heart where you are at?

Kathryn Butler is a trauma and critical care surgeon turned writer and now a homeschooling parent like many of you moms and dads and grandparents. She writes “Home is a word we brandish casually, its colors weathered, its edges frayed from careless use. It connotes stability, rest, and belonging. Yet with all its familiarity how often does the peace of home elude us?How many of us return to a childhood home to find its changed and not what we know or even can remember? How often do we return to beloved spaces to find the people who shaped us gone, their voices and scent vanished from the empty, unswept rooms? How do we grasp home when families break and scatter? And for our time, when home / just isn’t the same without being close to the ones we love?

How do we cling to it, when its definition forever shifts, its location constantly changes? Homes in this life change us, then forget us. They mold our hearts, but eventually our fingerprints fade from their surfaces.What is the home to which we truly belong? Our souls stir in discontent. Restlessness grips our bones. “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!” we inwardly cry. This may sound desperate and yet it is a plea from our hearts and for our hearts as to what is truly eternal. In the plea and in the pray, we can have HOPE. The foundation for our life of faith is first and foremost finding, at long last, what Christ offers to us: the gift of peace, of love, of being made welcome to receive all God’s blessings.This is the promise of God dwelling with us.

Notes Butler, “In Christ, we find belonging. Through him we revel in a joy without boundaries, a joy that never fades, a joy whose walls will never crumble to dust. By Christ’s life, death and resurrection we are no longer ones who are prone to wander. No. Now there is one who says to us “Let your journey come to an end. All that you have been searching for, struggling to find, the security that you seek, it is here. I am here! Hear these words: ‘Come home to me.’” Within Jesus we find divine gift of God’s enduring love, seeking to make a dwelling for each of us in all times and circumstances of our short human lives. I need such a gift to dwell with me.How about you?

These times present us with a constant longing for order, for routine, stability. Like staples in our pantry, these things may feel in very short supply. You may have learned to make adaptations. You may be relying more on your faith than fear; you may be taking stock of your blessings rather than what is lacking. And that is a good thing. To live fully in this time takes no small amount of courage and hope. But when these things wane or collide with desperation or hopelessness, it is time to go back home. Not to a physical structure but home to God who is present to us with the same assuring love today as was present yesterday and will be with us for tomorrow.

We will push the metaphor of home as place for God to dwell and as place for us to dwell with God. It doesn’t matter the size of house; super tiny to large mansion. What matters is the readiness of your home and your heart to receive God’s blessings as well as the amount of blessings we are willing to share that can make a difference in the world. Remember friends: our faith teaches us that God is pleased to dwell in each of us. God has built each of us, you and me, to be the living sanctuaries of the Holy Spirit to give form to God’s faith, hope and love.

Pray with me today that where our HOME is in rough shape, God will restore it and heal it. Pray that we might trust God to build us anew. Pray for God’s blessing on our homes that they may serve God’s sacred purpose for kindness, warmth, and care for one another. Again, pray for God’s mercy on those who lives and homes are without peace, are lacking safety or are without permanence. May God bless them with protection and may we bless them in our prayers as we seek to serve them in their time of need. In all these things and more, from floorboards to rooftops, front porches to back ones, may Christ our Greatest Love be praised.

Amen.