home is people; not a place

When we think of being ‘home sick’ we usually think of a place. We miss a place, miss our bed, the smell of our kitchen when meals are being prepared, or the quietness/business of the backyard.  What if  home were more than just a place…what if home is made of people rather than bricks and walls.  After a year of living in a new place, and trying/struggling to once again redefine home, I still don’t know if I have it right.

I have had the opportunity to work with Trinity Lutheran/Pointe of Grace as a Ministry Developer for the past year.  I spend a lot of time in Mukilteo, working with Harbour Pointe Christian Preschool, the Youth, Small Groups that meet, and the Sunday morning crowd.

I have really enjoyed getting to know the Preschool teachers—some of whom have been there for over 15 years.  I talk with the parents as they drop their kids off.  I go to chapel on Mondays and we sing songs and hang out with Scruffy the dog.  On Wednesdays I sit in on a women’s bible study that has been meeting for over 20 years.  They intermingle drinking coffee and caring deeply for one another.  In the afternoons I get a huge age-bracket shift when the high school kids come for Unbend.  I helped Jamie Richards as an adult volunteer for this school year, and got schooled in Mario Kart, and also got to know some pretty fantastic young adults.  I preach at least once a month on Sundays at Pointe of Grace, and have been welcomed into people’s lives in many generous ways.

The learning curve I have been on for this past year has been so high, so steep, and just like a roller coaster, so full of those moments when you throw your arms in the air and scream, because the ride takes your breath away…

One year ago I was finishing up my last week at the coffee shop where I had worked for the past 2 years.  One year ago I was packing up boxes, and trying to label them; books, kitchen, bathroom, clothes.  Then I would go back and label, kitchen 1/5 or 3/5… One year ago I was getting dizzy from the intense heat of an Iowa summer combined with the smell that only giant chisel-size permanent markers can exude.

One year ago, Jon, the hubs, and I tried to cut our spending habits down as best we could—eat everything in our kitchen that wouldn’t keep.  He went on an errand to get more packing tape, and came back with a $5 DVD… and we watched it later that day after a long day of packing…

One year ago, I watched as my entire apartment was condensed down to boxes, totes, and packing tape.  I helped load our car with as much as we could.  We loaded up one of my dad’s trailers, filled the front, then drove the car onto the trailer as well… then we finished piling in all the stuff that wouldn’t fit neatly in boxes, like the couch and the end tables… and my dresser drawers.

For three days my Mom, Dad, and Jon and I rode in the pickup, always sitting in the same seat.  We drove from Iowa to South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and finally, Washington.  I think this is the moment when I’m supposed to reflect on the beauty of God’s creation… but I don’t care what anyone else tells you, there is NOTHING beautiful about the grey interior of a Dodge pickup truck.  [Sorry, Dad] After three days, my legs were stuck in the sitting position and I felt I had forgotten how to stand up straight.

My hair, which was shorter at the time, had a semi-permanent hand print on the left side from me looking out the window trying to catch site of mountains and the Space Needle.

If the saying is true that, “home is where the heart is,” than, in those three days my home was broken apart.  Small pieces left like a trail of crumbs from Washington, leading back to Iowa…the last known place of comfort, familiarity, and this feeling of ‘being home.’

When I got married, I made an intentional decision to no longer call my parents’ house “home.”  Home was now where Jon and I lived together; home was now being recreated, and reinvented.  And, home was now a lot lonelier than I had remembered it being in the past.

After two years of this working definition of home, I had to once again reinvent and recreate “home” upon moving to Washington.  Now, “Iowa” is no longer home… yes, it is a place that I miss, a place I have loved going back to, but for now, it is not my home.  And this has been a sore spot for me.  Sometimes, after you leave a place, it’s easier to remember how great it was, and sometimes leave out the bad stuff… or, if you’re getting ready to go somewhere special on a trip—it’s much easier to see that new place as exciting and wonderful, and to forget all the good things about the here and now that you love so much.

So, maybe it is because I’m reaching the one-year mark on our move to Washington that I read these stories today through the lens of ‘home-sickness…’ missing something I used to have, and trying to figure out how to find my way back “home.”

In our story from Jeremiah, we hear how things aren’t quite right in God’s house of Israel.  The King isn’t doing his job to keep the people safe, on track, and loving God.  Jeremiah comes in to remind the king—God’s going to bring in someone new, someone who will bring about justice and righteousness… and it’s not going to be you.  The people who heard this story originally would have been thinking, there was a new political order that was going to be introduced.  The way they worshiped in the Temple was going to be set right, and the way they were governed was going to be set right.  Order would be restored to God’s house, and they were pretty excited about that…

In Ephesians, Paul, or one of Paul’s followers writes about a different kind of world order.  The community—this band of followers of Jesus were living in an empire that was ruled by Pax Romana—the Peace of Rome.  The way this “peace” was ushered in was through weapons and war.  Outside countries were forced into submission, were forced to follow a strict way of life according to the ruling Caesar.  People were ranked according to their social status.  True Roman citizens were the highest on the social ladder.  They were treated with dignity, and with humanity.

Then there were strangers and aliens—outsiders.  They were not so lucky.  They were treated as less than human, they were not cared for, and they were often thrown out.  If they were punished—it was done brutally and painfully.

For the Jews and early Christians at that time, their way of life was already compromised.  The Temple had been destroyed, and the followers of Jesus were trying to figure out just how to follow his teachings while facing a king with big ego and a lot of power.

Our story from Ephesians uses a lot of ‘building’ language—not just building as in, we are sitting inside a building—but…the physical act of building a house.  We get an image of gathering—you who were once far off have been brought near; the way a builder would gather the necessary materials for a project, we too are being gathered.  The writer goes on to say, those who were in and those who were out are now all in—we are all members of the household of God… this house has been built up with prophets and apostles, and we are now being held together through Jesus.

And not only are we held together, but we are growing into a holy temple—and we, together, are the dwelling place for God.  It’s not a stagnant building project, that once completed we can walk away—this is an ongoing process of growing, an unending invitation for God to live beside us, and an lifelong invitation from God—that God would live in us.

But then, we get a story from Mark—well, sort of.  We actually get the introduction for two different stories, without getting a full tale from either intro.  The first is an introduction to the feeding of the 5000 and the second is an intro to Jesus walking on the water.  We don’t get to read those miracle stories today, and, that’s a bummer.  In a way, it feels like we’re getting jipped; we came here today hoping for some good news, maybe a story about how Jesus can do big things in our lives.

Instead we see a different kind of miracle Jesus presents to his followers.  He offers rest to his friends; he invites them to take a break from their comings and goings.  And it’s not just a quick five-minute-catch-your-breath; it is rest, for a while.  It has been said that good news to the hungry is bread.  If this is true, than good news to the busy and overwhelmed must be rest.

In the same way, he sees the crowds and has compassion on them—the way a shepherd cares for sheep—and invites them to rest as well.   Before we get to the loaves and fishes, Jesus teaches them.  Before they eat, they rest in the presence of company and relationship with this teacher.

If the Ephesians story is about growing into a place where God lives with us, than, maybe this story from Mark is an example of how we can grow.  Maybe it is a story about finding our identity in a community, in the household of God.

For far too long, I think, when we have heard the phrase, “House of God,” we have thought about a building—a physical building, a specific place, and maybe even a specific time, on a specific day of the week.

And, no matter how beautiful and sacred these spaces are that we have thought of—we are not called to grow into a building.  Jesus did not have compassion on a building.

Even though Jesus is called the cornerstone—that might be too heavy of a word for people… Imagine, instead of a building—imagine a human pyramid.  Jesus is the cornerstone of this great pile of people.  There are teachers and believers from the past, we are present in that mix, and there is room for those who are coming after us.  All of us are being held together through Jesus; if he gets pulled out from the pyramid—the whole lot of us will come toppling down.

I came across a piece of a poem that asked—is it possible for home to be a person, not a place?  For far too long, I think we have thought of the House of God as a building—rather than a building up of God’s people.

And Robert Frost writes, “Home is where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”  Jesus looks at the crowds and has compassion on all of them—like a shepherd looks on a herd of sheep and loves them all, so too, all of us are loved.

If we simply say, “Home is where the heart is,” that allows us to distance ourselves from those who are feeling displaced in life.  It allows us to wander into a separate world of a home that will be perfect, a home that will happen someday—and it turns to wishful thinking.

Rather, what if we began to look at home—our true home, as being the here and now…

If so, what kind of home are we building—today?  Are we building a home of stone and wood where we classify others as strangers, or outsiders?  Or, are we building a home out of people, are we building a community that will follow the way of Jesus, that will welcome all, and anyone who needs love’s shelter?

Maybe home isn’t something we wait for, but it something we get to recreate each time we gather together.  And maybe we grasp it when we tear down those stone walls and share in this life with those around us.  Maybe we catch site of it when we have compassion on people our society labels as “outsiders.”

We are a home and a family that welcomes all who come, just as we have been welcomed in and are being held together through Jesus of Nazareth. And the good news for us, we don’t have to wait for this home to be built.  We no longer have to search for this kind of home.  It’s not going to happen someday, it is happening right now.

Today, we are called to grow together as the house of God—as a people of God, making room and welcoming all into this family.  And that hospitality is not meant to happen later—we are called into a radical hospitality that is happening now; a hospitality that offers the good news of bread to the hungry, a love that offers rest to the overwhelmed, and hearts of compassion for those who are wandering in this life.


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