What does it mean to make your home somewhere?
People often talk about “keeping house.” Says author Cheryl Mendelson, “When you keep house, you use your head, your heart, and your hands together to create a home – the place where you live the most important parts of your private life.”
When I graduated from seminary, I craved a place to make a home. I had moved 17 times in the last 8 years. I had become an expert in packing boxes tightly and efficiently, I knew to unpack the sheets first and pack up the teapot last, but I was also keenly aware that sheets and teapots did not make a home.
Making a home can begin with certain physical elements. Painting a room or two helps; so does making your own bed. Hanging things on the walls is very important. For me, a space can’t start to be home now until my favorite icon of Jesus and at least one of my grandmother’s cross-stitches hang on the walls someplace.
But a house, or an apartment, or a room, doesn’t become entirely a home until it is consecrated by company and familiarity. In our very first home, in Eden, God saw that the garden would never be a place of happiness and belonging for Adam until he had human company. “It is not good for the man to be alone,” God saw, “I will make him a partner.” So God made another human, and the man said “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” (Genesis 2:18, 23a.) Then at last the man could be contented and at home in Eden.
Time, company, and familiarity – these are the elements that help us to make our home someplace. But what does it look like for God to make God’s home with us? It seems like God’s homemaking probably doesn’t involve much in the way of paint and curtains. Instead, John seems to point to two ways for us to recognize God-at-home: the presence of God within us, and the Kingdom of God breaking in among us in our community and our world.
‘I am going away,’ Jesus says, ‘and I am coming to you.’
We have been basking in the glory of Easter, the comfort of Jesus’ resurrected presence among us. But soon Jesus will ascend, will go up to heaven, and we are told that this is mostly because only by going away can he come so close that he is within our very hearts.
But the God who did not leave Adam lonely also is not satisfied just to live within us individually. God wants to make a home among us where we can live together with each other as well as with God. “I did not see a temple in the city,” John says about his vision, “the Lord God All-Powerful and the Lamb were its temple.”
The Kingdom of God isn’t a temple, a place marked off by walls and gates. It pops up where we seek it and where we least expect it. We know we have entered the Kingdom, that we are participating in Kingdom life, when we are drawn together by God’s presence among us.
It made my heart happy last week when someone who had only met us a few times said “yeah I came over this weekend and made pasta, since you said I could.” One of the few pieces that has remained totally consistent from the old Rockwell House website to the new one is the page and paragraph that reads “Rockwell House is our home… and that means it’s your home, too! Rockwell House is a place where you can hang out, study, watch TV, meet with a small group, bake cookies, play badminton in the backyard, or sit by the fireplace. The whole house has wireless internet. The Chaplain’s office is here. And on Sundays and Wednesdays, dinner is here as well! Come on home, meet the community… and don’t be afraid to put your feet on the furniture!” We share a home together here, because sharing a home makes it a home for more and more people.
When we are drawn by God’s presence and make the Kingdom our home, when we feel ourselves established there, then we can become less possessive of it. When we are certain of our tie to a place, we aren’t possessive but welcoming. True hospitality comes from feeling at home and in a position to welcome others in, and let them make themselves at home, without feeling like we need to protect our home from them.
When we are drawn by God’s presence and make God’s reign our home, we are free to welcome others knowing that we will be changed by them, as we have been changed by each person here. We are a different kind of home, a different kind of community, than we were four years ago. I expect us to be a different kind of home four years from now as well. And yet, when we are drawn by God’s presence and make our home in God’s reign, there are constants we can count on as well - constants that sound a lot like our core values and like the fruits of the Spirit: Compassion. Justice. Love. Community. Service. Trustworthiness. Faith.
Constants that do not leave us when we leave these walls, any more than the presence of God leaves us when we leave this place. This is a home that goes with us as we follow God’s way of love, as we make other homes where friends and strangers can be welcomed in. In this way of love, in this ministry of hospitality, the God who gave us a garden in the beginning and is preparing a city for us in the end teaches us in the present how to create holy spaces of calm and comfort.
In our hearts, in our homes, in our world, we make homes for God. In our hearts, in our homes, in our world, we make room for new people in new places, for new days, new joys, new possibilities, as we practice the values we claim in this home. As you do, wherever you go, may you both find and create earthly places where you and all around can taste God’s kingdom.