For the past seven weeks, all non-essential workers, like many of us, have been ordered to stay home in order to curtail the dangerous and deadly virus COVID-19. Day in and day out we have striven to create a routine in a time of ultimate disruption. Do the dishes. Bake bread. Catch up on laundry. Walk around the block. Exercise. Work from home. Attend zoom meetings. Place internet orders. Catch up on reading, podcasts and webinars. Wave to family and friends from the window. Make phone calls. Watch recorded worship and devotional material. The list goes on. What have I missed? What would you add?
The weeks have passed with no end yet in site. Despite the cabin fever that is fomenting, home for the most part has been our refuge. We are reminded that there are many in these perilous times that do not have a home. They are some that don’t have the comforts of home. They are some even for whom home is as dangerous as the virus we are trying to escape. We cannot take home for granted.
In John’s gospel, Jesus declares it is God’s purpose and intent that everyone, everyone, have a place they can call theirs. For in God’s house there are many dwelling places. Many homes. A home to take refuge in. A home where we can be safe and well. A home rooted and grounded in love. It reminds us of John Howard Payne’s famous saying:
Mid pleasures and palaces,
Though oft I may roam;
Be it ever so humble,
There's no place like home.
Our passage however takes home to a deeper and broader meaning. Jesus left this celestial home to be with us. So, on earth, Jesus considered Capernaum his home base. However, his ministry led him across the countryside and villages, and he found himself depending on strangers and disciples lodging. Even so, going from place to place, not knowing where he would sleep at night, Jesus created the space we call home. He traveled with his disciples. He lived the Gospel. He created what Peter would latter describe in his first epistle “living stones built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” It is this faith connection Peter talks about that enables us to transcend any house we reside in. True home is our connection to each other. Our life and service together. To God, through Jesus.
Our faith connection binds all the people and places we belong to – and holds it all together as a spiritual sacrifice. It anchors us as Jesus declares there is a place for you-not just in heaven but here in this world God created. A place for you no matter what human society dictates. A place for the homeless. A place for the jobless. A place for the weary. For the ill. No matter how alone we feel, out of place we feel, Jesus insists that we have a place with him, here on earth and in heaven. Together we are a royal priesthood, a chosen people, a people belonging to God.
As a result, Jesus assures us, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God and believe also in me.” There is a place for us. It is prepared. Furthermore, our home on earth is a symbol of God’s heavenly home, where we will dwell forevermore. Our faith helps us create home here on earth woven into eternity. Home is where God is. God has made God’s home with humankind, through Jesus Christ. Wherever we are, there is home. A home for everyone. Home sweet home.
In John’s text, the disciples are terrified that once Jesus is gone so will be lost the home that they have known, because Jesus has been their home. Jesus knows this. So, Jesus tells them all they need to know: He says: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” Jesus declares, they will have him always. He is our spiritual base. He is our home. Further, Jesus describes that at the heart of this home is the inseparable relationship that exists between him and the Father/Creator God. Jesus insists that we too are a part of this same relationship, this home, with the Father/Creator God in our relationship with Jesus. The disciples, and we as well, take the same fateful journey in spreading the good news of the Gospel – a journey that becomes home. A journey that gives them a place of belonging – the journey is home, as the saying goes, because it brings all in deeper connection with one other. It turns strangers into friends and makes creation the housemates to all creatures. All have a home, in God’s creation
Now consider this. "Taken from its hive, the bee knows its way home and makes a `bee line' back. An eel travels down the Rhine to the sea and keeps right on till she reaches the Azores, lays her eggs, and dies. Her progeny return to the Rhine and the process is repeated. Terns were carried in a hooded cage from their nesting grounds off the coast of Florida to Galveston, released, and in less than a week returned... Salmon... leave the sea, enter fresh waters, and ascend far inland, deposit their eggs and die. . . .Young salmon return to the briny deep, grow up, and then find their way up the very same river to pay their debt to their kind and to nature... In the spiritual nature of humanity there is that homing instinct. Something within us that says, `Not here, not here, but God.' http://www.moreillustrations.com/Illustrations/home%203.html
We all have a “homing instinct” –the Holy Spirit has placed into our soul to find our place in the world, a unique place created for each of us by a gracious and loving God. To find our spiritual home through Jesus the Way. As people of faith we build this spiritual home on a foundation of relationships with one another. Home, sweet, home.
Even in pandemic times we come together remotely to do his works, those spiritual sacrifices of worship, prayer, study, service and to deepen our faith together. In all this we discover that in our connection to each other we awake to appreciation of each other, of Jesus and our Heavenly Father/Creator God, and become attuned to the needs of the world. For a home where everyone feels safe and well. To friend the friendless. To visit the lonely. To heal the ill. To love the unloved. To fight for justice. To promote kindness. To practice mercy. To embrace the afflicted. To home all without a home, to home those who have a house that lacks safety, security, and love. To proclaim the gospel. To celebrate a home where there are real connections between people and among creation. All these works, these spiritual sacrifices, that Jesus promises we will do, even greater than those of Jesus he declares, because we claim that place for us, that home. That home, sweet, home.
So, we give thanks today for our houses that have been turned into homes through our love and care and the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. We give thanks for our home here with Jesus and with the Father/God Creator, who has enabled us to be living stones that God uses here on earth to build a home of love and justice. So, in Jesus, we discover even in the midst of whatever pandemics and trials we face, we discover there is a place for us made by loving grace of God. A place in Jesus in Our Heavenly Father/ God Creator; in turn in Jesus, in turn with us. That is a place for us, rooted in a place grounded in and transcending our earthly abodes. A place called home, sweet home. Amen.