Finding Our Way Home (Fifth Sunday of Easter)

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This upcoming August I will have lived in my little green bungalow in Silver Spring for ten years. It’s the longest I’ve ever lived in one place. When I bought the place, I said I was never moving again. I was fresh off a divorce and single, had three young children to care for, and was a year into being a solo pastor. This house was it. The place I would stay forever. The moment I pulled up to the house I fell in love with it. The front porch, the quiet street, the yard that backed to forest, and close proximity to running trails. It was perfect.

My real-estate agent gently tried to persuade me to buy something else. She delicately pointed out the flaws. It was built in 1935; had been added on to numerous times by a jack-of-all tradesman; had old electrical wiring; the kitchen needed updated, as did the bathrooms; every room had a different type of flooring; the windows needed replaced; and I’d have to renovate the basement immediately. Plus, it was a historical house, which brings a whole slew of issues when doing any improvements.

It all fell on deaf ears. Maybe I was the only one who could see the character and charm, but I felt at home in the place, even before it was officially mine. At the closing, the sellers told me some stories about the history of the house and about their time in the house (they had also raised three boys in it).

Oh, if the walls of the house could talk, the stories they would tell.

Ten years later the charm has faded a bit. There is no denying that Tom Silva could film a whole season of ‘This Old House’ at my place. But, still she is a refuge, a sanctuary of sorts.

My little house has seen a lot, even just in my ownership of her. Many tears, too many games of tag, so much laughter, hours of video games, inane fights, comings and goings, growing children, millions of batches of chocolate chip cookies.

Currently, we are painting the foyer. My husband comments frequently about the uneven corners, the peeling paint, and weird roof lines. And, I concur, but also become defensive of her. I see how we have marred and marked her walls and floors; how she has endured our beatings and slamming of doors and running the vacuum into her. Silently she has held it all.

Oh, if she could talk, what would she say?

It may be odd to have such an attachment to house. Objectively, I know she needs a lot of work. And, nowadays we do talk of moving to someplace that doesn’t need so much upkeep and toiling on our part. But, the truth is, I needed (and still need) to care for the house, as much as I needed the house to shelter me. The LGB – as she came to be known for Little Green Bungalow – was and is my resurrection project, as much as I was her resurrection project.

All houses have histories, whether we are aware of them or not.  Their histories are shaped by those who have lived in them. The interesting part of a house’s story is not the building itself, but those who built their lives inside it.

Our homes are our places. Places of refuge and sanctuary. I say this recognizing that all homes are not safe places for everyone. They should be, but I know they aren’t. Our homes and rooms – they also hold secrets and pain, some of which the four walls are the only witnesses to. It all leeches into the bones of the house, ensuring that life – whatever comprises that life – is recorded somewhere, by something. Houses stand beyond the time and lives of the occupants. There’s something oddly comforting to me about that.

Now, if you’re anything like me, you’ve been spending the last weeks sheltering at home. I’ve become sick of the walls and rooms that I desperately love. I want to flee from the LGB. The rooms of my house have now become classrooms, tent forts, a bakery, a church, and a construction site. Despite the fact that Jesus promises, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places,” I’m pretty sure we’re going to run out of rooms.

But, when I go out in the ‘real world,’ which basically means going to the grocery store, my senses are on high alert. Every ounce of my being feels threatened until I return home, to my house. Because even with all its chaos, it’s the one place that feels safe-ish. 

But, I can’t hole up in my house forever.
With some restrictions being relaxed, the fact that people do have to work, and my need to see people someplace other than on zoom, I am simultaneously relieved and terrified.  

The ground seems to be shifting so much out there. 
Will the center hold? Is it safe? Will the roof come crumbling down?

Often times when I’ve preached on this text, I’ve expressed my irritation with Jesus for “going to a place we cannot follow.” I mean, what good is that to us, especially given all the pain, fear, death, and loss of right now? Hightail it out of here just when the walls seem to be closing in?

But, right now, the snarky part of me is like, “You go ahead, Jesus. Check it out and report back. I’ll just stay here eating cookies.”

Additionally, this text is often used at funerals and memorials as an assurance of heaven. This is, well, helpful to me at a funeral, but not so much right now. Jesus does remind us of the fullness and promise of the next life. But, he’s not only promising a someday place. Jesus also promises that a space is being built now. Prepared now.
A home for today. A refuge for this present day.

I was thinking about how your story, my story, our collective stories, and the entirety of humanity’s story are written on the heart of God. How our stories become building blocks for sanctuaries on earth. And about how ‘roomy’ God must be to hold us all. How generous and full of love God must be to house us all, making space for all our doubts and fears and questions. How many bruises and bangs God has from our pains and broken parts. How God must resemble my beloved LGB more than a mansion in the sky.

What is the way? What is the way home? Such a fair question from Philip.
Maybe Philip is asking about how to find Jesus or where the Father is, but mostly what undergirds his question is, “How will we be safe without you? What step do we take next?”

I don’t know a lot. Generally, I feel like I’m stumbling my way through life and faith. However, I do believe that Jesus is right – we do, in fact know the way: the quiet, unglamorous, brave, loving way of Jesus. We know his life. We know his love. We know his death. We know his resurrection. We know what it is to hunger for truth, to seek love, to listen for tomorrow, to have hope for more.
We know the way.
We know the way home.
Home to ourselves and home to Jesus.

It’s through a door.
Not one in your house, or in a church building. It’s through a door in your heart, that you must be willing to open and walk through – trusting that by opening the doors of our hearts we will find ourselves at home with God.

I began today wondering, If these walls could talk…
Maybe the question is, “What do the walls of your heart say?”

The thing is, opening the doors of your heart might not feel entirely safe. It is risky to love and trust. And, our current environment has ratcheted up our feelings of insecurity and danger, making life feel more fragile. But, the truth is, even though the world seems to be closing in on us, Jesus’ love and presence is a sacred haven that requires no walls, and yet grants solace to the weary and needy.

The point is, it’s ok to be afraid.
It can be a scary world out there.
But, ‘home’ is, as we say in theological terms, a ‘moveable feast.’ Meaning – it’s not a fixed place and time. Home is within you, prepared for you by Jesus, so that even on those dark nights when we cannot fully trust ourselves, one another, or God… Home is already prepared.
Jesus is already there.
He went ahead to make sure you wouldn’t be alone.
And, that makes all the difference in the dark night, when you’re waiting for tomorrow.

Like any house, we are shaped by that which inhabits us. May Jesus shape your heart into his home. May you settle into that grace, and live fully in the roominess of God.