Leaving Home/Going Home

            How lovely is your dwelling place,

                        O LORD of hosts!

            My soul longs, indeed it faints

                        for the courts of the LORD;

            my heart and my flesh sing for joy

                        to the living God. 

               Even the sparrow finds a home,

                        and the swallow a nest for herself,

                        where she may lay her young. —Psalm 84:1-3

I started to drive away but something moved me to pull over to the curb and stop.   I sat there in my car looking across the street at the house we had called home for the last seven years.  It didn’t feel right to just drive away.  After all, we had a relationship with this place, and you don’t just drive away from a relationship without a good goodbye. After a long look at the house, the words finally came.  “Thank you, house,” I said. “You kept us warm and dry in the winter and cool in the summer.  We had a few trials but much more joy within your walls and you held us together through all of it. You gave us a place to be family.  You gave us a place to be home.  I know you will do the same for your new owners.  Hold them and protect them.  I hope your walls will remember our love and laughter.  We will remember you with much fondness.”  I took a long last look at the pale yellow house on the corner lot then drove away for the last time. 

We are moving to live closer to our daughter and son-in-law and grandsons.  The new house has a pool which is a huge attraction for our water-loving grandsons.  We haven’t even moved our furniture in yet and they’ve already taken a swim there.  

It’s exciting to move into a different house.  It’s fun to do all the things that make it ours—choosing paint colors, taking out old carpet and putting in new flooring, planning where the furniture will go.  But there is also a kind of wistful sadness in leaving the old house behind.  It was more than just a house.  It was our home.

As I write this on All Saints Day, I am mindful of all the saints I’ve been at home with and all the places I’ve called home over the years.  All Saints Day is for me a kind of marker in the calendar, signaling a time of introspection, ingathering and family.  Thanksgiving lies just ahead.  Then Christmas.  These are times to be shared with family, whether the accidental family of your gene pool or your church family or the intentional family of like-minded friends that you’ve gathered around yourself.  These are times to remember and to make new memories.

This is also a time—and this day in particular—to be mindful of the “great cloud of witnesses,” those beloved people who have gone before us and whose presence we still carry in our hearts.  This is a day and a season to remember the faces that always warmed our hearts and reminded us that we are not alone in this world or the next.  This is a day, even, to remember the houses that held us, the places where we were at home.  This is also a day and a season to remember that someday we will move on.

Life is movement.   Some of us move many times.  Some put down roots in a place and stay there most of their lives.  But eventually everyone moves on to the great mystery, the great What Comes Next.  Eventually every one of us will move to the House with many dwelling places where a place for us has been prepared. 

In my work I have been privileged and blessed to be with many as they made that final move.  Some were mightily reluctant to go and approached it with anger or fear.  Most though, had made peace with the idea and were ready for the move.  Some even welcomed it joyfully.  When you know you’re going to move, it’s always best to make peace with the idea.  It’s even better when you can anticipate your new residence with joy.

I’m just a poor wayfaring stranger
Traveling through this world below
There’s no sickness, no toil or danger
In that bright land to which I go

I’m going there to see my father
And all my loved ones, who’ve gone on
I’m just going over Jordan
I’m just going over home

No Place Like Home

2 Corinthians 5:6-11, 14-16

“We’re at home in the body,” says Paul the Apostle…at home in this vessel that bruises and jostles and ages and wrinkles and sneezes and bleeds, at home in this meat case of incessant needs, at home in this temple of hungers and appetites yearning for ecstasy, longing for paradise, wishing escape from our aches and our pains, our own wounded psyches, our time-addled brains. From the tips of your toes to the crown of your dome, be it ever so…broken… there’s no place like home.

There’s no place that needs such upkeep and maintaining. One day you’re feasting, the next you’re abstaining. One day it’s easy to carry your weight, the next day you wonder “Who packed all this freight?” One day you’re an athlete racking up points, the next you’re a senior with bionic joints. One day you’re a tower of strength, in your prime. The next day lumbago is twisting your spine. The years pile on and give you a licking, but with diet and meds the ticker keeps ticking. So we take baby aspirin and pray for catharsis because, after all, home’s where the heart is.

Home’s where the heart is…so, although we are slowing, we’re still pretty confident about where we’re going. We walk by faith, not merely by sight–especially when nature calls three times a night. But despite all our physical hurdles and hobbles, despite how our little world teeters and wobbles, despite all our blindness and deafness and woe we still, pretty much, know which way to go. Though our feet may meander, our attention may roam, softly and tenderly Christ calls us home.

Christ calls us home. And yes, we are judged. We stand here before him all battered and smudged, we feel every scar—especially those we’ve inflicted—every lie or dark deed–we stand here convicted. But we stand here with Christ who died once and for all so that our death is wrapped up in his in one ball of death-killing love and mercy and grace that lifts us right out of that self-centered place where we wallow in fear and ego and worry and gross self-importance and anger and hurry. We find mercy and grace, forgiveness, shalom—our souls wrapped in love until Christ is our home.

Christ is our home. So we see with new eyes—a new point of view—and to our surprise, because Christ is more than a mere human being, we see that there’s really no mere anything. Or mere anyone–we are, all of us, deeper, more complex, more cherished, and no life is cheaper than yours or than mine or than anyone else’s. We find our true selves when we learn to be selfless, when we fall into Christ and let love conform us, let the Spirit inspire, reshape and transform us, till in this slow stew of transfiguration we see that in Christ there is new creation.

In Christ, new creation. All things are reborn—the ones you love most, the parties you scorn, the planet itself, the stars in the skies—all things are made new and we see with new eyes. Old habits, old angers, old grudges, old fears, addictions, obsessions, your old unshed tears, old guilts that trouble your sleep in the night, opinions and bias that narrow your sight—it all fades away to allow a fresh start in Christ, your new home, in Christ, your new heart. The old fades away as the new takes its place and life becomes grace upon grace upon grace.

Grace upon grace, even through the long waiting that drags on our days as we’re anticipating that final renewal, the post-mortem waking, when you’ll shine like a jewel at the final remaking of all things that are and all things that will be and all things that were. And all you. And all me. The blossom that hides in the seed is concealed and what we will be has not yet been revealed. And though we’re impatient to make our escape, like a nymph in a chrysalis we’re still taking shape. But home’s where the heart is and our hearts are glowing, so we speak with confidence about where we’re going. We walk by faith, not merely by sight. Love urges us on and Christ is our light. Our feet may meander, our attention may roam but softly and tenderly, Christ guides us home.