Some of you know that Bruce and I drove down to North Carolina over the school break to visit with my mom for a few days. At 96, she is still living in her own home, though with the support of a wonderful community, and while she’s cut down her daily walks from 6 miles to 2 , and now on the treadmill in the exercise room of the nearby senior home instead of on the streets, she is “doing 96” remarkably well.
My mother’s current home is obviously not the home I grew up in. But it still has a “home-y” feeling about it for me–certainly much of the same furniture, pictures, smells, and, of course, my mother is there. Our first and primal home, for most of us, is where our parents are. And, if we are blessed or fortunate, as I was, home is where we are loved, taken care of, given shelter and guidance, taught a set of values, given a sense of security. We know that that is unfortunately not true for way too many people, for whom home is a place of insecurity, or violence or abuse, a place where food and shelter and protection are woefully inadequate. For too many, home is a car or a doorway, a couch in an acquaintance’s basement or living room; it’s a motel room or a refugee camp, a tent, or a make-shift shelter. For some, home is a painful reminder that one’s gender identity or sexual preference is not acceptable or welcome, that one will never be “good enough” or “smart enough” or “pretty enough.” For these brothers and sisters, home has nothing to do with real love.
“Those who love me will keep my word,” Jesus said, “and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” It was a remarkable thing to say to his disciples who were getting a clearer and clearer picture that Jesus was actually going away. In fact, this is probably a conversation that John’s community was having amongst itself, as John himself was aging and it had been through him that they had felt Jesus’ presence so deeply. If you love me, Jesus said, and “keep my word,” God and I will come and make our home with you, in you. Though you are feeling anxious and afraid, though you are missing your loved one, though it seems there is only absence, in the presence of love we will come and make our home in you, with you. You will always be home with us, not only in some eternal future, but right now, right here, in your midst. Right now, you are loved, you are taken care of, you belong.
John uses the word “abide,” or “make our home”–the Greek word is meno–John uses that word over 40 times in his gospel (Alyce McKenzie, patheos). “I am the vine, you are branches. Abide in me. Abide in my love.” It’s kind of an old-fashioned word–abide–particularly in our fast-paced world of nano-seconds, of rushing from one thing to another, of multi-tasking, of being so, so busy. “Abide in me.” “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”
This week is the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death. Even those of us who don’t consider ourselves Shakespeare scholars or who, like me, groan whenever there’s a crossword clue about a Shakespeare character, even those of us who feel woefully ignorant about most things Shakespeare, probably “keep his words” in our vocabulary. I was amazed at the number of phrases that we commonly use that were penned by Shakespeare–”as luck would have it” – “waiting with bated breath”–”the be-all and end-all” –”brave new world” – “neither a borrower nor a lender be”–”break the ice”–”refuse to budge an inch”–”cold comfort” – “dead as a doornail”– “cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war”–”Devil incarnate” – “eaten me out of house and home” – “faint-hearted”– “fancy-free”– “forever and a day”– “for goodness’ sake” – “foregone conclusion” – “good riddance” – “hoist with his own petard” –”laughing stock”– “live-long day” – “one fell swoop”– “wild-goose chase” – even, “Knock, knock, who’s there?”!
[cited by Nancy Rockwell from BBC ….]
They have become part of our lives, on our lips, have painted our world. “Those who love me will keep my word,” Jesus said. Just one word, singular, so it’s not just about quoting Jesus, or quoting the Bible. It’s more about living the word, the Word made flesh, the Word that is Love and Light and Life. “Those who love me will keep my word–will make me part of their breath, their vision, will be true to their reality as I was to mine,” [as we said in our baptismal renewal service last Sunday], being honest, healing, and useful. “And my Father – God – the head of my household–will love you and we will come and make our home with you.”
“Home interprets heaven,” wrote Charles H. Parkhurst. “Home is heaven for beginners.” Robert Frost said, “Home is where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” “Home is where the heart is,” Pliny the Elder said. “Home is where there’s one to love us”–Charles Swain. And Emily Dickinson–”Where thou art, that is home.” So much is wrapped up in this notion of “home”! Home is not just an external place. It’s also an internal reality– Come home to your true self. It’s an eternal reality–”God, you have been our dwelling place in all generations,” the psalmist says.
“See,” wrote John of Patmos in his wild and inspired Revelation, “See, the home of God is among mortals.” With God, we are always at home, ultimately safe, secure, and infinitely loved. Following the resurrection, Jesus appeared among his followers for 40 days, tradition says, and then he “ascended” to heaven to be with God. But he did not disappear into the ether. In fact, he said, it is good and right that you should no longer see my body, for the Advocate, the Holy Spirit of God, will come instead to be with you and in you in a way that I can’t in this body. “Those who love me keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”
Surely it is at the table that we feel most at home, and even now, we are invited to the table where the God who loves us invites to eat and drink of God’s very body and blood, to become God’s body and blood on earth. It is here that we are nourished so that we can continue the work of making sure all God’s children have a home, a place where they experience love, where they are sheltered and fed, where they can experience dignity and a sense of self-worth.
Here at this table, we are invited to share the bread of life and the cup of blessing. It is the taste of home. Come to the table. Supper is ready. You are welcome here.
Rev. Mary H. Lee-Clark