There are reasons to believe that Americans are growing more and more preoccupied with their homes. Some people claim that we have gone from simply cocooning in our homes to burrowing into them, and thus shutting out the world far more successfully. No longer is our home just our castle; it has become our fortress.
When we have a choice, we don’t venture out as much as we used to. It’s at home that we now have our feasting and fun, our games and celebrations. The home entertainment center and the Internet now consume much of the time once taken by the city park, the private club, the neighborhood bar. Our world now consists of two distinct halves, like an apple split by an ax: the one side is work or school or whatever it is we must do; the other side is what we’re free to do, and increasingly we choose to do that at home.
Consider what this means for business. It’s better to invest in video stores, not movie theaters; in carry out food franchises, not restaurants; in mail order operations, not shopping malls.
The message sounds forth from every direction. Decorate your home! Equip your home! Maintain your home! Enjoy your home! Worry about your home! Your home reveals who you are, and who you want to be. First, make your home in your image, and then let it return the favor: you are made over in the image of your home. You own it; it owns you.
Having a home is the beginning point for all this. But there’s more to life than home ownership. I’d like to suggest a different angle. What about becoming a home?
Our home is not only the four walls around us. There is also a home inside each of us. We may be aware of this inside home and comfortable with it, or we may neglect this home, remain absent from it, keep moving away from it, as though driven from our deepest selves. What about the home we already are? The condition of our inside home is at least as important as that of our outside one. We need to be as concerned about who occupies this interior residence as we are about the occupant or occupants of our outer domicile.
One reason our inside home is so important is that here God desires to be our guest. Remember a promise Jesus makes at the Last Supper that appears in today’s Gospel. “If (anyone) loves me, he will keep my word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our home with him.”
The Father and the Son will come, and with them as always the Holy Spirit will come. The Trinity wants to dwell inside each of us. Do we make room available, or do we leave the Trinity no space?
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Our inside home may be filled from floor to ceiling, cluttered by all manner of stuff that has collected there: preoccupations and attachments and resentments that crowd the space where God would be. Our inside home may even be loaded from floor to ceiling with ourselves. We may be full of ourselves, and leave no room for God. Blessed are the empty!
The classic practices of the Christian life tend to be more exercises in clearing out than in adding on, in emptying rather than accumulating. Thus they run against the grain of much ordinary existence, especially in a society like ours that is preoccupied with acquisition and consumption. It’s easy for our spirituality to become a matter of collecting religious merit badges, when what the Trinity seeks is not what we do, but who we are. God desires our company, our companionship, our kindness.
It’s a strange thing that God wills to be our guest, as strange as Jesus born in Bethlehem’s barn, yet equally true. So strange is this divine desire that we may fight it or ignore it, trying to keep the Trinity at a cold distance. Yet our inside home can be a royal suite that welcomes the King of glory. It may be seem to us a dump, but God seeks it out as a lodging place in this world. To accept this visitor is to become holy. In the end, holiness is a form of hospitality
Still, there’s danger in having God come as a guest. He arrives with pentecostal fire, burning away the precious accumulation that clutters up our lives, the junk that makes our existence stagnant. The Lord makes his own space in our homes, space not only for the divine immensity, but for God’s friends as well, space for all those the Lord loves, whether or not they love him. When we welcome God, then the hospitality becomes inclusive: we welcome all creatures, both good and bad, who in God exist and move and live.
When we welcome God as guest to our inside home, then we welcome a hungry horde, those countless camp followers who accompany him. All creation makes its claim. Can you stand to be a friend of God when he is so indiscriminate about those he embraces? Can you stand to host an open house, not for the pristine, glorious God alone, but for everyone he accepts in his reckless, wasteful love? It will mean for you a cross.
Your inside home will then become not some place for you to burrow or cocoon, not a way for you to avoid life and stay safe. Your inside home will then become a microcosm of that holy city sent from heaven, a grand hotel for the universe, a place of peace.
Christ gives to us in a way different from the world: it is noisy peace he offers us, the peace and wholeness of a world reconciled at a tremendous price. To love him means making room in ourselves for this world and this Savior.
Scripture quotations from the World English Bible.
Copyright 2004, The Rev. Charles Hoffacker. Used by permission.