God's Story, Your Story and Our Story Through the Eyes of the Gospel Writers:
Warm Relationships and Their Significance for Being the Best Neighbors, Authentically--"Where's Home?:" a Reflection on Acts 17:22-31 and John 14:15-21
On this Sixth Sunday of Easter, we celebrate the fact of the resurrection. Andy Rooney, a keen journalist and observer of life said, “I’ve learned…That to ignore the facts does not change the facts.” Believing in Jesus makes a difference in one’s life journey. That journey is consistently leading you “home.” Home with God and others is a comforting and safe place. It is a place where one’s basic needs are met, and contentment is one’s state of being.
Experiencing “home” embraces loving God and others. If you love God… add the word “then” and tell me what loving God looks like. If you describe what loving God looks like in the indicative mood, you describe the way things are. But if you use the imperative mood, you describe the way things ought to be. For example, loving God sees hungry people. Loving God feeds hungry people. Loving God sees homeless people. Loving God works to provide housing for the homeless. Loving God sees hurting people. Loving God demonstrates empathy and active compassion to hurting people. Being home with God and others as well as providing home for others speak the same language.
You remember the devastation in Puerto Rico. First Hurricane Maria in September 2017 and then the earthquake in January 2020. Homes were devastated. Consider Iglesia Park, a neighborhood just a few blocks southeast of Geneva. Stuck on the northern tip of master-planned Aliso Viejo and up against the walled-in retirement city of Laguna Woods, the community of 450 one-story duplexes is mostly working-class Latinos, surrounded by the wealthy, white and retired. There you will often find two families living in two-bedroom, two bath duplexes (approximately 1100 sq. ft.). One’s physical home matters as does one’s sense of home. In this regard, Barbara Brown Taylor, an Episcopal priest and the emerita Butman Professor of Religion at Piedmont College asserts that the love language of God calls all humans to see “home” being in relationship with God and others when she writes,
…no one can speak all the religious languages in the world, and there is no spiritual Esperanto…my religious language is quite excellent at speaking of what it means to be authentically human. In Christian terms, it means being made in the image of God—not just you, but everyone. It means tending the neighbor’s welfare as religiously as you tend your own. It means letting the splinter you see in the other person’s eye alert you to the log in your own. It means opening the door to the soldiers when they come, so your friends can get away. It means crossing all kinds of boundaries to meet people where they are and arguing with people on your own side who want to call you out for that. It means “losing it” from time to time, because being authentically human can be so effing exhausting, especially with people who want you to be God. Who knows that better than Jesus? In my religious language, there is no loving God without loving other human beings.
It is difficult to fully embrace the devastation of “home,” literally and figuratively, that is caused by hurricanes, earthquakes, crowded housing, COVID-19 and human suffering of any kind. Yet, Jesus continues to lead us to experience “home” with God and others.
The texts in Acts 17:22-31 and John 14:15-21 communicate that humans are created for “home” with God and one another.
In Acts 17:22-31, we learn that humanity is to participate and share in the gifts of dignity, justice, freedom, equality and resources.
In John 14:15-21, we rediscover Jesus’ promise that he would be our constant companion. Jesus is not remote in that the Holy Spirit is “Comforter,” “Counselor” and “Teacher” alongside and present. God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit …lives in us. The word “in” is a tiny word. Two letters make up the word. It’s a preposition. But it is the “subject” that makes the word “in” so incredible. God, the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer dwells in us. John 14:18 reads, “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.” Individually and collectively, we are “home” in God.
Being connected in a community of faith, “home,” that makes a high priority on authentic relationships with God and one another, is essential to have a vibrant shared journey with God and others. This is the power of “home,” not being left orphaned. Again, Barbara Brown Taylor, the author of Holy Envy, writes,
“The supreme religious challenge,” says Jonathan Sacks, “is to see God’s image in one who is not in our image.” If he is right, then the stranger—the one who does not look, think, or act like the rest of us—may offer us our best chance at seeing past our own reflections in the mirror to the God we did not make up.
God inhabits the world and calls all into resurrection life. Our best ways of being at “home” with God and others are done authentically, not making up an image of God or another person we’d prefer.
Where’s home? If you’re tired of religion and want to experience Jesus living “in” people; if you want to put the action of Jesus in action; and if you want to be a part of a community who love doing and being church differently; then join us as we live “home” for the common good.Let’s seek a better way to live by remembering, telling and living the way of Jesus, together. Where’s home, literally and figuratively, for others and you today?
Barbara Brown Taylor, Holy Envy (New York, New York: HarperOne, 2019), 193-194. In the three paragraphs of textual analysis, I have benefited from the thinking of David J. Schlafer, Bridgett A. Green, Philip Wingeier-Rayo and Lindsay P. Armstrong in Joel B. Green, Thomas G. Long, Luke A. Powery, Cynthia L. Rigby and Carolyn J. Sharp, editors, Connections, Year A, Volume 2 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2019), 271-274, 274-276, 283-285 and 285-286. Jonathan Sacks, The Dignity of Difference, rev. ed. (London: Continuum, 2003), 2. Barbara Brown Taylor, Holy Envy, 200.