Rocks, sun, and more rocks, as far as the eye can see; the road stretches out of sight in the shimmering desert heat. And yet they come, dozens of them, more and more everyday.
They heard him say, "Follow me," and they doing just that. Even when his words are harsh, they follow: You will have no place to lay your head. I offer you no comfort, no security, no prestige, no safety, no privilege. And yet they come.
Luke shows Jesus on a long hot trek toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:51-62), a road that winds through the enemy territory of the Samaritans. He tells his followers to leave their plows, their nets, their families, and they do. Why do they take to the road-leave plows and nets and flocks and families? What do they want?
They want the one thing I believe we all want. We have had lots of words for it in the church, lots of metaphors that hint at it, approximate it, but that never quite get it right. We have called it heaven, and the kingdom, and paradise. We have named it salvation. We have built doctrines and creeds around it. We have assumed that this precious thing is far-off and unattainable, something for a later day, another life. We have had lots of words for this, but the best word I know to name this precious thing is, simply,home.
Speaking in paradox, it's the one thing that he tells them he doesn't have. Jesus says, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but he Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." He calls them to the road, to a journey. He doesn't say, "come home," but that's what they hear. That's why they come, and that's what they want.
I believe those first-century women and men joined up as disciples because they were seeking home. Time and again they ask Jesus where he lives, where he dwells, where he is from, where he is going. They think it has something to do with geography, with a place in time and space and they want to be there. But I think they were after the essence of what Jesus offered, that dwelling place. They were seeking that sense of connection, communion, community that we call home.
I think we seek the same thing. We are after something called home. That's why we make churches. We name them St. James or St. Paul's or The Bridge or The Beacon or Safehouse or A House for All Sinners and Saints. But we mean home. We have lots of ways to describe it: a place to learn, to celebrate, to pray, to find meaning, a place for our kids. But we mean home, we mean that connection with each other, that communion with the Other, that sensing of belonging to Something larger than ourselves. We make church because we need to make community.
I'm sure there are many who would disagree with me, but I'm convinced that this is really the only good reason we make church: it's because we want a home. We want that dwelling place, a safe place to engage the questions of our day and the daily decisions of our lives. We want a place of refreshment but not retreat, a place that calls us to be all that God created us to be, even as we learn that God loves us just the way we are right now. We want a home, where we can be free to be who we are. We want a place where all are welcome. We want to be home free.
And if we can say we want that, we can look around to see who else wants it too. Who are the ones who come today? Who want those dwelling places? Who's on that rocky dry road?
I cannot imagine that long-ago rocky dry road through the Palestinian desert, and the longing of those pilgrims, without seeing the rocky dry borderlands of our own deserts today, in California and Arizona and New Mexico and Texas. I cannot begin to name my own desire for community, or yours, without considering the desire of those who come north in the name of family and communion and a safe dwelling place called home.
We all want a place to be welcomed, body and soul. We all want to be home free.
Echoes from the Edge
By Danielle Miller, 2012-13 Beatitudes Fellow - June 24th, 2013
An Ethic for Christians and other Aliens in a Strange Land, by William Stringfellow:
"If you have never read Stringfellow before then you are in for a treat. An incredible lay theologian, Stringfellow has a gift for cultural critique and insight into "powers and principalities", anchored in deeply rooted Christian ethics. His work makes faith real and relevant. Just note: Stringfellow wrote in the 60s and 70s, his language is not inclusive. However, his invitation to deeper theological and cultural analysis is needed in 2013."
Song of Ice and Fire Series, by George R.R. Martin :
" A "historical-fantasy" series, Song of Ice and Fire skillfully depicts the vagaries of humanity. Through flights of fancy and down to earth illustration, Martin depicts a world that is at once familiar and foreign. This book is a wonderful example of "grounded imagination" in the best sense of the phrase."
Experiential Worship, by Bob Rognlien:
"Experiential Worship is a wonderful primer to begin thinking about how to create multi-sensory worship that invites others to meet God. It's a great book to use with worship ministry teams to begin the conversation about engaging a variety of learning/processing styles through the art of liturgy."
Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver :
"An amazing novel about faith, geo-political realities, survival and voice. The Poisonwood Bible is an incredible exercise in narrative. If you are looking to invigorate preaching through the art of storytelling, the Poisonwood Bible is an incredible example of the narrative craft."
Finally, the Poet
By Richard Rohr, from Radical Grace - June 24th, 2013
"Those at the edge of any system and those excluded from any system ironically and invariably hold the secret for the conversion and wholeness of that very group.
They always hold the feared, rejected, and denied parts of the group's soul. You see, therefore, why the church was meant to be that group that constantly went to the edges, to the "least of the brothers and sisters," and even to the enemy.
Jesus was not just a theological genius, but he was also a psychological and sociological genius. When any church defines itself by exclusion of anybody, it is always wrong. It is avoiding its only vocation, which is to be the Christ. The only groups that Jesus seriously critiques are those who include themselves and exclude others from the always-given grace of God."
Originally posted on the Beatitudes Society blog; used by permission.