Going Home, Home

God calls us to come home to our most authentic selves and then to be home for others who are seeking.

Photo by Sheila Hunter

My friend told me this story.

She was hiking down into the Grand Canyon on a rather warm day. A family passed by her going the opposite direction–out of the Canyon.

My friend overheard the young girl in the family lament to her mother:

“Mom, I want to go home.”

Her mom answered. “We will be home soon. When we get to the top–just up there–we will go back to our hotel and eat and rest.”

The girl’s response?

“No, Mom. I don’t want to go to the hotel. I want to go home-home.”

Being or finding or going home is difficult and painful for many people. This is the case for all sorts of reasons.

  • Consider the woman who moved for a job or a relationship and is struggling to get connected to a new community;
  • Or the teenager who ran away from a house that was never really home.
  • What about the family that escaped across a border of some kind and now can neither go back not see a way to go forward?
  • What about those people who can’t seem to feel at home in their own lives or even their own bodies?
Longing for home

Strangers in a strange land. Wandering. Seeking. So many people in our world today, at some time in their lives, long for home, even if they are not sure what home means for them.

For some of these people, faith communities become home. Or faith communities become home-like staying places, in-the-meanwhile dwelling places, for people whose lives are on the way to—well to many, often unknown, somewheres.

Or faith communities perhaps can become a for-now home. I long for this to be so.

“Not going home”

An unexpected image of “home”–along with the refrain of “not going home”–has gone viral on my Facebook feed this week. People who support women who preach have found in the phrase, “not going home,” a prophetic digital way to respond to and resist evangelical leader John MacArthur’s recent statement telling evangelist Beth Moore to “go home.”

“Home” also stands out to me in this week’s lectionary text, Luke 18:9-14. At the end of this parable that features a tax collector and a Pharisee, the tax collector goes”down to his home justified.” Read other insights about this parable in yesterday’s post and see the full text of the parable at the bottom of this post.

These two accounts–the ancient parable and the trending Facebook post–are coinciding or colliding or perhaps colluding this week to stir unexpected thoughts for me about “home.”

What I am considering as a result of this collusion is this:

What new and life-giving theological possibilities for our times can we discover in images of “home” and “going home”?

At home in the role of wanderer

In the parable, the tax collector goes home from the temple “justified.” Having sought God in humility–in deep recognition of his humanness–he is grounded anew in God’s care and mercy for him. The tax collector goes home with a new sense of belonging within God’s love and grace. He may still be regarded in contempt by those who deem themselves more righteous than they think he is, but he can dwell in his own life knowing that he is a beloved child of God. He can go home justified.

And yet, even that profound image of going home contains a bittersweet reality. “Home” for people of faith is, in large measure, a life of seeking and wandering and wondering.

What does that mean?

Poet Denise Levertov writes of being “too much at home in the role of wanderer.”

Perhaps faith calls us to be at home, if you will, in the role of wanderer. Restless for justice. Always searching for healing, hope, grace. At home in the role of wanderer until we one day cross the border into God’s not yet commonwealth.

That, perhaps, is the power of Gospel wisdom. Jesus’ followers can never stop seeking. Not until all of the hungry are fed and violence has been stopped and no one feels the sting of exclusion. Not until all have opened themselves to God’s love and are empowered to go out into the world and love others, freed from both arrogance and shame.

But Levertov’s poem says that we risk being too much at home in the role of wanderers.

Some are too much at home in the role of wanderer,
watcher, listener; who, by lamplit doors
that open only to another’s knock,
commune with shadows and are happier
with ghosts than living guests in a warm house.

Levertov

Sounds like a conundrum, doesn’t it? We are called to be justice-seeking wanderers. We are also called to be at home in God’s love. Whew!

I think God’s call to people of faith in the midst of this conundrum is to pray and work together to imagine and create home—welcoming, non-judging, nourishing—home-for-now for all people who are seeking after God’s resting places of justice, grace, and peace.

This is not easy work. It takes courage. And a whole lot of grace.

Called to be home-home

But the call remains. We are called to be home for those whose lives are broken. To be home for our communities’ strangers. To be home for those whose stories have left them isolated, alone, without hope. We are called to be home for now until all of us–wandering people that we are–finally can go “home-home.”

In the case of many amazing and prophetic women I have been blessed to know? They are at home in the role of preachers. Their home-home is in a pulpit. By saying “yes” to God’s call to be proclaimers of God’s justice, love and grace, they have embraced something central to their identity. And they have come home to themselves as Gospel proclaimers, justified by God.

Come home free

I am reminded of an old time version of a kids’ game—hide-and-seek. Maybe some of you remember the “song” that goes with the game? “Ollie, Ollie oxen frei.” This is what those who have been found sing out to the one who has been hiding the longest—to the one not yet found: “Ollie, Ollie oxen frei.”

An approximate rendering of the German phrase is this: The game is finished. All is forgiven. You can come home free.

We are all to varying degrees both Pharisee and tax collector. We are also neither tax collector nor Pharisee. We are human. We are exalted dust. And a God who never stops seeking for us calls us every day to come home to our most authentic selves–

I pray that we can remember and live this wisdom.

By God’s grace, let us be places where restless and yearning wanderers, found by God’s grace, can come home-home free.



Author: drdeacondog

I am a professor at Wake Forest University School of Divinity and an ordained PCUSA minister.

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