~ Ram Dass, teacher, writer, psychologist b. 1931-d. 2019
Proper 16 Year B Tract 1 2021
Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
How lovely is thy dwelling place, O Lord of host, to me!
My thirsty soul desires and longs within thy courts to be
My very heart and flesh cry out, O living God, for thee.
Do you remember the children’s book “My nest is best”- where Mr. and Mrs. Bird argue about where home should be. Mr. Bird begins in their bird house with “this nest is best” BUT Mrs. bird disagrees and so, dutifully Mr. Bird flies with Mrs. Bird on the search for a new nest. After several attempts, Mrs. Bird ends up back in their original nest and says, “she has changed her mind- this nest is best” and they settle into their original nest where they hatch a new baby bird.
You might be wondering why on earth I am sharing this children’s story now and not during the children’s homily and the reason is this: Let’s be honest, We are all on a search for home aren’t we?
As a people of faith we are searching for a place to belong, a place to “center down” and be still and know that God is here, a place where we can in turn go out and serve from and then continue to grow as children, young adults, or adults- whatever stage you are.
I think this story resonated with me because growing up in the military our “nest” kept changing every 2-3 years. Our house would look different, our friends would change, and so would our context. We learned about how to pick apples in apple season when we lived in Washington State and we learned all about how NOT to touch Cactus in Arizona. I learned German in Berlin, Germany and a southern accent in Georgia.
And while we never lived in the same house twice, we realized that we had a nest as a family, beginning fresh in each space, learning and growing in each new location and finding where we belonged. The physical structures would change but God’s presence with us never did.
The people of God in the bible are always searching for their home. To be honest, ever since the garden of Eden, humanity has been seeking how to belong. The Israelites are not at home in Egypt nor are they at home in the wilderness either and yet God is there present with them.
God’s people are a people on the move and God is there present with them. The Ark of the Covenant is created to carry the 10 commandments WITH the Israelites. A container to hold the holiest of holies and allow these words to travel with the people as they continued their journey. King Solomon built the Temple to house these tablets but the presence of God cannot be contained by a building, the presence of God is right there within you, always.
We are reminded in today’s gospel reading that the disciples leave their homes to follow Jesus and continue in this sort of itinerate ministry following Jesus’ command to “Go forth and make disciples of all nations”- home is where the heart is and the heart of Jesus calls us not to be sedentary but to go out into the neighborhood, the messiness of life. To be on the move, just like Jesus.
When we participate in the Eucharist, eating the body and blood of Jesus, we abide in Christ. We are connected with God and are at home with God. Later in the Gospel of John, Jesus says we are to abide in him, be at home with God through the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
The disciples say to Jesus today “This teaching is hard.”
And Jesus says, “It is hard AND it is the truth.” And Jesus believed they could do hard things.
God believes we can all do hard things.
And boy, is our world full of hard things right now.
We have seen the photos and videos of the desperation of people in Afghanistan.
We have seen the thousands who have died and those without homes because of the earthquake in Haiti.
Our sisters and brothers in Cuba do not have access to vaccines, medicines, and even food is scarce in their small villages.
And we are seeing numbers of COVID cases and deaths rise in our community.
And yet, like the wandering Israelites, like the disciples who complained to Jesus, God is constant to us and here with us, even in these difficult times.
While homes may change, still abiding in our hearts is the courage and the wisdom of a God who does not abandon us. A god who calls us to care for our brothers and sisters here in Tallahassee and beyond. A god who compels us to speak hard truth and advocate for those who need care.
Jesus asks the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away” referring to those who stopped following him, and Peter replies, “Where else would we go!?”
As disciples, they have left everything and at the same time they have gained everything too. In leaving behind their old lives, they have opened their hearts to a deeper path, a path that was one day at a time and one teaching at a time. Peter knows that he belonged in the twelve, in the group following Jesus and it was there he wanted to learn more, to grow in this knowledge of who God is through Jesus.
Even if ministry was hard,
even if this life redefined home.
You have the words of eternal life, Peter says.
I want to know more.
I want to follow you.
We know that Peter gets it right and gets it wrong, too. We know Peter, like the Israelites questions what is best. And Jesus teaches again what it means to be a follower.
A life of discipleships means compassion, suffering with those we love.
A life of discipleship means learning more and continuing to grow in the knowledge and love of God.
A life of discipleship means acknowledging that we are in this together, walking one step at a time on a pilgrimage of faith.
Psalm 84 and our Sequence hymn sing: “How lovely is your dwelling place.”
Remember, Jesus was born in a stable, lived in a tiny town his whole childhood, traveled to people’s homes and stayed there a while as an adult- no house of his own. It doesn’t matter the “where” that dwelling place is- Peter says, “what matters is the who is with you.”
Our thirsty souls and flesh cry out for the living God. And will only be satiated when we realize that, as Jesus in the gospel of John says, “Abide in me and I will abide in you.”
We carry our home with us, because there in our heart God already resides, ever present, ever ready to give us the courage and wisdom to battle our fears and compel us into the messiness of life.
Wherever you are on your spiritual journey- you are already home because God dwells in you before you even realize it.