Preaching: Rebecca A. Henry
Date Presented: Sunday, May 1, 2016
Scripture Reference: John 15:9-17
Sermon: A Place to Call Home: Residing in Love
As United Methodist clergy we know there is no guarantee how long we will be in a community. Rather we are only given the assurance of one year to the next. And so, I have to confess, that when we begin the new year and as we move into spring, there is a change in attitude for me. I’ll find myself thinking about different projects around the home: hanging pictures, building a sandbox, putting up a new shelf, but rather than doing anything about it I tell myself to just wait, to just wait and see if we will be moving before we do anything. It’s hard to invest or act on anything when you really aren’t sure if this is where you will be, or where you belong.
Looking back to my years at college that is what always made the question, “Where is home?” so difficult to answer. There wasn’t any community I was invested in. There wasn’t any one place that I felt I belonged. Rather, “home” was wherever my parents were at the time. Because we had moved so often it was only in those family relationships that I felt some connection with the past and possibility of looking to the future. It was only in those relationships that I had a deep sense of belonging, love, even security. The communities, the homes were constantly changing, but for me those relationships were always there, always worth my attention.
In many ways this is the invitation we hear Jesus making in today’s reading when he says, “Abide in my love.” In many ways this is hard for us to connect to with today, because we don’t use the word “abide” very much in our everyday language. Rather what we hear in The Message is Jesus saying, “Make yourselves at home in my love.” It means “make a place of belonging in my love,” to invest ourselves, our time and energy in Christ’s love, to make a commitment by making a home for ourselves in Christ.
I think it is interesting to note Jesus makes this invitation as part of the final discourse in John; that is, the final words Jesus speaks to his disciples before he is arrested. At a time when he is about to be separated from them, when they will no longer be eating and traveling with Jesus, spending all their time with him, Jesus invites, “Make your home in my love;” “Know that you belong here with me.” Jesus knows that everything is about to change, that the disciples will feel lost, unsure of the future, alone in the midst of all that will unfold. Only he wants them to remember, to believe, to trust in his love for them, their relationship. Indeed it is once again a moment of decision for them: of whether to return to their families, their former life, or if here, beside Jesus, following Jesus, is their new home, the place they know they belong.
In reading today’s scripture we hear Jesus make the same invitation to us, “Make yourselves at home in my love.” We are in the same moment to make a decision, a commitment, as the disciples were. For if we think about it, making a home, buying a home is a big commitment. Even before moving in we are painting walls, cleaning or getting new floors, investing in appliances. But that is just the beginning. There is always a project to be doing, whether it be maintaining or improving: lawns mowed, windows cleaned, new roof, the list never ends. If having a physical home requires such an ongoing commitment, why would we expect any less when Jesus says, “Make yourselves at home in my love?” IF we are going to make a home in Christ’s love, then it does take a commitment. We have to invest in this relationship; we have to spend time with Jesus in prayer, in study, in worship so that it doesn’t feel distant or foreign, but a place where we belong. We have to decide if this is an invitation we want to accept, a commitment we are willing to make.
That is why when individuals talk to me about joining the church, often after their first or second time worshipping here, I invite them to wait. I encourage them to keep coming, to get involved in activities, get to know people to see if this is a place where they can make that commitment, a place where they feel welcomed and cared for, a community they can call home. For indeed, it is the relationships we form with one another, the love we extend to each other that become an expression of Christ’s love. More than anything it is the relationships we have with one another, and our relationship with Christ, that define our spiritual home.
That is what I have come to know through this Table. This is how I know I am home. I have gathered around this Table in so many different buildings, at different conferences, in hospital rooms, with different people, but every time I hear the words, say the words, “This is my body. This is my blood,” every time I look at the faces around me I know, “This is where I belong. This is home. This is a love that claims me, defines me. This is a love I want to build my life around.” And every day I work at it. Those days when I’m running late, tempted to run out the door without doing devotions, I remind myself I can’t afford not to. I study the Bible. I remind myself to pray with my family at night. I monitor our giving to make sure we fulfill our commitment to tithe. I work on being gracious and open to those I disagree with. I try to be more patient and forgiving in my relationships. I ask for forgiveness when I look back on my day and see the ways I have failed to love. I word every day at it so that hopefully, more and more each day persons will see I am at home in Christ’s love.
Here, at this Table, we know Christ’s invitation is to all, “Make your home in my love.” Will you accept the invitation? As we join in song ask yourself, “What will I do this week to make my home, strengthen or improve the home I have in Christ’s love?”