Home & Heart
May the words of my mouth and meditation of our hearts be always acceptable to you, our God and redeemer. Amen
Memorial day weekend is the unofficial start of the summer and many of us are making summer plans. Some plans may include friends or family coming to Boston for a visit and staying in our home for a week or two. This is a happy disruption in our routines as we accommodate guests in our living space and share a piece of our lives. But what if our guests stay on for 2, 3, maybe 4 weeks; will they eventually wear out their welcome?
In the first reading, Paul’s preaching connects with Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. This detail was included because in those days, purple dye was expensive and suggests that Lydia had wealthy customers and so was middle class, like Paul a tentmaker. Her conversion and baptism was a brave step for Lydia that could have consequences like jeopardizing her business or household. Yet she invited Paul, Luke, and their other companions into her home as guests. In biblical times as well as nowadays, the wealthy and even middle class tend to resist change. They are living well and change can upset their lifestyle and position on the social ladder. The Prosperity Gospel holds that financial blessings come from God and shows that God favors them. This thinking can lead to accepting compromised morals and behaviors that have provided success. A recent example is the Sackler family, who made millions selling Oxycontin as a non-addictive opiod pain killer. Lydia is indeed a brave soul seeking and pursuing a better way to live.
Today’s gospel from John is a piece of an information dump that Jesus provides to his disciples at the Last Supper after Judas Iscariot left. He will soon return with authorities to arrest Jesus, so in the limited time he has, Jesus shares several messages such as “I am the way, and the truth, and the life”, and “I am the vine and you are the branches”, as well as today’s reading, “Those who love me will keep my word … and … we will come to them and make our home with them.” In this context, home is more than the place you live. Home is where your heart is, it is the place where you dwell, where you let your hair down, the place where you relax with family or friends that you love and they love you.
Inviting God into our hearts to make a home is much more than inviting a guest to stay for a week or two. This is like inviting someone into our home to be part of our life. We do this when we marry or live with a partner, when an elder parent moves in, or when we bring a newborn child from the hospital. This new arrangement disrupts our routines and space, it requires compromise & negotiations, give and take. There is no wearing out their welcome because they’re not leaving. We adopt our lives around this new situation because ultimately this change can enrich our lives. When God makes a home in our hearts, we also adopt to a new situation. We let go of prejudices, judgement, and change our outlook and interactions with others. When God resides in us, we project his love and kindness to others inside and outside these walls. Are we ready for that? Are we like Lydia, ready to invite strangers into our home?
Imagine for a moment not having a home. MIssionaries like Paul don’t have a home. Prisoners have a home outside the prison walls. Homeless don’t have a home. Immigrants are leaving one home to seek a new one. Immigrants are in the news these days as a steady stream of people and families from Central America make their way north. Many are not educated or skilled, but are willing to work hard to make a better life for their children. Their presence in labor market suppresses wages for those already near the bottom. Some immigration is needed, but too much is destabilizing. Unfortunately the current political climate uses blame and racism to make immigrants unwelcome here. Our politicians use this social wedge to divide our hearts. We know which side God is on, but what if the politicians are right? What if there are rapist and murderers among them? How would you react if an immigrant showed up here one Sunday? Many of you know that St. Pauls Episcopal in Newton Highlands has offered sanctuary to an immigrant family for the past few years. While there seems to be no end point, it provides a human face to the challenges that immigrants face.
Many of us here were once immigrants to New England. Some of us are working in one city and live in another, or have second homes where you live part of the year. Can we have multiple homes or do we live in one place and choose another as home?
When I moved here from Utah, I left my heart there. The mountains, desert, and network of friends and family were hard to leave behind. It took years for me to settle in and accept this place as my new home. I also discovered that New Englanders are not exactly welcoming to strangers. If your ancestors didn’t arrive on the Mayflower, you must be an outsider. In my workplace, I was largely ignored for the first 2-3 years. My coworkers were polite, but difficult to connect to. Fortunately, we met several folks here at Saint Johns giving us a warm welcome and connecting to us. Some have moved on, but many friendships endure today.
This is a welcoming place because God resides within us and we readily share his love with others. But how readily do we share our hearts? Think of your body language when we meet someone for the first time, particularly if the person is a different race or class. Are we guarded, do we avoid eye contact? I admit that I struggle opening my hearts and lives to strangers – I feel vulnerable to disappointment or betrayal until I get to know them better. Love all and trust few. How long does it take to build trust? In my workplace, it was 2-3 years; that’s a long time.
Friends, our world here in Newtonville is changing. We are all aware of the new buildings going up just a few blocks away and are concerned of traffic, congestion, and lines. We can be wary and concerned or we can see an opportunity to welcome these newcomers into our community and help them establish a new home here. We follow Lydia’s lead, inviting them into our home to stay and help them to bring God into their hearts to make a home with them. We get over our discomfort and radically welcome newcomers and invite diversity into this place. This can be disruptive – imagine how a group of Portuguese or single mothers would change this parish. Would we welcome that?
In today’s reading, Jesus also says “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid… I am going away and coming to you”. He is foretelling of hard times to come and how their world is about to change abruptly. I’ve mentioned earlier that changes in our lives can be difficult. Newcomers bring change which can be disruptive. As long as God is at the center of our parish, this change can enrich our lives. The peace of God in your hearts can calm a frightened and chaotic home. Danish language has a word “hygge (hű-guh) that roughly translates as a quality of cosiness and comfort that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being. Hygge – it’s a nice word and one that describes God’s presence in our hearts. God’s presence can be comforting and loving, can ease our stress and anxiety. With God in our hearts, we can endure anything. Remember that Jesus endured the worst possible situation and we are inspired by his example. Let God bring Hygge into our hearts and make a home.
Let us pray:
O God, you are the calming source of peace and love
Open our hearts and make your home within each of us
That we may share your love with others and help them find a home with you
With help from Jesus, our fearless advocate. Amen