A sermon on Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
In a political satire on 19th century American economics, L. Frank Baum gave us the timeless image of a young girl from Kansas clicking her ruby slippers together three times: “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.” She was in a land of magic and wonder that many of us would love to visit. Even though she was in the magical land of Oz with witches, wizards, talking scarecrows, tin men that move, flying monkeys, and singing munchkins, she wanted to return home. She wanted to abandon a Technicolor paradise to return to a monochrome farm, where her home was destroyed by a tornado. She wanted to return simply because it was home.
Being a stranger in a place means that one is disconnected from the community around us. Strangers are unknowns, we teach our children to stay away from them. No one sets out to be a stranger as a goal. Imagine the difficulties many in our country face on a daily basis when they do not know our culture, our language, how to ride the bus, how to apply for jobs or aid. Even applying for citizenship, under entirely legal means can be daunting for someone unfamiliar with the complexities of government paperwork. The difficulties refugees, immigrants and aliens face on a daily basis highlight the horrors of being displaced.
Rather, we as a human race constantly desire to be at home, or to return home. Home is a place where our being comes to a rest. We smell the indescribable, unique smell of our houses, see the familiar placement of our furniture, and we know that we are home. We desire homeostasis, for everything to be comfortable, relaxing, and stable. These are things that Jesus did not have. We are told by Christ that he had no place to rest his head, he was always a guest in a foreign land. A truth intensified by the fact that, as a sort of technicality, Jesus himself was a foreigner in a strange land. He did not belong here, but always talked about returning to the Father.
Scripture talks often about “returning home” or of the joys of homecoming, but that event is always in the future. The Israelites in the desert wander for 40 years looking for home, Moses dies without setting his eyes upon it. Jesus himself promises that he is going to prepare a place for us. And as we read in Hebrews, this longing for home, awaiting the promises of a place that has been prepared for us is described as “faith.”
The ease that we often come to an understanding of faith is betrayed by how often we disagree about just what it means. The story I’ve been told about faith in the church starts with the fact that Jesus died for my sins. Should I be so convicted and feel guilty enough to have faith in that fact, I receive salvation. We all have heard the words of Paul “…if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom 10:9). The common understanding, the understanding I had for a long time, was that this was the straight and narrow of Christianity, believe this one truth, and salvation surely will be ours.
In our culture of immediacy, this approach makes sense to reduce the complexities of faith down to one sentence. We don’t read long books, we don’t read long emails. If someone hands us a thick document, our impulse is to give it to someone else and say “Just tell me what I need to know.” Continue reading “Faith Is A Longing for Home”