WHERE GOD IS AT HOME – AUGUST 26, 2018

Where God is at Home

I Kings 8

August 26, 2018

Rev. Dr. Miriam Dakin

 

Home. Just one word and we can imagine familiar surroundings. Home is place that means something – perhaps something different – for each one of us. It is a place where we keep our things and surround ourselves with beauty and/or practicality – whether your furniture can best be described as Williams-Sonoma or late yard-sale. When we are at home, we are who we are – without pretense, and often at our most relaxed state.

My friend, Joyce, welcomes people to her home, saying, “make yourself at home. By that, I mean, if you need something, get up and get it yourself.” She will go on to say that to find what you need in her house, you will almost certainly need to open drawers and doors. She means it when she says she wants you to do so without hesitation.  At my house, I do not make that offer – you could risk life and limb from an avalanche of blankets if you don’t know which closet to avoid.

Solomon was finally the king, in some ways, following in the footsteps of his father, David.  You may remember that David wanted to build a temple for God, but God had other plans and told him, “no.”  So, making the best of the situation, David kept the Ark of the Covenant in Zion – David’s own city – all the while knowing, given the ancient Israelite understanding of where God existed – that Zion, without a temple, was only a temporary home for the Divine Creator.

Solomon would get to be the one to build the temple – the place the Israelites believed God could and would reside, where all people could come and find the God to whom they were devoted. The temple would be a place where people whose devotion was strong could pray, without even being inside, but merely facing toward, and expect that God would hear their pleas and God would hear and answer and forgive.

Home is an incubator for forgiveness. Where else are we living daily with our insecurities and vulnerabilities so exposed? We can keep our thoughts and feelings hidden from people we encounter at work or in social settings, but home is a place where we discover our best – and worst – real selves.

Martin Luther King, Jr. once wrote, “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.” I would add that we are also less prone to hate ourselves – and are then able to forgive ourselves for the mistakes we make.

Where God is at home is the place where God has mercy. To receive mercy, there is a prerequisite of needing mercy – and who among us is not in need of mercy? When we can acknowledge our humanity – our awareness that we are imperfect people – we recognize our ability to keep tending to our need to grow in our faith and devotion to God. Believing that we are not in need of mercy and forgiveness is like saying we weeded the garden, once, but the weeds grew back, so we aren’t falling for that again.

It is true that forgiveness does not change the past. Forgiveness allows us to move forward, unchained to the past, and as Oscar Wilde puts it – nothing annoys our enemies as much as forgiving them.

Right about now you might be thinking that forgiveness is so much easier to talk about than it is to accomplish.  You are correct.  Forgiveness can be tremendously challenging work. The first step is often figuring out how to forgive ourselves. Why is that we often find it easier to say that we know God forgives us than to say we know and feel we are forgiven? I suspect it has something to do with believing that there are some things even God can’t or won’t forgive. The problem with that is that belief means our theology is out of whack (that’s a highly technical theological term meaning, we say one thing, when we believe that the opposite is true about God’s nature and character.) If we refuse to believe that we are forgiven, we essentially say that we somehow know ourselves and our shortcomings better than God does.  When we refuse to forgive ourselves, we are living as if we believe that we have kicked God out of the possibility of being at home in us.

When Solomon dedicated the temple to provide a home for God’s presence, he did so on behalf of those who love God with all their heart.  All our hearts.  When we love with all our hearts, we include even the broken pieces of a heart that has known sadness as well as joy, pain as well as peace. Dedicating our whole hearts to God is a radical, on-going action. It is not a once-and-for-all-accomplishment. We live and breathe and continue to make mistakes. We get angry, which is not a sin, but we choose to act on our anger in ways that separate us from being the best selves we are created to be. That separation between Creator and created is what we call sin. All this means, each day we need God’s mercy and our own self-forgiveness.  Hearts that are wholly devoted to God are not perfect and always right – they are hearts that keep trying, failing, and trying again.

Make yourself at home. Make sure that while you are here, you familiarize yourself with your surroundings.  Explore and find whatever you need.  Make sure you are where you most want to be – surrounded by the people you love and care for – and who love and care for you in return – including yourself.  Make yourself at home means you remember that dedication and devotion are not the same as perfection and that God’s chesed (the Hebrew word inadequately translated to mean “everlasting love”) is the very nature of God – meaning that God cannot and will not be otherwise. Where God is at home is where we are completely exposed, entirely known, unceasingly forgiven, and unconditionally loved, realizing that making ourselves at home is how we make sure God is at home in us.

As we close, may this prayer from Thomas Merton ring true in our hearts and minds:        My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.

And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,

though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. 

 

Where God is at Home

I Kings 8

August 26, 2018

Rev. Dr. Miriam Dakin

 

Home. Just one word and we can imagine familiar surroundings. Home is place that means something – perhaps something different – for each one of us. It is a place where we keep our things and surround ourselves with beauty and/or practicality – whether your furniture can best be described as Williams-Sonoma or late yard-sale. When we are at home, we are who we are – without pretense, and often at our most relaxed state.

My friend, Joyce, welcomes people to her home, saying, “make yourself at home. By that, I mean, if you need something, get up and get it yourself.” She will go on to say that to find what you need in her house, you will almost certainly need to open drawers and doors. She means it when she says she wants you to do so without hesitation.  At my house, I do not make that offer – you could risk life and limb from an avalanche of blankets if you don’t know which closet to avoid.

Solomon was finally the king, in some ways, following in the footsteps of his father, David.  You may remember that David wanted to build a temple for God, but God had other plans and told him, “no.”  So, making the best of the situation, David kept the Ark of the Covenant in Zion – David’s own city – all the while knowing, given the ancient Israelite understanding of where God existed – that Zion, without a temple, was only a temporary home for the Divine Creator.

Solomon would get to be the one to build the temple – the place the Israelites believed God could and would reside, where all people could come and find the God to whom they were devoted. The temple would be a place where people whose devotion was strong could pray, without even being inside, but merely facing toward, and expect that God would hear their pleas and God would hear and answer and forgive.

Home is an incubator for forgiveness. Where else are we living daily with our insecurities and vulnerabilities so exposed? We can keep our thoughts and feelings hidden from people we encounter at work or in social settings, but home is a place where we discover our best – and worst – real selves.

Martin Luther King, Jr. once wrote, “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.” I would add that we are also less prone to hate ourselves – and are then able to forgive ourselves for the mistakes we make.

Where God is at home is the place where God has mercy. To receive mercy, there is a prerequisite of needing mercy – and who among us is not in need of mercy? When we can acknowledge our humanity – our awareness that we are imperfect people – we recognize our ability to keep tending to our need to grow in our faith and devotion to God. Believing that we are not in need of mercy and forgiveness is like saying we weeded the garden, once, but the weeds grew back, so we aren’t falling for that again.

It is true that forgiveness does not change the past. Forgiveness allows us to move forward, unchained to the past, and as Oscar Wilde puts it – nothing annoys our enemies as much as forgiving them.

Right about now you might be thinking that forgiveness is so much easier to talk about than it is to accomplish.  You are correct.  Forgiveness can be tremendously challenging work. The first step is often figuring out how to forgive ourselves. Why is that we often find it easier to say that we know God forgives us than to say we know and feel we are forgiven? I suspect it has something to do with believing that there are some things even God can’t or won’t forgive. The problem with that is that belief means our theology is out of whack (that’s a highly technical theological term meaning, we say one thing, when we believe that the opposite is true about God’s nature and character.) If we refuse to believe that we are forgiven, we essentially say that we somehow know ourselves and our shortcomings better than God does.  When we refuse to forgive ourselves, we are living as if we believe that we have kicked God out of the possibility of being at home in us.

When Solomon dedicated the temple to provide a home for God’s presence, he did so on behalf of those who love God with all their heart.  All our hearts.  When we love with all our hearts, we include even the broken pieces of a heart that has known sadness as well as joy, pain as well as peace. Dedicating our whole hearts to God is a radical, on-going action. It is not a once-and-for-all-accomplishment. We live and breathe and continue to make mistakes. We get angry, which is not a sin, but we choose to act on our anger in ways that separate us from being the best selves we are created to be. That separation between Creator and created is what we call sin. All this means, each day we need God’s mercy and our own self-forgiveness.  Hearts that are wholly devoted to God are not perfect and always right – they are hearts that keep trying, failing, and trying again.

Make yourself at home. Make sure that while you are here, you familiarize yourself with your surroundings.  Explore and find whatever you need.  Make sure you are where you most want to be – surrounded by the people you love and care for – and who love and care for you in return – including yourself.  Make yourself at home means you remember that dedication and devotion are not the same as perfection and that God’s chesed (the Hebrew word inadequately translated to mean “everlasting love”) is the very nature of God – meaning that God cannot and will not be otherwise. Where God is at home is where we are completely exposed, entirely known, unceasingly forgiven, and unconditionally loved, realizing that making ourselves at home is how we make sure God is at home in us.

As we close, may this prayer from Thomas Merton ring true in our hearts and minds:        My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.

And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,

though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.