I was in Barnes and Noble a couple of days ago with the theme house, home and building on my mind. Did you know that the largest number of magazines (about 120 different ones) are on the topic house and home? Building them, renovating them, finding them, designing them, restoring them, decorating them, caring for them, fixing them, maintaining them, filling them up, stripping them down, living in them, loving them. It s amazing how much time, money, energy and attention we put into our houses, into making a house a home! For ourselves and for our families.
Then I thought, I wonder how many books the store has on this theme. But before heading off to count, I remembered time was running out and I had a sermon to write. On a passage that s also about buildings and builders, house and home, house building and home making.
Homes are the spaces where families come together, whether large or small or somewhere in between. If we live alone it can be a place of sanctuary or a place we open up to share with extended family and with friends.
Home is the place where we can be who we are and hopefully still feel accepted and cared about, even if, on bad days, we think it s only the household cat or dog that appreciates us. I shouldn t say only because sometimes they re better at it than the humans in our lives. I came across a card the other day that reinforces this. It read: You can say any foolish thing to a dog, and the dog will give you this look that says, My goodness, you re right! I never would have thought of that! Talk about unconditional love, approval and acceptance! It s no wonder dog spelled backwards is _ _ _.
As I mulled over the idea of house and home the following seemed to emerge as basic truths:
Home is a feeling, not just a place.
You can upscale, downsize, add on or leave as is. But it s not really the square footage that counts, it s what goes on inside that makes it home or not.
Your home can be the single largest asset, by value, on your balance sheet.
That is, when you tally up its value not with a calculator but with your heart.
They say Home is where the heart is. If that s the case, we carry it with us wherever we go and share it with whomever we meet.
That is, if we go with an open heart.
The passage this morning from the Letter to the Hebrews is short. The word house is used seven times. That tells us something. We re to take notice. A variation of the word build/building is used three times. This isn t coincidental. We re to take notice.
Who is the passage addressed to? To brothers and sisters, that s how it starts. So its about family. To holy partners, that s how it continues. Partners for what purpose? To respond to a heavenly calling.
So we ve got something addressed to what looks like family members, to siblings. Not family because of a genetic blood line, but by adoption into a spiritual one made possible by the blood of Jesus Christ. Siblings who are to be partners. And this is not an ordinary partnership, it s a holy one. How has it come about? By a heavenly calling. And it has to do with building a house.
This is a message that confronts us with two major questions: 1) Who is the builder? and 2) What or where is the house being built?
The passage is complex despite its brevity. This passage is like a jewel. We can hold it up to the light, turn it slowly and each facet captures the light with a slightly different angle. But the answers to the two questions are clear within: 1) God is the builder of the house; and 2) You and I, brothers and sisters within the family of God, are God s house.
In early apostolic times church happened as groups gathered together under one roof as a house church. Individuals and families came together within a home, worshipped together, ate together, sharing what they had and then went forth, nourished and sustained, re-sourced and strengthened. As they gathered and shared, they became the church. As they left they carried church with them, knowing that they would come together again and again, sharing and growing from the center out.
Today is the day in our year as a church family we come together in this place we call our church home for something we call Pledge Sunday. Today, you will walk up this aisle and place on the altar your pledges of support for the coming year. You will bring forward your pledge to support this house church and what s being built here by God. You will pledge your individual gifts from God to be shared so that an ever widening circle can be nourished and sustained, resourced and strengthened.
What you do today is really a symbolic action. Done annually. As you come forward consider the steps you take. That you may remember in the days to come the journey towards God s call is one of action, one of intentionality and one that God asks us to make only one step at a time. And that journey, step by step, is made in God s presence and with God s help.
As you come forward be aware of the people walking ahead, beside and behind you. Look at them. That you may remember you are a partner with each of them, and that you walk together in a holy partnership as a family.
As you come forward be aware of the path you take. That you may remember this path you walk to bring a gift to the altar is the same one you walk to receive a gift from that table God s gift we call Holy Communion the body and blood of Jesus Christ the gift of life.
As you come forward ask God to bless your gift. That you may remember whatever you give is, by itself inadequate, but when blessed by God and combined with others gifts, it can work miracles.
God is the builder of the house. You and you and you and you and all of us together are it. Because of Jesus Christ, the issue is not whether we re worthy to be God s house, the issue is whether we are, individually and collectively, willing to open our hearts and join in this holy partnership to become it.
Therefore, before you come forward to bring your tangible gift, take a quiet moment and open your heart. That you may bring your open heart with you as you come forward, offering it also for the Master Plan of the Master Builder.
Next time you are at Barnes & Noble check out the section on house and home. Luxuriate in all the creative possibilities that can happen to make a house not just a structure, but a dwelling place, a home. Then open yourself to the wonder and the miracle of a God who is working within you and within those around you to build, restore, renew, refresh, strip down, fill up, create, sustain, maintain, and make beautiful that place within you and others that place where God wants to live and call home. Then ask God, What can I do to help?