This week I have been trekking back home – not the one in Grovetown, but the one in Putnam County. Actually I have not made it so far as home, but to my home church of my childhood. Beside it is the cemetery where my grandparents are buried and where I will be too one day. Just beyond the modest porch of the church is a Georgia Historical sign indicating that this church – Philadelphia Methodist Church – is where Joel Chandler Harris worshipped 150 years ago when he was just a boy. I was honored to be invited to preach their revival this week. Each night fifty or so familiar faces gather in the small sanctuary to listen to the “boy” they have helped to raise. They are getting older but as I glance at my graying beard I am reminded that I am getting older too. I became a Baptist at sixteen when I joined the church in town, but the collection of small churches around our dairy farm will always be home to me.
Over the years Amy and I have been pretty good at nesting for ourselves places to call home – even when we knew our stay would be temporary. Our first “home” was a tiny garage apartment in Rome, Georgia where I was finishing up my last year of college. Whenever our landlady would crank her ’72 Buick the roar of the motor would shake books off of our shelves. Our next home for three years was our seminary apartment. It was an efficiency unit which meant that you could place your hand in every room in the apartment while seated at the kitchen table. We loved our apartments and they were as much a home to us as if we lived in a sprawling subdivision.
In the years following seminary we have lived in two very fine parsonages and one church owned furlough house that we also called home. The addresses change and so have the churches. It is my honor to call First Baptist Church of Augusta my home and when I am tired at the end of the day I feel at home when my car pulls into the driveway of 130 Nicoles Way.
Home is more than a slice of real estate or a postal address. It is as much a residence of the spirit and province of the consciousness. Do you remember when Jesus reminded his disciples, “… do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25) These words may not mean much to those of us who stay air-conditioned in the summer and centrally heated in the winter, but what about those families who lost their homes to Hurricane Katrina? Or the thousands of earthquake victims in Indonesia?
If nothing else these calamities are brusque reminders of the temporal natures of our houses. To be truly home, however, has a lasting permanence. For ancient Israel, to be home was not necessarily to be in a certain geographic region but to be with God. All of us will spend the rest of our lives searching for and making homes. Please do not confuse them with bricks and mortar. These will one day come to nothing. Our home is with God and this may take us to the far corners of the globe or simple down the shaded street.
Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor writes, We can serve the God who feeds and clothes and shelters by doing some of that ourselves, but always with the knowledge that it is God who provides -no – who is our true and only home, in whose household there is plenty – for the birds of the air, for the lilies of the field, and for every one of us.
Grace be with you,