Sometimes God is gracious enough to knock us over the head with the baseball bat of The Obvious.
Gracious -because we are saved a lot of work in sifting through the stuff of our daily lives to find meaning. Gracious - because the dots come all connected. This morning, I have received such a gift. God has delivered a salient theme. All week long
I have heard stories of "homing."
"Homing" is the practice - or event- of finding home. Of coming home. Some definitions of "homing" point to the inherent ability of one to find a place of origin- 'een traveling through unknown territory- think of homing pigeons.
A couple of weeks ago I posted a message on FaceBook that our cat had escaped from the condominium that we're renting. I was stupid enough to take her outside before she was fully settled and a sudden noise startled her and she bolted. I was just short of frantic; this cat is really my husband's cat and here I was in PA (he was still in CT) and I'd lost the cat and I couldn't imagine how she'd find her way back to our condo... our place... that looked exactly like the other 200 brick-faced, cement-patioed places in this development. I fretted. I paced. I called my husband. And the cat came back an hour later. She slipped in the narrow opening of the screen door, cool as a cucumber, as though nothing unusual had happened. Homing. My posting of this story on FaceBook elicited a great number of responses- many of them with homing stories of other cats and dogs gone astray. My favorite one was about the cat who ran away and 7 months later returned... on Easter. An appropriate liturgical homing.
The stories that I've heard this week have been about finding home in the Episcopal Church. I've heard about the journeys of 4 different people who found their way to the Episcopal Church- a Church that they have found to be welcoming and inclusive. A Church that they have been able to claim as their spiritual home. The Sacraments. Dignified Liturgy. Mystery. Challenging theology. Inclusivity. Diversity. Social Witness. These are some of the elements of our Episcopal tradition that were mentioned again and again in these homing stories.
I like that "challenge" is part of these stories. While I think of "home" as a place that features mashed potatoes and meatloaf... a big, soft down comforter to curl up in.... sunlight playing on the leaves of sturdy geraniums squatting in clay pots on broad windowsills- while I love the image of home as comfort- I also appreciate that home can be a place of challenge. Of truth telling. Of vulnerability. Growing up with several brothers and sisters, I can testify to home as a place of comfort and a place of challenge and learning. Negotiating the way forward as a teenager who shared a room with a sister 10 years younger... jockeying for car privileges with 5 other teenaged drivers in the house... sharing clothes and bikes and trading Oreos for earrings... this crazy home of mine offered comfort and the challenge of learning to live in community. I hear similar strains from those who belong to church communities- of the way that different groups within parish systems either work together (or rub against each other) in the sharing of their spiritual home. And, for the most part, this communal push and pull is good, because it shows life and engagement. It shows investment. It's when we lose sight of the prize- working for the Glory of God and participation on God's mission- that we get stymied and stuck.
My husband and I are looking for a home. I've told several people that I feel a little bit like a dog who is walking around and around in circles, trying to find the exact right space on the floor to settle. We must have looked at over 50 homes in the Greater Harrisburg area by tracking down addresses of places that we've seen on the internet, and we've dragged our patient realtor to at least 15 different houses for an inside look. Without jinxing it, I think that we may have found "the one." So- what is it about this place that puts it above the rest? Mostly, it is the "feel." Sure, it's within a reasonable commuting distance of the diocesan offices, it is in "turn-key" condition, it's (almost) in our price range, and we've decided that our old arts & crafts style furniture won't look silly in it, but at the end of the day, it just feels right. It is comfortable. It could be home.
I was out on a bike ride this morning. I like to walk, run and bike around the "neighborhood" of our condo complex. I'm fascinated with how people personalize their small plots of land to make them their own. There are garden statues of Mary, mini windmills, short trellises with climbing vines, annual flower beds and wind chimes. Our next door neighbor has a pink flamingo standing in a large grecian urn with tropical flowers spilling out of the top. Anything goes, it seems. And all of it in an effort to "make home." I joined the game and found a solar charged lucite hummingbird that floats over our patio at night, changing color every three seconds. It's a happy little thing.
And while these talismen help to project our identity and claim our space, to "make home," there is a deeper source of identity in which I find the ultimate "homing:" The homing in God. I could not help but think, this morning, as I rode around cul de sac after cul de sac, of the worlds of Augustine:
"Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee." (Confessions, Book 1)
Yes. It is in God that I find my supreme rest. And it is in
God that I will finally stop my circling 'round and 'round and find comfort, wholeness and home.
The link at the top of the page is to a Youtube presentation of a hymn. A clergy person who visited with me yesterday said that this is her favorite hymn and I immediately thought of its next-to-last verse. The tune is Slane, and the verse goes like this:
Lord of all kindliness,
Lord of all grace,
your hands swift to welcome,
your arms to embrace;
Be there at our homing and give us we pray,
your love in our hearts, Lord,
at the eve of the day.