July 29, 2005
Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked. (Psalm 84:10)
As we rushed around this morning getting ready for a 6-day trip to a family reunion, I kept running into my son Joshua. He was running from room to room, seemingly for no reason at all. After sidestepping him a few times on my way to get one last-minute thing or another done, I was starting to get just the slightest bit impatient. So after almost tripping over him one last time I said, “Josh, can I help you with anything?”
Josh paused long enough to look up at me. Then he started past me again. But as he went I could hear him saying, half-seriously, “Help me look at our whole house one last time. I want to be able to remember all of it.”
He was running all over the house trying to get one last look so that while he was away from home he'd have a clear picture of it in his mind.
A clear picture of home in his mind. Those who are reading this who are a part of the Northwest church are likely reading it on Sunday, either before or after worship. I hope you understand that whatever else may have happened at worship, the main idea is that you walk away with a clear picture of home in your mind. We forget easily. We think home is the house where we live, or the family with whom we live. We think home is where we were born or where our friends are or where our roots are. We think of home as an address, a name on a mailbox, a favorite chair and the voices of our spouse, our kids, our parents.
Or home is an ideal. For some of us it's a place longed for, but never experienced. We imagine that one day we'll find a place where we always belong, where we're appreciated and loved and valued. We imagine a place of ultimate security that is out there somewhere waiting for us, and we think of life as one long quest for that place.
We need a clearer picture of home in our minds.
Don't get me wrong; I appreciate my wife and son and the place I call home. I appreciate my home church, my home state, my hometown. I'm one of the blessed who has a place to call home and who feels loved and valued and safe there. But there's a danger in that, too, a curse that is the flip-side of that blessing. It's all too easy to feel so at-home in the place I call home that I forget where home really is. It's all too easy to forget that there is nothing and no one in this world that can create a permanent home for me. The life we live here is all about change: aging parents and growing children, birth and death, lost jobs and promotions. The best relationships don't last forever. Financial fortunes ebb and flow. Sin and death intrude even into the places we call home.
The psalmist had a clear picture of home in his mind, and it had little to do with where he lived or who was around him. He wrote to proclaim - or perhaps to remind himself - that home was all about the presence of God. That any place was home when he was in God's presence, and that no place was home when he lost sight of God's face.
So what about us? What about you? You can appreciate it when this life gives you a taste of home, but don't ever allow that taste to satisfy your hunger for the home that only God can give you. The home that we find from time to time in family, church, friendship - that's only a whiff, a sneak preview of the home that we can have in God. Allow it to whet your appetite, but don't make the mistake of thinking that anything the world or human beings can offer can be home for you. You aren't made for that. You're made to live forever in the presence of God, to rejoice in the warmth of his love, lose yourself in celebration of his grace, and wrap yourself in the comfort and security of his faithfulness.
The psalmist knew the temptation of calling the places and people around him home, but he also knew what would keep him from giving into that temptation. Worship. When he came into God's presence in worship he knew he was home. Whatever competing visions of home might impinge upon his imagination, worship lifted his imagination to dwell on being truly at home in God's presence.
It will for us as well, and that's why we need to worship. Oh, God deserves our worship, no doubt about that. We should worship him just because of who he is. But the great blessing of worship to us is that it allows us to come into the presence of our Father and ask him to help us to remember our home. When we worship, as Walter Wangerin says, “we are reminded who owns the house.”
And when we worship, God gives us a tour. He leads us around his house, shows us its treasures, and reminds us that there is a place there for us, too. And when we go out into the world in which we live, it is with hearts quickened, spirits lifted, and imaginations captivated by what we've seen. When we go back out into the world in which we live, we go as aliens and strangers, unable to feel quite so at home there as before.
If you're having trouble remembering what home looks like, then perhaps a time of worship is what you need. Go to your Father and ask him to show you the house. The promises of the world will look a lot less charming, its shelter less secure, its foundations less firm. And you'll go away convinced that there is nowhere else you want to live than in the safety and peace of God's house.
Make yourself at home.
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