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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Home Sweet Home




Home Sweet Home

 

 

“Home” holds a powerful influence over most of us humans. Many of us have fond memories of a place and people and time when we felt that we were truly “home”.  My Mother-in-law was twelve years old when she and her family left their home in Poland and came to the United States for a better life.  My Mother-in-law loved America but her mother never stopped being homesick for Poland, her beloved homeland.  Her mother would tell her that just one day in Poland was better than a year in the United States. And I have heard that there are many other foreign born Americans who have felt that same homesickness.

 

We all need to have a place where we feel we belong.  A place that fits us and we can be our true selves!  So often in our minds we remember home and family as nearly perfect.  And then when we return “home,” the real place and real family can never quite measure up to our longings and we come away with a sense of loss.  We sometimes have a similar experience around Christmastime or Thanksgiving.  We expect the holiday dinner and the gathering of family to be nearly perfect – a special time glowing with warmth and joy and comfort.  But often we feel let down by imperfect families and imperfect celebrations, since these holidays are crushed under the weight of our impossible expectations.

 

C.S. Lewis, the famous Christian writer called this longing for a near perfect family home a “spiritual homesickness”.  He writes that our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we feel cut off is the truest index of our real situation.  (C.S. Lewis’ “The Weight of Glory” p. 28.)  Lewis believed that the reason why humans often feel like exiles is because we really are exiles!

 

We read in the Bible that Adam and Eve were banished from their glorious home - the Garden of Eden. Our first parents were the first exiles from their true home. (Genesis 3) And they never could forget all they had lost!  They never could stop mourning that home that had once been theirs.  Have we, their children inherited those traits of mourning that illusive homeland- that paradise lost?   Is the forgotten memory still in our DNA?  We feel homesick for something more because we aren’t really “home” and there is something more!  Could there be a trace of the larger story down in our souls?

 

The very first story in the Bible tells us that we were created by God to live in the luxurious garden of God. (Genesis 2)  Adam and Eve started out in the Garden of Eden- a paradise where there was no disease and no death or parting from loved ones.  Animals frolicked throughout the Garden -the lions playing with the lambs- and no killing or fighting anywhere.  Living rivers babbled through this paradise and luscious fruits and vegetables grew in abundance. The mysterious Tree of Life grew in the middle of the garden and Scripture says that eating the spiritual fruit from this tree would nourish a person with eternal life! (Gen; 3:22)  God was in this place and Adam and Eve walked and talked with Him and enjoyed love and life- the good life. This was our original home, the home beyond our imaginations that was created and sustained for us humans.

 

God was the “Father” of that original homeland.  And He only asked one thing of our first parents – that they not eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  But our first parents wanted to do their own thing, be their own god – and live without God’s interference.  And it didn’t take long for Eve to disobey God and eat from this one forbidden tree and persuade Adam to eat from it also. Their disobedience caused them to fall from grace.  They soon became alienated from God and Scripture says that they were banished from the garden so that they would not eat the fruit of that mysterious Tree of Life and live forever in their sins.  (Gen.3:22)  Living forever in sin in this fallen state would have been a terrible fate worse than death and God saved them from that.

 

 Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden of Eden as exiles.  And it seems their children - the human race - have been wandering as spiritual exiles ever since.  Scripture says we inherit Adams’ nature to sin and we need help. We have been living in a world that no longer fits our deepest longings.  We experience endless frustrations.  Often our hopes and dreams and relationships crumble in our hands.  We live in a fallen world and are subject to pain, disease and death.   

 

Adam and Eve’s son, Cain restlessly wandered the earth because he murdered Abel, his brother.  And later Jacob had to leave his home and live in exile for years because he cheated his father and brother.  And then the Israelites were exiled away in Egypt as slaves until God through Moses led them back home.  And later the nation of Israel was exiled again and taken to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar.  When we read Biblical history we find story after story containing the patterns of exile.  It seems we humans are all cut out of the loop and unsuccessfully trying to come home but never making it.

 

Humans aren’t just broken on the outside but we are broken on the inside too.  We are broken with selfishness and conflicts within our hearts as well as by battles with neighbors and friends.  We are mired in pride and sickness and sin and we aren’t able to fix ourselves. An impossible mess! We need a radical change in our very nature to be able to go back “home.”

 

So God promised humankind over and over again throughout His Word that He would send a Savior – a Messiah- who would bring us back home.  And all of the prophets  prophesied that God is not only our Creator but He will also be our Redeemer. This Redeemer – this Tree of Life- will not only give us a new nature so we can go and fit in back home but He will also redeem the fallen natural world and make it new. The prophets promised that God loves and cares and would send this Savior – this Redeemer- that would bring us back home – if we want to be brought back home. We aren’t there yet, but we have this promise – this redefining hope!

 

The people of Israel were waiting for their Messiah, the king who would redeem them but they were looking for a different kind of a messiah or savior than the one God had promised.  They were looking for a messiah of great military strength and political power. They wanted a messiah who would overthrow Rome and then they would be free to run their own lives.

 

When Jesus appeared and declared that he was bringing them “the kingdom of God” (Mark 1:15) the people weren’t sure because he didn’t fit their expectations of a mighty warrior.  Jesus had not come to deliver Israel from political oppression, but He had come to save all of us from evil and sin and death itself.  He broke the power of death through his death and resurrection.  (Hebrews 2:14)  And He has won the victory over the forces of death that keep the world from being our true home. Someday He will return to make that victory complete. 

 

We read in Isaiah: “Your God will come…he will come to save you.  Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf be unstopped.  Then will the lame leap like a deer and the mute tongue shout for joy.  The ransomed of the Lord will return, they will enter Zion with singing.  Everlasting joy will crown their heads.  Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and signing will flee away.”  (Isaiah 35) 

 

The New Jerusalem, the City of God will come down out of heaven to fill the earth.  (Revelation 21-22)  Scripture says that the presence of God will be in this city, and also the Tree of Life, whose leaves now will work to be “the healing of the nations.”  (Revelations 22:2)  At the end of history the whole earth has become the Garden of God again! Death and sin and suffering are gone.  There will be no more crying or pain or war because “the old order of things has passed away” (Revelations 21:4) 

 

We will all be eating and drinking and embracing and laughing and dancing in the kingdom of God. And the lion will lay down with the lamb. Scripture says that it will be better than we can ever imagine.  Jesus will make the new world our perfect home again.  And we will no longer be living “east of Eden,” always wandering and never arriving.  We will finally be home!  It doesn’t get any better than that!

 

 

 

 

Many of the thoughts and scriptures in this blog were taken from Timothy Keller’s book The Prodigal God   chapter 6  “Redefining Hope” pp. 100-117  

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

    


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