For the last several weeks I have spent time with my mother as she has packed up her home of 40 years to move to a smaller place in community with others. Along with my siblings, at our mother’s request, we sorted through boxes of various possessions—things that, in and of themselves may not be significant but, all together, compose a life. I came across a book I hadn’t noticed Mom’s shelves since childhood, a book my parents read to us after dinner each night when we were young. It is called, “Home is Where God Is”. It was the story of a family. Each chapter contained a scene from family life and a little nugget of wisdom about faith in daily life. There was no high drama, just ordinary challenges like telling the truth, learning to forgive, making tough decisions, sibling rivalry, respecting your parents. . . the everyday stuff of life. This little book would never make it over any post-modern standard for diversity or inclusivity, and it certainly will never win a prize for literature. But it was part of my faith formation. It gave me eyes to see God in the very ordinary relationships and rhythms of home. It taught me that faith in God had something to do with how I treated people, even those people closest to me. And I learned that, for me, faith and home were inextricably bound.
With my mother’s move, I have had quite a bit of opportunity to reflect on what makes a house a home. I thought back to the “Faith and Family Homelessness” project St. Mark’s participated in a few years ago. To build awareness of the many issues attached to homelessness, children were asked to respond to the question, “What makes a home?”. Some of the answers were tangible, like shelter, warmth, your own bed, your own toys. Many were less tangible, but not surprising. Love. Family. Acceptance. Safety. A Place to Rest. Often when people are without the items on the first list, they fear losing the fundamental human needs that make up the second list. They are all bound together.
This week, as a congregation, we are hosting five families who are currently facing the challenges of homelessness. Notice I say we are “hosting” them, not “housing” them. It is our prayer and our intention that they will have not only a roof over their heads, but that they will also experience love, acceptance, a safe place to rest and a sense of extended family, if only for a week. Our church building will never feel like home to them, but maybe it can hold the promise of home for them and give them the hope of a better time. And as we sit down for dinner together, as we learn each other’s names and share stories, as we clean tables and play games and chase children, we trust that God is with us. It is this ordinary stuff of daily life that God uses to shape us into people of faith, and to make a house a home.