From 3-5 July last week, as part of my Ordination preparation, I attended the Whitley School of Ministry, entitled “Reimagining Home”. This year Whitley partnered with the Australian Association of Mission Studies, and so through the conference, papers were presented by scholars from around Australia on this theme.
Through the conference, many of the speakers and presenters emphasised the fluid nature of home for many people, especially those on the move, or on the run. Conversely, they emphasised the need for home to be a place of hospitality for the outsider; that when we are comfortable enough to open our arms to others, we are truly at home. The papers considered global migration, indigenous theologies of home, urban challenges of homelessness, rural perceptions of home in a globalising world, the issues of mental health and belonging, and the experience of missionary children in finding home.
So where is “home” for God’s people?
Firstly, “home” remains a destination. Not primarily as a place, but a promise that when Jesus returns, our longing for true peace, rest and satisfaction will be fulfilled. Our true home is with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:1-8), and that will happen when we and all creation are restored, and that promise in Revelation 21:3 comes to pass: “God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”
Secondly, we are at “home” in the Lord right now. Long ago, Jesus came and “made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). And yet as he prepared to leave his followers, Jesus promised the Holy Spirit, which would dwell among them (John 14:15-18). The Spirit is both a deposit of our future home with God (2 Corinthians 5:5), and God’s presence with us right now, day by day.
Thirdly, we experience the joy and sorrow of home-making with all humanity today. Simply because we have a future home experience awaiting us doesn’t make our everyday experience of home any less real or challenging. In this day, we need a place on earth to call home; a building, a group of people, a home-country, a place of rest.
And finally, we are called to be people of gracious welcome and hospitality just as God is to us (James 2:1-7). Are we able to be people who open up our homes to others, demonstrating the love and welcome that God has shown us? Through our response to God’s dwelling among us, may we reflect this love, and point people to our future promise of home with the Lord.