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Sermon illustrations

Home

Defining Home

Biblical words related to home can denote physical dwelling, family household, material possessions, as well as geographical and social connections, but these words only hint at the emotional dimensions of the English word home and its cousins in German, Danish, Swedish, Icelandic, and Dutch.

In these languages home connotes much more than geography and material reality; home also describes an emotional state of being. For the linguistic ancestors of the Old Norse, home, heima, means more than bricks and mortar. In part, its walls are safety, its windows, welcome. Provided there is intimacy and a sense of belonging, a home can be made in almost any place. Home represents humanity’s most visceral ache—and our oldest desire.

Taken from Keeping Place: Reflections on the Meaning of Home Jen Pollock Michel. Copyright (c) 2019 by Jen Pollock Michel. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

The Elderly Contractor

An elderly master carpenter was ready to retire. He told his employer of his plans to leave the house building business and live a more leisurely life with his wife enjoying his extended family.

He would miss the paycheck, but he needed to retire. They could get by. The contractor was sorry to see his good worker go and asked if he could build just one more house as a personal favor. The carpenter said yes, but in time it was easy to see that his heart was not in his work. He resorted to shoddy workmanship and used inferior materials. It was an unfortunate way to end his career.

When the carpenter finished his work and the builder came to inspect the house, the contractor handed the front-door key to the carpenter. “This is your house,” he said, “my gift to you.”

Source Unknown 

Emotions, Language, and the Experience of Homesickness

In her book Keeping Place: Reflections on the Meaning of Home, Jen Pollock Michel reflects on the nature of home in a transient age. In this short excerpt, Michel focuses on the language associated with the experience of homesickness.

In an interview with the New York Times, Tiffany Watt Smith, author of The Book of Human Emotions, described her research on the role that language plays in our emotional lives. As Smith argues, words not only describe how we feel; they distinctly shape how we understand our feelings. In other words, a diminished vocabulary limits not just emotional self-expression but emotional self-perception.

As complex emotional beings, we need nomenclature for fear and self-doubt, longing and desire. In short, we must be taught to explain ourselves to ourselves as well as to others. “One of the emotions I became really interested in when researching the book was homesickness,” Smith described in the interview. In the mid to late eighteenth century, homesickness was counted a credible source of physical ailment and even considered a possible cause of death.

According to medical records, homesick patients experienced the expected symptoms of depression and fatigue, but they also suffered surprising physical ones, such as sores, pustules, and fevers. In severe cases, sufferers refused to eat, growing so weak as to eventually die. Their doctors labeled their deaths severe cases of nostalgia—from nostos, “homecoming,” and algia, “pain.” (The last mention of “nostalgia” on a death certificate was in 1918.)

Taken from Keeping Place: Reflections on the Meaning of Home Jen Pollock Michel. Copyright (c) 2019 by Jen Pollock Michel. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

From the Garden of Eden to the New Jerusalem

The biblical narrative begins and ends at home. From the Garden of Eden to the New Jerusalem we are hardwired for place and for permanence, for rest and refuge, for presence and protection. We long for home because welcome was our first gift of grace and it will be our last.

The settings of our first home and our last home will testify to the nature of the embodied story God is writing in human history. Because God’s story begins in a garden and ends in a city, place isn’t incidental to Christian hope, just as our bodies aren’t incidental to salvation. God will resurrect our bodies, and he will — finally — bring us home.

Taken from Keeping Place: Reflections on the Meaning of Home Jen Pollock Michel. Copyright (c) 2019 by Jen Pollock Michel. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com 

Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived in That House

Perhaps there is no object more desired than a house in America. Meghan Daum writes in her hilarious and poignant book Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived in That House, “There is no object of desire quite like a house. Few things . . . are capable of eliciting such urgent, even painful, yearning.” We long for a house as a marker of who we are. Socially a house is evidence of our success and achievement of the American dream. Houses substantiate our financial status, reputation, and taste.

The story of the suburbs is the story of a house. The single-family residence held out an answer to universal hungers for safety, shelter, beauty, and ease. As the suburbs grew in the twentieth century, they provided access to a more affordable house for consumers. Yet increasingly this was only affordable for white, upwardly mobile, and middle-class residents. In an article in the New York Times Magazine, Matthew Desmond reports, “America’s national housing policy gives affluent homeowners large benefits; middle-class homeowners, smaller benefits; and most renters, who are disproportionately poor, nothing. It is difficult to think of another social policy that more successfully multiplies America’s inequality in such a sweeping fashion.”

A story in the Atlantic states that home ownership remains financially prohibitive if you’re not white: “Hispanic Americans are 78 percent more likely to be given a high-cost mortgage and black Americans are 105 percent more likely.” Our houses, our neighborhoods, our suburbs are more often than not built to keep people out, rather than welcome people in—and once we have wealth, we like to keep our investments safe by monitoring boundaries of race and class in our neighborhoods.

When we try to find ourselves in a product only available to a select few, we miss out on finding both the kingdom of God and ourselves. Ultimately, because a house remains ultimately “eminently chaseable,” as the chief object of our desires, we equate rootedness, safety, and shelter with an object that money can buy.

… Houses indeed seem to be human—the way they hold our baggage, carry our pain, and shelter what is most dear to us. Houses are more than mere objects, more than status symbols, more than indicators of class and privilege. We hope, of course, to find home in them. But we also hope to find ourselves. The sovereign self is inextricably linked to the house.

Our houses symbolize us—not simply in our decorating choices, but also how they represent us as the “sovereign chooser.” In our homes, we choose. It is our money, our time, our decor, our values, and even our choices about who does the dishwashing, whether we eat dinner in front of the TV, or even if we eat together. Our practices of home and the stuff of home illustrate what we value. For most of us in the suburbs, we ultimately value ourselves.

Taken from Finding Holy in the Suburbs: Living Faithfully in the Land of Too Much by Ashley Hales Copyright (c) 2009 by Ashley Hales. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

Home: A Desire for Permanence

Before Seattle resident Edith Macefield died at age eighty-six in 2008, she refused to sell her house to developers for the $1 million they had purportedly offered. Macefield wanted to die at home. Seven years later, long after Macefield’s death, the small six-hundred-square-foot bungalow continued to crouch low in the middle of high-rise commercial buildings in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood.

The house stood as a symbol of an earlier generation’s simplicity, stability, and rootedness. It even became something of a shrine to welcome pilgrims like Elizabeth Forte, who had brought her three young children to pay homage to Macefield’s legacy. “It’s interesting what it makes you feel,” said Forte in an interview with the New York Times.

“Our generation is constantly moving and looking for something new, but your parents stayed put.” As proof that this desire for rootedness has taken root in the consciousness of neighborhood residents, “A local tattoo parlor has inked a likeness of the home—along with the word ‘steadfastness’—on a number of people’s bodies.”

It is neither strange that people would derive such deep connection to the house of a practical stranger nor that they would wish to ink their bodies in tribute. (Seattle residents have also launched the Macefield Music Festival and begun serving a rye-based cocktail, the Edith Macefield, at local bars.)

To lose the place that bore witness to Macefield’s life was to lay mortality bare. A body reduced to dust and a house reduced to debris: in the rubble would lie humanity’s illusory claim to permanence. Yes, there was much to preserve in preserving a small house. In keeping something in place.

Taken from Keeping Place: Reflections on the Meaning of Home Jen Pollock Michel. Copyright (c) 2019 by Jen Pollock Michel. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

Humanity’s Most Visceral Ache

In her book Keeping Place: Reflections on the Meaning of Home, Jen Pollock Michel reflects on the nature of home in a transient age. In this short excerpt, Michel focuses on etymology of home in various languages:

Biblical words related to home can denote physical dwelling, family household, material possessions, as well as geographical and social connections, but these words only hint at the emotional dimensions of the English word home and its cousins in German, Danish, Swedish, Icelandic, and Dutch.

In these languages home connotes much more than geography and material reality; home also describes an emotional state of being. For the linguistic ancestors of the Old Norse, home, heima, means more than bricks and mortar. In part, its walls are safety, its windows, welcome. Provided there is intimacy and a sense of belonging, a home can be made in almost any place. Home represents humanity’s most visceral ache—and our oldest desire.

Taken from Keeping Place: Reflections on the Meaning of Home Jen Pollock Michel. Copyright (c) 2019 by Jen Pollock Michel. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com 

Looking Forward to Home

Whenever I am traveling, I constantly look forward to the moment when I will return home. Even if I’m very busy and preoccupied, in the back of my mind one thought is always present: “Soon I’ll be going home!” Home is a place of peace and security and rest; home is where I belong. How much greater should be our longing for our eternal home! Our true home is heaven—and that is where God’s path leads.

Billy Graham, Searching for Hope, Thomas Nelson.

Home is Three Persons

In her book Keeping Place: Reflections on the Meaning of Home, Jen Pollock Michel reflects on the nature of home in a transient age. In this short excerpt, Michel relates home to the Trinity, the source of all life:

…Home is three Persons versus a single place. The God of nomadic travelers is our home. He is the God of Abraham, who left country and kindred and his father’s house to the land that God would show him. He is the God of Israel, who wandered in the wilderness for forty years. He is the God of the Jews, who were taken captive to Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon after their homes were taken from them by conquest.

And he is the God of Jesus Christ, who, in his most “displaced” moments, cried out to his Father for wisdom, comfort, and presence. This Father—this traveling God who also never leaves, and whose dominion and presence covers every single person, place, and thing—is also our Father. He is never away from us, and we are never away from him.

Wherever we go, his goodness and mercy follow us for all of our days. If we ascend to heaven, he is there. If we make our beds in Sheol, he is there also. And? He is not merely with us; he is within us. He will never leave us or forsake us. In that sense, we are never not at home.

Taken from Keeping Place: Reflections on the Meaning of Home Jen Pollock Michel. Copyright (c) 2019, p.201, by Jen Pollock Michel. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

One Less Responsibility

A distraught man furiously rode his horse up to John Wesley, shouting, “Mr. Wesley, Mr. Wesley, something terrible has happened. Your house has burned to the ground!” Weighing the news for a moment, Wesley replied, “No. The Lord’s house burned to the ground. That means one less responsibility for me.”

Randy Alcorn, Money, Possessions, and Eternity: A Comprehensive Guide to What the Bible Says about Financial Stewardship, Generosity, Materialism, Retirement, Financial Planning, Gambling, Debt, and More, Tyndale Press, 2011.

A Pile of Stuff with a Cover

In his classic monologue, comedian George Carlin riffed on the mountain of stuff we compile. His assertion is that a “house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it.”

So when you get right down to it, your house is nothing more than a place to keep your stuff…while you go out and get…more stuff. ‘Cause that’s what this country is all about. Trying to get more stuff. Stuff you don’t want, stuff you don’t need, stuff that’s poorly made, stuff that’s overpriced. Even stuff you can’t afford! Gotta keep on getting more stuff.

So keep gettin’ more and more stuff, and puttin’ it in different places. In the closets, in the attic, in the basement, in the garage….So now you got a household of stuff. And, even though you might like your house, you gotta move. Get a bigger house. Why? Too much stuff!

Taken from Jeff Manion, Satisfied.

Returning Home

There is a deep longing in every human heart to return to our ancestral home. Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young sing about this in their song “Woodstock”: “We got to get ourselves back to the garden.” This is part of God’s purpose for his people: a return to the place where we began. It is a place of relationship between man and woman and fellowship with God—​​​a place of light and life, of trees and water.

This is the home where we have always belonged, and always will. In the words of Chad Walsh, a literary critic who came to faith in Christ through the witness of C. S. Lewis, “I believe man once lived in utopia, but does no longer, and that he is always trying to return. The name of his first utopia was Eden. . . . It is a part of our heritage. We want to go back. . . . We are haunted by memories of the original garden. . . . We are Displaced Persons, but our old homeland burns and glows in our hearts.”

Taken from Phillip Graham Ryken in Coming Home edited by D.A. Carson, © 2017, p.124. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.

What Home are You Preparing For?

I wonder. What home are you preparing for? Some people spend their lives building ultimate dream homes so they can enjoy their twilight years. Some find themselves exchanging their bank accounts for residence within the gates of a retirement center. Others spend their last days in nursing homes. For those of you who do not know Him, choosing your eternal home is the most important decision you will ever make.

Billy Graham, Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 2011, p.4).

See also Illustrations on BelongingCommunityFriendship, HospitalityPresence, Relationships

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