BY EVAN WELCHER
To quote Kill Bill “This is me at my most masochistic.”
Or to put it another way, this is me at my most Focus On The Family.
It was February in Minneapolis, frigid in and out. Nine or so months had crawled by since my Resplendent Bride’s home-going, and there I was at a Pastor’s conference. This particular Pastor’s conference has recently encouraged Pastors to bring their wives and other churchly folk involved in this or that.
Prayer time rolled around. If my addled memory serves correctly we were encouraged to stand up because we were meeting in a civic auditorium and as such were operating without the prayer concentrating power of a Church steeple.
Something like that.
Whether it was the wording of the prayer request itself or the words of the intercessor, the general gist was that there were these young men discerning a call, and these old men who had run from the call for years, and these non-trads discerning a call as a second or 5th career, well… they had the wife, and they had the kiddos too, but the one thing they lacked was a Church.
I remember it all being rather emotional. Many whom minster in the independent Church can relate to the fear and uncertainty one experiences after spending a boat load of money on a theological education only to have no call backs on those prayerfully mailed resumes. We all want a placement… We all want a home.
What if this was all a terrible mistake? I understand the sentiment of the prayer: “O God, what do you want of me?” Have we not all prayed as much at dusk on the day of doubt?
I am not writing about that.
For as the prayer went on and on (I’m not proud to admit this, for it does not depict me in the best light and I do work oh so hard to think highly of myself) the voice of self pity whispered ever so softly into my grief rusted hippocampus, “You have a Church, but they have everything”.
Yes, they had wife and progeny. If only they had a Church.
We are always eyeing the absinthe colored grass on the other side of the fence.
But I say to you, “Go home, son.”
Liberals delight in depicting the Lord Jesus as a homeless man,
And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." ~ Matthew 8.20
Conservatives point out He resided in Capernaum,
And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: "The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles-- the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned." ~ Matthew 4.13-16
While the overly spiritual would say that The Lord’s home was the Temple,
And he said to them, "Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" ~ Luke 2.49
What astounds me as an introvert lite (that is to say I’m an introvert but consider it to be a mild preference rather than some kind of debilitating medical condition) is how our Lord put up with liberals, conservatives, and the overly spiritual alike at dinner parties (Matthew 9.10).
For out of all the things our Lord did for us one of the least celebrated is how He endured with such patience many a dinner party so that teaching moments could arise and be saved for perpetuity by the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures.
Christ for you indeed.
We know full well that Heaven is where our citizenship is, and the Lord Jesus is preparing a room in the Father’s house for us (Philippians 3, John 14).
And I would be woefully remiss to write an article for Christ Hold Fast without mentioning the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15, although that is more about leaving and returning to a person than a house, but that is, I think, perhaps where this is all going.
Home is an interesting concept to research in the Scriptures. It can mean a literal dwelling of sticks and stones, or it can mean one’s family, a royal line, a nation, and yes, even the Bride of Christ: the Church (2 Samuel 7, 1 Kings 2.36, Psalm 127.1, Job 8.15, Judges 18.31, Amos 5.21-27, Ezekiel 10, Genesis 7.1, 2 Kings 17.21, Matthew 2.11, 13.57, 2 Timothy 1.16, Hebrews 3.2-6, 1 Peter 4:17, 1 Timothy 3.15).
So it is that a home is family, and not without irony, most dwell in a house. The two terms become synonymous over time. When you say you’re going “home” you mean both the location and the people. On the one hand we preachers try to lead God’s people toward godly humility. We try to lead them away from the consumerism so emblematic in the plague of cultural excess that is the “McMansion”. Yet, for all that, there is something beautiful about a sturdy structure composed of brick and timber. A structure a family may return to for generations. I supposed that is why I named my home “The Hermitage”, because a house deserves a name, as do all sacred vessels. Churches meet in homes to this day, just as it was in the beginning.
The Greek word for house/family is “Oikos”, which you may recognize from the dairy aisle, for it is a yogurt with the consistency of mortar.
Go home, son.
I think about those young family men, yearning for a ministry to call their own. Earnestly desiring to serve God’s people… to put in the long hours for The Kingdom. It is a noble thing they desire.
Go home, son.
I see the young men, yearning for platform. They desire to make an impact through blogs, books, podcasts, and the machine gun we call Twitter. They have the best of intentions, no doubt. How will the world turn without their mighty voice?
Go home, son.
I see the seminarian. He’s a weary Dad, balancing a book in one hand and a baby in another. He yearns for a day when his precious library will not be scribbled and barfed upon.
Go home, son.
Perhaps the yearning for a moment of peace and quiet might make a woolly beast on one side of the absinthe green field cast a wandering eye over the fence toward The Hermitage.
The lure of quiet whispers cold and dry as death on the nape of his neck, “How one could use widowerhood for the Lord.”
I have read tweets from family men (whom are always quick to add a caveat of undying love for family) admonishing the singles to use the peace and quiet they now enjoy for the Lord.
I know what they mean.
But the quiet isn’t always peaceful.
The sunflowers have wilted.
The leaves are falling.
The Hermitage once blooming,
Under a Resplendent Bride’s touch,
Now lays dormant under a layer of dust,
And the faint scent of musk.
The books are piling up higher everyday.
Saw dust and coffee tins.
Tools and bikes.
Weights and wood.
Faint remembrances of feminine frivolity evidenced by DIY door wreaths.
She’s over there.
On the other side of the horizon,
Dancing with the Crucified Carpenter King,
On the everlasting prairie.
Where the sunflowers never fade.
Go home, son.
Evan Welcher is senior pastor of First Christian Church in Glenwood, Iowa. He graduated with a B.S. in Biblical studies from Emmaus Bible College in 2005. Evan’s goal in ministry is to stir up love for Jesus Christ by the giving of great care and fidelity to the teaching of the scriptures.