"God is a homemaker"
May 10, 1998 message
Long Green Valley Church of the Brethren
Glen Arm, Maryland USA
based upon Revelation 21:1-6
God is a homemaker. Isnít that what the scripture we just read said? God is a homemaker. "Behold," that loud voice from heaven says, "the home of God is among mortals"; or, as another translation puts it: "Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women!" This revelation from John about the ending and new beginning of things is not some otherworldly affair. God is not relegated to some spiritual place in an ethereal never-never land. The last words of the Bible are down-to-earth, and God is portrayed in a way we can understand - as a homemaker.
Today is a day when we honor those who make a home a home. Granted, fathers are very much a part of the picture when it comes to making a home a home, or at least we should be (right men?). Furthermore, honoring mothers should be a part of every day, and not just one out of 365. Hmmm?! Couldnít the same be said of our relationship with our Creator? We are a part of this household of God, and each of us bears responsibility for making this home a home. Itís not just Godís work, though without the great "I am who I am," our efforts become more like sweeping the dust under the rug. Without Godís saving initiative in Jesus Christ, the home is a wreck, and we are the wreckers - lost amid our broken promises and shattered dreams. Yes, God is a homemaker, but we have our share in the making of this home. Likewise, God should be honored every day, and not just once a week (if that).
Mothersí Day. More than just an opportunity to keep Hallmark or FTD in business, this day has its roots back in the last century as a time for reflection. Our nationís Civil War took the lives of so many motherís sons. The day was originally conceived as a time for saying "never again!," though over the years it lost some of that flavor. To honor motherhood - not some nostalgic trip down memory lane, but the recognition of something very important for today - thatís what this holiday is about. Even in this day of spoken equality between the sexes, it is still a Mother who bears the greater burden in making a home a home.
Now, Iím not just talking about housework. However, while weíre on the topic... You know, my secretary Janet, conveniently cuts out newspaper articles and shares them with me. A while back was one she picked out of the Baltimore Sun about a new study which questions all the work on communication that us counselors do with couples before they get married. The basic gist of the article, perhaps you read it, was that the marriages that survive are not so much those where the husband and wife are good at communication, though that is no doubt important. The marriages that last, if you believe the study, are rather those in which the husband does what the wife says... Iím beginning to think that my secretary and my wife are in league with each other...
Janet brought in another article this past week, this one from the Carroll County Times. It was about sharing housework, and how men still donít do their share in the details of making a home a home. An old story, I know, one which gets repeated in many households, sometimes on a daily basis. Am I right? For the most part, us men donít notice the little things that need to be done around the house. I plead guilty. One woman was quoted in the article as saying, "(husbands) have good will, but theyíre busy so if they can get out of stuff they donít notice, thatís all to their advantage not to notice, ĎHow did that toilet paper appear in every bathroom?í"
Amid the advice given in the article for remedying the situation: "Go ahead, sweat the little things. Over and over, wives say that huge, lofty issues donít destroy marriages - itís the mundane slights like feeling abandoned with the housework." ...ouch... It also encourages "Husbands, give into your wives." Quoting the study mentioned in that previous article Janet handed me, it says "husbands need to be more open to their wiveís influence," an admonition it says is "wildly popular among women." ...as my kids would say, "Duh!"...
Of course, thereís a flip side to the advice. Quote: "Wives, donít be too quick to criticize. Thereís evidence that a man is motivated to do household chores not by a feeling that he ought to do them but a feeling that he does them well." ...Well, fellows, weíve had our chastisement for the day - it is "Motherís Day" after all. Maybe we should take it seriously, perhaps acting on the title of the article: "Give the gift of love: Clean the toilet."
I havenít spoken to the relationship between mother and child, but much of what is said concerning husbands is applicable to children - though they learn from what they see. Honoring a mother involves more than words. Flowery cards are quite nice and needed. Corsages and floral arrangements touch the heart. Chocolate is one of lifeís necessities, as Karen would say. A meal out is great. However, beyond the words spoken this day, the reminder must be uttered: "Love is a verb," an every day verb. "I give you a new commandment," Jesus said, "that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35) Every day love - a verb, not just a noun.
Letís return to our "heavenly" homemaker. Actually, as this next-to-last chapter in the Bible reveals, itís not just an ethereal, never-never land that God is in the process of making. One of the heresies the church has encountered over the years has been one that spiritualizes everything, saying that the physical, tangible world is bad and the invisible, spiritual world is good; that we are in the process of becoming only spiritual creatures; that heaven is far removed from earth, and never shall the two meet. This belief, reappearing in many forms over the years, has been called Gnosticism. Thatís not the message of the Bible, though there are threads within these pages which might lead us in that direction if we allow them to.
The last pages of the Bible counter that belief. Here, at the end of all things, a new beginning, heaven and earth meet - a new heaven, a new earth. Thatís important for us to know, even if we find it hard to grasp what it means. Like most husbands, we canít quite see the details of the homemaking God is about. In fact, let me use Motherís Day as a way of grasping the message of Revelation, at least as I am coming to understand it.
John, who was an overseer, a pastor to those seven churches in what is the modern day nation of Turkey, sought on the island of Patmos, where he was exiled against his will, to see the details in the larger house of God, what made it a home. This pastor becomes our pastor as we listen in. With words he opens the door of the imagination to see the larger picture: what is really happening when Godís people worship, when we encounter evil, we they pray, when we witness. There is more going on than what we can see, hear, taste, smell, and touch. God is at work, even when canít figure it out. God is homemaking. The frightening images of those middle chapters of Revelation, where war is the dominate motif, can be seen in our mindís eye through the image of housework. God is cleaning house, a house that resists the scrub brush, the broom, the scouring pad, the vacuum cleaner of heaven. If this way of viewing things seems beneath your image of God, then, my friend, your God is too small! One image is not enough to convey the truth of the One who says, "behold, I make all things new."
The tangible work of cleaning a house has a larger purpose, doesnít it? Itís part of the process of making a house a home. Of course, housework for the sake of housework does not do that. Without the give and take of working together as a family to do what needs to be done, a house remains just a house. Maybe thatís what the complaint of Mothers is all about. They desire a home, not just a house. A house is where someone else lives, and any work done is like that of a maid. Those frightening middle chapters of Revelation involve Godís people, they/we have a part in making this house a home. God doesnít work alone. God isnít our maid, though thatís the temptation we all face - to see God as our servant rather than our eternal homemaker.
Chapter 21 begins with a fantastic vision. The house has been swept clean and ready to be a home - a new heaven, a new earth. Upon this foundation descends the City of God. The image of a city, this city is important. Our temptation is to find recreation and rest away from the city, out in the country, in the mountains, at the beach. The city is a dirty place, or at best a mixture of good and evil. In Bible days Jerusalem was, yes, a holy city, a focal point for Godís people, but it was also a very corrupt place. Some of the greatest sin took place there.
In this final vision, which is but a new beginning, not an ending, the city becomes a home. It takes on a personality. John goes so far as to call it a bride. Thatís why a home is a home, isnít it? A home is not a thing. It is like a person. Here then is Godís home, the home which God is even now in the process of making, not in some far off, ethereal never-never land, but here. A new heaven, a new earth, together. "World without end, amen." Now, lest we get all hyper about later visions of streets of gold, constructed to larger than imagination dimensions, the "dwelling" spoken of with a loud voice, which God shall make as home, this word "dwelling" should lead our thoughts back to a day before the building of a Temple, when a moveable tent was the place where the holy of holies existed in the middle of Godís pilgrim people. It was there that Godís glory, Godís "shekinah" was present. The word for "dwelling" in the language of the New Testament links us to this Hebrew word.
The 23rd Psalm ends with these words: "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long," a place of safety in the wilderness where God prepares a table feast and anoints with oil. The gospel of John begins by telling how "the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth." (1:14) This shekinah dwelling is already a part of our present experience, though there will be a day when this house will fully become a home, and God will dwell among us fully.
Let me end with words we need to hear again, words of motherlike comfort. Those of you who have experienced loss in the recent past, the death of a loved one or friend, even a mother - may this image of our homemaking God dwell with you deeply as you journey through this present earth, a wilderness where we especially need Godís shekinah presence. Let me put it into first person singular, so that all may hear the promise of Godís dwelling with us. "God will wipe every tear from our eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away." (Rev 21:4) Amen.
The one who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen. (Rev 22:20-21 NRSV)
©1998Peter L. Haynes
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