Magazine article The Christian Century

At Home in God

Magazine article The Christian Century

At Home in God

Article excerpt

Acts 2:42-47
Psalm 23
1 Peter 2:19-25
John 10:1-10

When my children were small, the mommy in me always played tug-of-war with the minister in me. Often, while sitting in an evening meeting, I would dream of being home, curled up in bed, reading to my little ones. And reading to the little one in me.

Margaret Wise Brown's The Runaway Bunny is a book for children of all ages. It is the story of a little bunny who dreams about running away from home, only to find "home" wherever he ends up. His mommy does not stop him from running away, but she does not leave him either. When he climbs a tree, the tree is in the shape of Mommy. When he travels the ocean, the wind is in the shape of Mommy. When he joins the circus, the trapeze artist is shaped like Mommy. Finally, Bunny gets the point. "Aw, shucks!" he says, "I might just as well stay home and be your little bunny." Which he does.

Whether we are bunnies or sheep or people, we cannot run away from God. God is our home, and like the early ark of the Israelites, God travels with us wherever we go. The apostle Paul reminds us that "nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord ... neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation."

The Fourth Sunday in Easter offers us several images of God as home. God is both shepherd and host, pasture and valley, mansion and fortress, still water and open gate. Whatever the circumstances of our lives, God is with us--in peace, tin war, in hope, in fear, in life, in death, in joy, in suffering. When we are at home with God, even the most difficult days are infused with abundant life.

Twenty-five years ago, St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, D.C., was a federal facility with more than 4,000 psychiatric patients, most of them poor and black. As a chaplain intern I was assigned to the cancer ward, where certain death added an extra layer to the human despair. One day I entered an isolation unit to find a wretched shell of a human being--legs and arms chewed up by gangrene, sweat pouring out of a shaking, stinking body. "Dear God," I thought, "what can I possibly say to this man?"

The answer came intuitively. The words of the Lord's Prayer and the Twenty-third Psalm suddenly welled up within me. As the familiar cadence filled that putrid room, the creature before me changed. He stopped shaking. He looked into my eyes and began to speak the words with me. In that moment, he traveled back home, back into the rooms of a long-lost faith. …

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