Homemaking. The Christian life is a kind of homemaking. To make a home in this world, to make a life together, the routines and practices, the rituals and habits, where a people learn how to belong with one another—to find a home, not as property, not in a building, but instead with each other, a shelter from the storms, a haven for us to grow in faith and hope.
A longing for a home—that’s what I hear this week from our passages, from the book of Revelation, the Gospel of John, and Psalm 23. A longing for rest, for safety.
In Revelation, chapter 7, in that cosmic vision, the author sees a multitude gathered in the heavenly throne room, there in God’s home. In the vision, an elder explains the scene—this is from verses 14 and 15: “These are the one who have come out of the great ordeal… the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them” (Rev 7:14-15). God draws the people close. God shelters the persecuted multitudes.
The image of God’s shelter here in this passage is the tabernacle, that tent of God’s presence in the Old Testament. The tabernacle was the shelter of God’s presence that traveled with Israel as they wandered in the wilderness. As a people on the move, God accompanies Israel—the tabernacle at the heart of the community, a moveable shelter, a traveling refuge.
In one of my favorite Psalms, in Psalm 91, the tabernacle in the wilderness becomes a nest. The Psalmist talks about the tabernacle as a nest, with the people of Israel as baby chicks in God’s care. Here’s the verse: “God will cover you with his feathers. God will shelter you with his wings” (Ps 91:4). God’s tabernacle, God’s house, becomes a nest, with God as a bird, sheltering us under her wings. And no one will snatch away the people from the nest—that’s the promise of the Psalm.
Or, in the words of Jesus from John’s Gospel that we heard today, “No one will snatch them out of my hand,” he says in verse 28 (Jn 10:28). In John’s Gospel, the image is Jesus as the shepherd who watches over the sheep. But it’s the same idea: God’s presence makes a home for us, even when we are surrounded by enemies, by evil, a home as we move here and there in the world—God as a nest in the wilderness.
Homemaking, like birds with their nests—that’s what we’re about as the church, as God’s people. We’re a nest.
Every spring, I’m always surprised by the bravery of birds—I’m always a bit amazed at how they build nests in places that seem a little dangerous, in spots that seem too close to predators. But they make the best with what they’ve got, even in precarious situations. They know what they need to know in order to pick out the good spots for their nests.
This church is a nest, you are a nest. God has woven our lives together to create a home in the world for the gospel, for good news, a shelter for hope and joy and all things good. The Christian life is about nesting, about being people who are able to build nests wherever we go, wherever we happen to settle for a season, knowing that God has always been mobile, living in a tent, a tabernacle, providing people a shelter in the wilderness.
We live our lives in a wilderness of violence, in a world full of hostility and destruction. And, despite it all, we learn to pray the words of the Psalmist: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me” (Ps 23:4). This verse from Psalm 23 bears witness to a stubborn hope in God, the kind of hope that refuses to give up, a stubborn trust in the provision of God, our trust in God’s care despite our fears.
“I fear no evil, for you are with me.” When we pray these words from the Psalmist, when we say “you are with me,” we’re supposed to be talking to God but I think we also hope that others will overhear us. We pray to God with the hope that the people around us will hear an invitation to join us, to become part of our lives: “I fear no evil, for you are with me.”
You are with me.Not just God, but each other too—that’s our hope. That each of us will be ministers of God’s care. That we can reach out to each other for God’s comfort when we are afraid. “I fear no evil, for you are with me.”This is a prayer for companionship, for us to be drawn together, for our lives to be signs of God’s presence, our love as incarnations of God’s love.
The gospel is summed up in that one preposition in the Psalm: “with,” that God is with us, that we are with each other, and that we are with God when we are with one another.
“With” means companionship. With means solidarity. With is the heart of the gospel—that God became flesh in Jesus to be with humanity: Jesus as God with us, and the church as Christ’s body for each other. “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me.”
Week after week, we listen, here, during worship, to our prayers, as we will do in a few moments—we listen to prayers for our world and our lives. We don’t have any illusions about our world. We’re honest about the valleys of death all around us, we know that there are enemies, we know that we’re complicit in evils beyond our immediate control.
The Psalmist knows this world, too. There is no promise in Psalm 23 of a life without enemies; there is no promise of life without evil. Instead, in the valley, the Psalmist sees a table, a place for fellowship, for communion, for being with God and with each other—“a table before me in the presence of my enemies” (v. 5). Around the table, that’s where God happens.
As a community, as the church, we practice a stubborn hope, the stubbornness of building nests and setting up tables wherever we find ourselves, no matter how precarious our lives may be, no matter how fragile we may feel, no matter the threats from enemies.
We do what God does: we turn our lives into a nest, where people can find the life of God. The church is a nest where all are welcome to rest into God’s love. The church is a table where all are welcome to eat and drink in the presence of God. In us, the body of Christ, God is made flesh. That’s why we can pray, together, those words from the Psalmist: We fear no evil, for you are with me.