Hospitality

When Faith is Tough (by Joel Davis)

Originally posted on the His Vigorous Heart blog... 

 Photo: Joel Davis

Photo: Joel Davis

I’m Nine-ing so hard right now.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Enneagram, it is a personality assessment tool that we have found helpful at the Yellow House to help manage and understand our differences. Essentially, it categorizes 9 primary personality types that people can fall into, along with associated “wings” and periods of health and unhealth that expands and encompasses a wider range of emotional fluidity….whatever, it’s all very mathematical and complex and has already filled up countless hours of conversation in our house, with people who love it and people who are absolutely sick of hearing about it. (I fall somewhere toward the latter, but I do find it fascinating.) 

The Enneagram goes deeper than the Myers-Briggs and other similar tests, looking not only at how we act, but our motivations for doing so. Apparently, this tool stretches all the way back to the Ancient Greeks, developing popularity among the monastics and Eastern Orthodox priests, and is still being used widely today. 

If you’re interested in finding out what number your personality is, here’s the free online test we took

(And send me your answer, because regardless of how much I try to pretend like I’m over it, I’m actually really interested in diagnosing everyone I know.)


When I say I’m Nine-ing, what I jokingly mean is that I’m avoiding conflict and/or stressful situations by pretending they aren’t there slash removing myself from them. As a Nine, one of my primary goals is peacemaking, which often means I put other people’s desires before my own (why create conflict by sharing my opinion when I could just go with the flow?). When I can no longer handle being a doormat, however, my next option is to just disappear.

...I know. It’s not really the most effective way to actually handle stress. Nor is it the most noble. 

But that’s why I have sequestered myself in my room on the third floor, wrapped myself in a blanket, grabbed the nearest book, and crawled into my hammock. (Yes. You read that right. I have a hammock hanging in my bedroom. My house is cooler than your house.)

Sometimes community isn’t easy. Being a house known for its hospitality comes with a lot of expectations and demands, and sometimes you find strangers at your door asking for things you’re not sure you’re comfortable giving them.

Like last month, for example, we were getting ready for bed, when we heard a scream outside and witnessed a woman getting thrown out of a truck by a boyfriend who’d had too much to drink. One of my sweet housemates rushed outside and immediately invited her in. We fixed her some tea, offered her a sandwich, asked her questions, and then, when she excused herself to use our bathroom, we stared at each other with slightly panicked expressions on our faces. It’s 12:30 at night and we have a crying drunk woman in our bathroom who refuses to go home to her abusive boyfriend and can’t find any of her friends willing to take her in for the night. What have we gotten ourselves into?

(Thankfully, we have a wise and intelligent director who lives across the street from us. Don’t worry, Mom; you’d better believe we took this interval to send someone to go pound on her door until she woke up to come rescue us. In return, we gave her coffee.)

Usually, our hospitality is not so drastic in nature. Often, we have neighbors who simply want to come over to shower, to use our laundry machines, to spend the night because their house doesn’t have power. It’s not uncommon for some of the neighborhood kids to stop by our house for a popsicle or a glass of cold water on hot afternoons. 

But then, sometimes, someone drops a bombshell like “I’m a single black woman. I need a place to stay for two weeks. By the way, I have two kids under the age of 2.” And when she’s standing on your doorstep and she’s been your neighbor at the house down the block for several months and her sons are some of the most adorable creatures you’ve ever seen in your entire life, it’s really hard to say no. 

So here we are, having said "Yes" not only to her, but to her children, to her lifestyle, and to all of the excess baggage that goes along with saying yes to anyone in this circumstance.

I wish I could say that all of me was on board with this. I’d like to believe that my house would always be open to anyone in need; that I wouldn’t kick a young family out on the streets. But evidently it’s a lot easier to say those things than it is to live them out. I’m not trying to justify it, but for this introvert, “home” should be a place where I feel safe, comfortable, at peace; where I can relax and not have to be around other people all the time; where I know what is expected of me and know that I am capable of it. 

 Photo: Amanda Angers

Photo: Amanda Angers

Reader, pray for us: our oldest is 25, our youngest is 23, and none of us are capably ready to be parents. Yet already we’ve found ourselves taking care of the kids when the mom has had to step out to take a phone call, to smoke, or--inexplicably, one time at 4 in the morning--when the baby was crying with a full diaper and neither the mom or a clean change of clothes were to be found. (It all worked out in the end.)

This life of radical generosity and hospitality that Jesus presented--as much as I wish it was easy or that it came naturally--is a daily struggle. And I think that’s something I needed to be reminded of. I’ve kind of found myself coasting along lately, satisfied that I’m “doing enough” but not really sacrificing anything. And I’ve realized that without putting myself out there like I have, I never would have known that I wasn't putting myself out there before. 

For once, I finally have the opportunity to start practicing the things I believe in (I actually know poor people, homeless people, orphans, widows, and outcasts! I can actually start loving them!), but it’s so much harder than I expected. I used to give myself a free pass and skim over those parts of scripture because “they didn’t apply to me” (read: I didn’t know any of those types of people). 

Then, as I learned more and I began to reexamine those parts of my faith, I found myself believing that I would do those things (if I knew those people), and gave myself a hearty pat on the back, thinking that my mere good thoughts were doing the world a favor: “It’s OK, guys. Joel knows the right answer. If he’s ever tested, he’ll get an A+.” 

But that’s the thing: I was never tested. I never went out of my way to place myself in that circumstance--instead, I carefully constructed my life in such a way that I wouldn't have to deal with “those people.” (I went to a predominantly white church, I stayed away from the “bad” parts of town, I avoided making eye contact with panhandlers.) 

Perhaps you have done the same thing.

Instead of actually following Jesus, I had constructed an entire hypothetical world in my head, in which Joel Davis was a super spiritual person--as if that's the part God cares about: our inner beliefs. In reality, I was just another white American, whose day-to-day life by any practical means of measurement or observation was no different than any other average Joe’s, Christian or not. 

And so now, finally, when the rubber is meeting the road at last...I think it scares me how difficult it is, how easily selfishness and fear and everything else can get in the way, how much we truly do have to rely on Jesus and not our own ability. This whole time I’ve been trying to be a good Christian on my own strength, and for the first time I’m starting to understand how foolish that is. 

I was hoping this blog would have a better conclusion. That I could say something witty or deep or inspiring. But this situation is still happening and it’s still messy and I’m still hiding. 

But don’t worry. We’re taking this one day at a time and we’re figuring out what it really looks like to love well. (And we’ve got amazing people around us who’ve been doing this a lot longer than we have. Praise God for them!)

Love Never Fails

One of our staff members, Sarah Duet, wrote an article about life in the Yellow House community that was published recently on the Art House America Blog...

"We’re giving ourselves to these things, piece by very tiny piece. But before and amid all of that we’re giving ourselves to God and to each other. We’re relearning that we belong to each other already, that all things and people are connected. We’re creating space where we can remember who we are and whose we are — where we know we’re not alone. We’re learning that some people don’t leave, no matter how much of us they see, and no matter how many times we have to look into the eyes of a heart we just broke and say “I was wrong, I’m sorry, and I love you. Please forgive me.” There are places where we can relearn what it is to be human, what it is to be a family — where we can be restored to wholeness, compassion, and connection. Intentional Christian community is one of those places. The Yellow House, I believe, is one of those places..." Read more.

We love the folks that keep Art House America alive and running. We are, as always, grateful for their influence and for the opportunity to share stories on the blog. If you can take the time, let your day be enriched by reading Sarah's piece and perusing the other good words on their site!

Peace, friends.

Line Crossing Faith...

We loved having a full living room last night for our Line Crossing Faith event! We shared stories from our Yellow House trip to Arizona/Mexico this past December, watched a short documentary, and had a conversation about immigration and what's going on currently on and around the US-Mexico border.

 A photo taken during the film screening last night.

A photo taken during the film screening last night.

We hoped that sharing these stories might raise awareness about what’s really happening on the border, might humanize what has been mostly just a "political issue” in our minds, and might help us to start conversations that lead to compassionate action as we seek to respond faithfully as God’s people in the world…Asking and answering this question, among others: How do we follow our call to welcome the stranger at this time in this place?

Thanks to everyone who joined us for this conversation! It's not an easy one to navigate in all its complexity, but an important one to be having even still (or all the more). So let's keep the conversation going! Below are links to resources where we can learn more about what's happening and how we might help:

This is the 25 minute film we watched together at the event. It's part of a PBS series on U.S. immigration policies that examines how Obama administration policies are leading to the deportation (and ultimately the deaths) of thousands of undocumented workers who have worked in the United States for decades, even raising families here.

Hospitality to the Strange(r)

 Jennifer Strange teaching on Hospitality to the Stranger in the Yellow House living room. September 7, 2014.

Jennifer Strange teaching on Hospitality to the Stranger in the Yellow House living room. September 7, 2014.

We had the immense privilege of having Jennifer Strange, a great friend and gifted teacher (among other things), in the living room recently to lead us in conversation about Hospitality to the Stranger, which is one of the 12 marks of New Monasticism and the focus of our internship in September.  We're excited to share her slides and notes from that teaching with you here on the blog. If you missed out on this the first time around or are looking to refresh yourself on what you heard, hopefully these resources will be valuable to you!

  Those who belong to God through Jesus Christ are commanded to practice hospitality. But what is that? Having your church friends over regularly for tea and biscuits? Well, maybe. I sure like tea with friends, and I reckon it’s okay to enjoy that. But such comfortable fellowship frankly falls far short of the biblical vision for hospitality. In the Scripture, hospitality means caring for people you aren’t personally obligated to care for. Hospitality means extending to the “other” whatever provisions and comforts belong to your household. Hospitality involves risk. Hospitality requires sacrificial sharing. (Suddenly, tea with friends doesn’t seem so hospitable…)       Here’s how I want to sum all that up: hospitality is the art of homemaking for people who don’t belong to your home. But this begs the question: what is “home”? If we survey the different cultural expressions of hospitality over time, I don’t think we’ll be able to fulfill God’s command to practice hospitality. At best, our practice will be limited to current cultural possibilities and sensibilities. At worst, we’ll be enslaved to idols that actually make our so-called hospitality an expression of injustice. So we must ask ourselves why we are commanded to practice hospitality. At the risk of oversimplification, I think the reason is that God is a homemaker (Peterson 12).        Tonight, I want to make that claim from a few places in Scripture where we see God making “home” for strangers, and then we will talk about the challenges of making home and practicing hospitality in this broken world. Put another way, we will talk about “Making Home in the Dry and Weary Land.”        I want to talk about making “home” because I believe that the theology of “home” is the foundation for practicing hospitality. The truth of the triune God and his activity as homemaker in this age and the age to come must be the basis for all of our housekeeping and hospitality and love (cf Volf 74).      And I want to talk about making home in the dry and weary land because that’s the reality of where we live these days. This whole earth is a dry and weary land in need of a deluge of gospel. In one sense, that deluge has come. In another sense, it is coming. We make home because it has come. And we make home in hope of its coming.       I plan to describe tonight what I see in the Bible about how God makes home—it’s on the first page, and it’s on the last page, and it’s on lots of pages between (though we won’t consider too many of those). And that’s enough for me to think it probably ought to matter every day of my life. Indeed, I believe that the Creator means for his brand of homemaking to matter not only for how we regard our daily life but also for how we engage others and where we locate ourselves.       So let’s get to it…

Those who belong to God through Jesus Christ are commanded to practice hospitality. But what is that? Having your church friends over regularly for tea and biscuits? Well, maybe. I sure like tea with friends, and I reckon it’s okay to enjoy that. But such comfortable fellowship frankly falls far short of the biblical vision for hospitality. In the Scripture, hospitality means caring for people you aren’t personally obligated to care for. Hospitality means extending to the “other” whatever provisions and comforts belong to your household. Hospitality involves risk. Hospitality requires sacrificial sharing. (Suddenly, tea with friends doesn’t seem so hospitable…)

 

Here’s how I want to sum all that up: hospitality is the art of homemaking for people who don’t belong to your home. But this begs the question: what is “home”? If we survey the different cultural expressions of hospitality over time, I don’t think we’ll be able to fulfill God’s command to practice hospitality. At best, our practice will be limited to current cultural possibilities and sensibilities. At worst, we’ll be enslaved to idols that actually make our so-called hospitality an expression of injustice. So we must ask ourselves why we are commanded to practice hospitality. At the risk of oversimplification, I think the reason is that God is a homemaker (Peterson 12). 

 

Tonight, I want to make that claim from a few places in Scripture where we see God making “home” for strangers, and then we will talk about the challenges of making home and practicing hospitality in this broken world. Put another way, we will talk about “Making Home in the Dry and Weary Land.” 

 

I want to talk about making “home” because I believe that the theology of “home” is the foundation for practicing hospitality. The truth of the triune God and his activity as homemaker in this age and the age to come must be the basis for all of our housekeeping and hospitality and love (cf Volf 74).  

And I want to talk about making home in the dry and weary land because that’s the reality of where we live these days. This whole earth is a dry and weary land in need of a deluge of gospel. In one sense, that deluge has come. In another sense, it is coming. We make home because it has come. And we make home in hope of its coming.

 

I plan to describe tonight what I see in the Bible about how God makes home—it’s on the first page, and it’s on the last page, and it’s on lots of pages between (though we won’t consider too many of those). And that’s enough for me to think it probably ought to matter every day of my life. Indeed, I believe that the Creator means for his brand of homemaking to matter not only for how we regard our daily life but also for how we engage others and where we locate ourselves.

 

So let’s get to it…

  Home is the place where we rest, where we belong, where we are known, where we are cared for and where we extend care, where we are equipped for the outside world, where we are welcome and can welcome others (see Margaret Kim Peterson,  Keeping House , 25).    Home is the space where people made in God’s image can flourish—can bear God’s image in the world. So home is a space where human flourishing happens—both those who reside in that space and those welcomed into that space.    Home is wherever shalom is practiced—wherever complete reconciliation occurs (Keller,  Generous Justice , 174).    We would do well, then, to think of “home” in a very primary sense (the actual house or apartment in which you live) and a rather figurative sense (the atmosphere of flourishing).

Home is the place where we rest, where we belong, where we are known, where we are cared for and where we extend care, where we are equipped for the outside world, where we are welcome and can welcome others (see Margaret Kim Peterson, Keeping House, 25).

Home is the space where people made in God’s image can flourish—can bear God’s image in the world. So home is a space where human flourishing happens—both those who reside in that space and those welcomed into that space.

Home is wherever shalom is practiced—wherever complete reconciliation occurs (Keller, Generous Justice, 174).

We would do well, then, to think of “home” in a very primary sense (the actual house or apartment in which you live) and a rather figurative sense (the atmosphere of flourishing).

  Christians are called to practice hospitality with fellow Christians (Romans 12:13; 1 Peter 4:9) and with strangers (Hebrews 13:2). The practice of hospitality requires that you notice others in need, love them, and perform justice for them (Deuteronomy 10:17–19).    While homemaking may be an obviously significant and time-consuming practice for the house in which you live, Scripture never assumes that you should practice it for yourself and your nuclear family only or even primarily. Rather, in the Bible, the idea of “home,” in its broadest and most specific senses, is never intended for the selfish comfort of certain people to “have” a home. Thus, the home where you rest is your launching pad for ministry (Crouch,  Culture Making , 45–46). It is usually (if not always) a means to an end: the proper practice of homemaking is always connected to the practice of hospitality.

Christians are called to practice hospitality with fellow Christians (Romans 12:13; 1 Peter 4:9) and with strangers (Hebrews 13:2). The practice of hospitality requires that you notice others in need, love them, and perform justice for them (Deuteronomy 10:17–19).

While homemaking may be an obviously significant and time-consuming practice for the house in which you live, Scripture never assumes that you should practice it for yourself and your nuclear family only or even primarily. Rather, in the Bible, the idea of “home,” in its broadest and most specific senses, is never intended for the selfish comfort of certain people to “have” a home. Thus, the home where you rest is your launching pad for ministry (Crouch, Culture Making, 45–46). It is usually (if not always) a means to an end: the proper practice of homemaking is always connected to the practice of hospitality.

  As the Bible begins, we see God making a home, and it’s especially suited for those creatures made in the image of the triune God. In the first home that God made for them, our first parents had everything they needed: beauty, shelter, food, work, companionship (see Peterson 22). And what are these image-bearers to do at home? They are to make more creatures and cultivate the creation.

As the Bible begins, we see God making a home, and it’s especially suited for those creatures made in the image of the triune God. In the first home that God made for them, our first parents had everything they needed: beauty, shelter, food, work, companionship (see Peterson 22). And what are these image-bearers to do at home? They are to make more creatures and cultivate the creation.

  Andy Crouch wrote, “Our most fundamental task is to unfold the world’s abundant possibilities and deep meaningfulness—to cultivate and create in such a way that the true God’s identity and ways are named and praised” ( Playing God  55). I would argue that making home is one way in which—or perhaps  by  which—we perform that most fundamental task. We need home, and we need to make home, and we need to make home for others—because God makes home and is home.

Andy Crouch wrote, “Our most fundamental task is to unfold the world’s abundant possibilities and deep meaningfulness—to cultivate and create in such a way that the true God’s identity and ways are named and praised” (Playing God 55). I would argue that making home is one way in which—or perhaps by which—we perform that most fundamental task. We need home, and we need to make home, and we need to make home for others—because God makes home and is home.

  This is exactly why the finale of Genesis 3 is so heartbreaking. When Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden, they lost their home. They no longer belonged anywhere or to anyone with the same intimacy and safety with which they had belonged to God and each other and all of creation in Eden. As Margaret Kim Peterson wrote, “Home, once an encompassing reality, was now reduced to dim memory and distant longings” (23). The cycles of exile and homecoming that we see throughout redemptive history started with one flaming moment on the east edge of Eden.

This is exactly why the finale of Genesis 3 is so heartbreaking. When Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden, they lost their home. They no longer belonged anywhere or to anyone with the same intimacy and safety with which they had belonged to God and each other and all of creation in Eden. As Margaret Kim Peterson wrote, “Home, once an encompassing reality, was now reduced to dim memory and distant longings” (23). The cycles of exile and homecoming that we see throughout redemptive history started with one flaming moment on the east edge of Eden.

  Throughout Israelite history, we see God’s people developing a profound longing for home. This is because they knew that “home” was both a present reality and a future home. They knew that it was something they made and something they longed for—something they could and should enact amid brokenness and something they waited for God to enact.       God repeats his promise of “home” to Israel a lot, and he repeatedly calls Israel to make home for people who don’t have a home and who can’t make one. In fact, in Isaiah’s prophecy, God keeps promising impossible kinds of homes to people. Some passages that really capture my imagination include 54:1–3; 56:1–8; 58:10–12.

Throughout Israelite history, we see God’s people developing a profound longing for home. This is because they knew that “home” was both a present reality and a future home. They knew that it was something they made and something they longed for—something they could and should enact amid brokenness and something they waited for God to enact.

 

God repeats his promise of “home” to Israel a lot, and he repeatedly calls Israel to make home for people who don’t have a home and who can’t make one. In fact, in Isaiah’s prophecy, God keeps promising impossible kinds of homes to people. Some passages that really capture my imagination include 54:1–3; 56:1–8; 58:10–12.

  Let’s take a slightly closer look at one of those passages…    In Isaiah 49:19–23, God promises that impossible families will dwell in previously forsaken land (v 20). In fact, there will be more children than the land can hold (vv 19–21). They will come home through foster care (vv 22–23a).     This prophecy speaks to the adoptive family that God is building (see Romans 8, Ephesians 1, Galatians 4)—the family we call the church. God will make this happen for his own name’s sake (v 23).    Though one might certainly read these verses and see all the more keenly the earthly importance of foster care and adoption, we must see that these verses are not about human families. Instead, they are about the kind of evangelism and justice embodied in the largest prophetic iterations of hospitality and homemaking. Israel has a duty to make home for strangers who will be her very own children.     There are many different theological and practical implications for this truth, but one way that Christians get to participate in the in-gathering described here is through gospel-centered care for others. Make room. Make room for many. Make room for many to dwell. Make the “other” belong. Don’t do any of this apart from the knowledge that Yahweh is God. Wait for him. You won’t be put to shame.

Let’s take a slightly closer look at one of those passages…

In Isaiah 49:19–23, God promises that impossible families will dwell in previously forsaken land (v 20). In fact, there will be more children than the land can hold (vv 19–21). They will come home through foster care (vv 22–23a). 

This prophecy speaks to the adoptive family that God is building (see Romans 8, Ephesians 1, Galatians 4)—the family we call the church. God will make this happen for his own name’s sake (v 23).

Though one might certainly read these verses and see all the more keenly the earthly importance of foster care and adoption, we must see that these verses are not about human families. Instead, they are about the kind of evangelism and justice embodied in the largest prophetic iterations of hospitality and homemaking. Israel has a duty to make home for strangers who will be her very own children. 

There are many different theological and practical implications for this truth, but one way that Christians get to participate in the in-gathering described here is through gospel-centered care for others. Make room. Make room for many. Make room for many to dwell. Make the “other” belong. Don’t do any of this apart from the knowledge that Yahweh is God. Wait for him. You won’t be put to shame.

  That promise of “no shame” forces at least two questions: 1) How long must we wait? and 2) What do we do in the meantime?    In one sense, the great homecoming has already begun. Isaiah prophesied that God himself would come to us, and when he did, he would finish the work that he had begun (55:10–11). So John tells us that God himself has come in the flesh and tabernacled with us, or made his home with us (1:14). This is the glorious first fruit of the final homecoming.    It should come as no surprise, then, that Jesus also spoke of true and lasting home. In fact, in John 14, he told his disciples not to worry because though he was going to leave them soon, it was only because he was going into the full-time occupation of homemaking just for them.

That promise of “no shame” forces at least two questions: 1) How long must we wait? and 2) What do we do in the meantime?

In one sense, the great homecoming has already begun. Isaiah prophesied that God himself would come to us, and when he did, he would finish the work that he had begun (55:10–11). So John tells us that God himself has come in the flesh and tabernacled with us, or made his home with us (1:14). This is the glorious first fruit of the final homecoming.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Jesus also spoke of true and lasting home. In fact, in John 14, he told his disciples not to worry because though he was going to leave them soon, it was only because he was going into the full-time occupation of homemaking just for them.

  Then we get a glimpse of his handiwork in Revelation 21. Indeed, “nowhere but [the New Jerusalem] will ever fully satisfy the human longing for home” (Peterson 24). Because in the New Jerusalem, we finally return home to God (see v 23).     God is the great homemaker. Indeed, God  is  home.    The peace of the earth itself is contingent upon the complete homecoming of the sons of God (see Isaiah 55:12 and Romans 8:12). When the final adoption decree is filed and the adopted children of God come into the new age, then the earth will sigh relief that it is finished. So we do not know how long we must wait, but we do know what we must do in the meantime. We must practice that vision of home now because we will enjoy that reality in the age to come. Anyone who looks forward to that great place and that great day cannot sit still in a broken world: our Father intends to bring many sons to glory. So we must speak and breathe the gospel into our neighbors, we must pour ourselves into ministries of mercy, we must pour ourselves out as drink offerings.

Then we get a glimpse of his handiwork in Revelation 21. Indeed, “nowhere but [the New Jerusalem] will ever fully satisfy the human longing for home” (Peterson 24). Because in the New Jerusalem, we finally return home to God (see v 23). 

God is the great homemaker. Indeed, God is home.

The peace of the earth itself is contingent upon the complete homecoming of the sons of God (see Isaiah 55:12 and Romans 8:12). When the final adoption decree is filed and the adopted children of God come into the new age, then the earth will sigh relief that it is finished. So we do not know how long we must wait, but we do know what we must do in the meantime. We must practice that vision of home now because we will enjoy that reality in the age to come. Anyone who looks forward to that great place and that great day cannot sit still in a broken world: our Father intends to bring many sons to glory. So we must speak and breathe the gospel into our neighbors, we must pour ourselves into ministries of mercy, we must pour ourselves out as drink offerings.

  When I contemplate all of this, I feel a great aching and longing. As much as I enjoy my own home, and as much as I enjoy practicing and receiving hospitality in this world, and as much as I love the vision of home that God has given us for the age to come, I can never escape the reality that this world is largely inhospitable, and relatively few people experience any sense of home here.    So…think about the deserts in Scripture, and think about what deserts meant to the first readers of Scripture. This is where that “dry and weary land” phrase in the title of my talk comes from—the desert in Psalm 63. It’s hard to be at home in a desert, but the desert in Scripture does not simply represent harsh living conditions. Desert is the path to exile, whether because of excommunication or external empire. 

When I contemplate all of this, I feel a great aching and longing. As much as I enjoy my own home, and as much as I enjoy practicing and receiving hospitality in this world, and as much as I love the vision of home that God has given us for the age to come, I can never escape the reality that this world is largely inhospitable, and relatively few people experience any sense of home here.

So…think about the deserts in Scripture, and think about what deserts meant to the first readers of Scripture. This is where that “dry and weary land” phrase in the title of my talk comes from—the desert in Psalm 63. It’s hard to be at home in a desert, but the desert in Scripture does not simply represent harsh living conditions. Desert is the path to exile, whether because of excommunication or external empire. 

  We cannot contemplate the theology of home without acknowledging the reality of brokenness.     There are many threats to home…poverty, divorce, rage, addiction, depression, death, anxiety, fear, pride, social immobility, poor education, abuse, willful ignorance, selfishness, pocketbook privacy, Facebook. I could go on. I’m just going to throw about a big claim here and say that all of the threats to home are idols—anything that distorts our vision of God by lying to us about what matters most (see  Playing God  55).     The Scripture calls our attention to many categories of people who suffer homelessness. When I say this, I do not merely mean those who sleep on the streets but those who do not have  shalom —those who need reconciliation, those who need to take refuge in God, those who need belonging, those who need to regain the capacity to flourish. Think of how often in Scripture we read about God’s heart for the poor, the orphan, the widow, the homeless, the abandoned, the abused, the foreigner, people on the edge of empire, the other.

We cannot contemplate the theology of home without acknowledging the reality of brokenness. 

There are many threats to home…poverty, divorce, rage, addiction, depression, death, anxiety, fear, pride, social immobility, poor education, abuse, willful ignorance, selfishness, pocketbook privacy, Facebook. I could go on. I’m just going to throw about a big claim here and say that all of the threats to home are idols—anything that distorts our vision of God by lying to us about what matters most (see Playing God 55). 

The Scripture calls our attention to many categories of people who suffer homelessness. When I say this, I do not merely mean those who sleep on the streets but those who do not have shalom—those who need reconciliation, those who need to take refuge in God, those who need belonging, those who need to regain the capacity to flourish. Think of how often in Scripture we read about God’s heart for the poor, the orphan, the widow, the homeless, the abandoned, the abused, the foreigner, people on the edge of empire, the other.

  But God gives us the theology of home and the task of making home even in this dry and weary land where there is no water.    The passages I mentioned in Isaiah are full of physical impossibilities coupled with the persistent promise that God will do it. So the question is only this: should the hope of home (as I see it in Isaiah, John, Revelation, and elsewhere) matter today? Put another way, how should the future reality of home with God affect my choices today and/or my plans for the future? Should this reality of God as homemaker make a difference in what you eat for breakfast, whether you marry, where you live, how many televisions you own, how you scrub the toilets, how you organize your weekends, how many children you have and how those children join your family, with whom you eat dinner? In a word, yes. Undoubtedly and profoundly, yes.    Now, a word of encouragement. All of this can be rather overwhelming. We need to make too many changes. We need to fix too many problems. We cannot even wrap our brains and hearts around the problems before us, and there are so many more. The chasm between this desert and our future home in the age to come is just too big. As I have written before on the subject of adoption, sometimes I think it would be better for me to just sit on the couch and eat cheese until Jesus returns. But God does not call us to fix anything; God calls us to faithfulness. Get uncomfortable, but don’t be afraid to practice new faithfulness in a way that feels pitifully small. Don’t fail to obey today simply because the task God has given you seems insignificant; God gives grace now for the task just before you, and he will give you vision and grace for the next task at just the right time too.     So, again, what do we do? We must steward our cultural power for the benefit of others who have little or no cultural power (see  Culture Making  230–231, but also  Playing God ,  Generous Justice ,  Ministries of Mercy , etc).

But God gives us the theology of home and the task of making home even in this dry and weary land where there is no water.

The passages I mentioned in Isaiah are full of physical impossibilities coupled with the persistent promise that God will do it. So the question is only this: should the hope of home (as I see it in Isaiah, John, Revelation, and elsewhere) matter today? Put another way, how should the future reality of home with God affect my choices today and/or my plans for the future? Should this reality of God as homemaker make a difference in what you eat for breakfast, whether you marry, where you live, how many televisions you own, how you scrub the toilets, how you organize your weekends, how many children you have and how those children join your family, with whom you eat dinner? In a word, yes. Undoubtedly and profoundly, yes.

Now, a word of encouragement. All of this can be rather overwhelming. We need to make too many changes. We need to fix too many problems. We cannot even wrap our brains and hearts around the problems before us, and there are so many more. The chasm between this desert and our future home in the age to come is just too big. As I have written before on the subject of adoption, sometimes I think it would be better for me to just sit on the couch and eat cheese until Jesus returns. But God does not call us to fix anything; God calls us to faithfulness. Get uncomfortable, but don’t be afraid to practice new faithfulness in a way that feels pitifully small. Don’t fail to obey today simply because the task God has given you seems insignificant; God gives grace now for the task just before you, and he will give you vision and grace for the next task at just the right time too. 

So, again, what do we do? We must steward our cultural power for the benefit of others who have little or no cultural power (see Culture Making 230–231, but also Playing God, Generous Justice, Ministries of Mercy, etc).

  Making home is an attitude before it is ever a to-do list.     It requires humility (example of housework) and an attention to the other.     “Our culture’s ideal self, especially the accomplished, professional self, rises above necessity, the humble, everyday, ordinary tasks that are best left to unskilled labor” (Kathleen Norris,  The Quotidian Mysteries , 40).    Making home is both highly a-cultural and highly cultural.     Even as we continually struggle to decontextualize our understanding of home in order to orient ourselves around a gospel sense of home, we must remember that we cannot absent ourselves from culture. We must continually enact our theological understanding of home on a diverse cultural milieu.    But don’t be afraid to ask the smallest questions first. Remember, hospitality isn’t about fixing the world’s wrongs. It’s about loving the other. Sometimes that is as simple and significant as opening your dinner table to someone.     Just this week, I finally read Rosaria Champagne Butterfield’s conversion memoir  The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert , and I think it is tremendous. It would not sit easily with all readers, but I recommend it highly nonetheless.     Butterfield returns often to the importance of experiencing hospitality and the occasional awkwardness and grief of having practiced it. For her, receiving hospitality meant that another family’s home became her “safe haven” (78).    Later, when she and her husband regularly host a house church and then begin to serve as foster parents, she reminds us that the regular practice of hospitality yields great joy because it requires hard work and vulnerability. “A family that never opens its heart never feels heartbroken,” she writes. “A family that never welcomes in others never misses them when they leave” (124).    Making home is a quotidian affair, but it is also a mystery.     The dailiness must, as much as is possible, always have the future in view. Remember your home—the home Jesus is preparing for those who love him. Make home now in view of that. You’ll still need to do the laundry and scrub the toilets. You and the image-bearers with whom you make home will have greater opportunity to flourish when you practice good housekeeping (that is, when you craft healthy meals, minimize concern for shelter of body and things, keep tidy spaces for conversation and creativity, and regularly shoo germs from the premises).    But if you make home here with an eye to your home in the new Jerusalem, it will only feel normal to welcome strangers into your present home.    In fact, it should feel increasingly normal to correlate “home” with “justice.” For in the broadest sense, making home is closely connected to “the heart of the biblical understanding of justice: the restoration of the human capacity to bear the image in all its fulness” ( Playing God  83).

Making home is an attitude before it is ever a to-do list. 

It requires humility (example of housework) and an attention to the other. 

“Our culture’s ideal self, especially the accomplished, professional self, rises above necessity, the humble, everyday, ordinary tasks that are best left to unskilled labor” (Kathleen Norris, The Quotidian Mysteries, 40).

Making home is both highly a-cultural and highly cultural. 

Even as we continually struggle to decontextualize our understanding of home in order to orient ourselves around a gospel sense of home, we must remember that we cannot absent ourselves from culture. We must continually enact our theological understanding of home on a diverse cultural milieu.

But don’t be afraid to ask the smallest questions first. Remember, hospitality isn’t about fixing the world’s wrongs. It’s about loving the other. Sometimes that is as simple and significant as opening your dinner table to someone. 

Just this week, I finally read Rosaria Champagne Butterfield’s conversion memoir The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, and I think it is tremendous. It would not sit easily with all readers, but I recommend it highly nonetheless. 

Butterfield returns often to the importance of experiencing hospitality and the occasional awkwardness and grief of having practiced it. For her, receiving hospitality meant that another family’s home became her “safe haven” (78).

Later, when she and her husband regularly host a house church and then begin to serve as foster parents, she reminds us that the regular practice of hospitality yields great joy because it requires hard work and vulnerability. “A family that never opens its heart never feels heartbroken,” she writes. “A family that never welcomes in others never misses them when they leave” (124).

Making home is a quotidian affair, but it is also a mystery. 

The dailiness must, as much as is possible, always have the future in view. Remember your home—the home Jesus is preparing for those who love him. Make home now in view of that. You’ll still need to do the laundry and scrub the toilets. You and the image-bearers with whom you make home will have greater opportunity to flourish when you practice good housekeeping (that is, when you craft healthy meals, minimize concern for shelter of body and things, keep tidy spaces for conversation and creativity, and regularly shoo germs from the premises).

But if you make home here with an eye to your home in the new Jerusalem, it will only feel normal to welcome strangers into your present home.

In fact, it should feel increasingly normal to correlate “home” with “justice.” For in the broadest sense, making home is closely connected to “the heart of the biblical understanding of justice: the restoration of the human capacity to bear the image in all its fulness” (Playing God 83).

  (Suggested reading list.)

(Suggested reading list.)