If a community is "home" only for a precious few, it is not truly home for anyone.

This past Saturday, I shared the sermon with my congregation (embedded here). In it, I confessed that parenting is the hardest thing I have ever tried. I realize that for some saints, it comes naturally. But for me, it’s a daily struggle to stay true to the kind of dad and human I want to be. 

I shared a story about getting intense with my son – later apologizing to him for my mouth – and then the experience of coming home after work some 24 hours later. While I had technically cleared the air, I still felt some shame. But as soon as I cracked open the door leading into our kitchen, that all shifted. 

I could hear my boys inside at the kitchen table squealing, “DADDY’S HOME!” 

My boys know my faults and failures better than just about anyone else. And yet they’re also more excited than anyone else to simply be with me. 

This is what it feels like to be “home;” to be fully known and fully loved at the same time. 

The family is an obvious context where this dynamic can become palpable – but it by no means is the only. We can create communities that feel like “home” in almost any context: from boardrooms to study groups, recreation clubs to sports fans, and work groups to service teams. In my sermon, I argued that “telling the truth” is one key mechanism for helping any community feel more like home. 

Sometimes (perhaps even inevitably) communities position themselves as superior to the rest of society by virtue of some combination of belief, practice, or collective impact. Sometimes these markers get drawn within a community itself. I read a text from the New Testament book of Romans where the author, Paul, writes to a church that is deeply divided. One portion took the position of the old-guard and held a set of standards that they believed must be in place for every member to belong. Another portion of the church were new invites by virtue of Jesus’ radical inclusivity and did not have all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed. 

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Paul takes on the mantle of a prophet in Romans chapter 3 and essentially says, “No one is perfect…not even you who are in control…and there is a place for all at the table.” This is “truth speaking to power” and it eventually got him killed. 

But in order for that community to feel like home to the new guard, the truth had to be said.

The ironic thing is that in communities with strident demarcations for who’s in and who’s out, no one ever really feels “at home.” To say it another way, if a community is "home" only for a precious few, it is not truly home for anyone. 

No one is perfect. None of us can fit into whatever box. We jump on board with a lot of energy - but inevitably we look in the mirror and realize we're not measuring up. It's part of being human. And so what often happens in church, especially conservative churches, is that everyone pretends they’re keeping all the rules – but nobody actually is. This truth pops out in scandals from time to time. But in general, many of us live with a low-grade sense of loneliness and isolation because we feel as if we’re the only ones for whom the system isn’t entirely working. 

This is the second scenario in which truth-telling can help us feel a sense of home. When I have the courage, to tell the truth about my personal life – it creates space for other people to do the same. And when a community of people tell the truth of their existence, doubts, failures, successes, and pain together – no one feels alone. 

In fact, it feels like home; where we are known and wanted at the same time. 

May you have the courage to speak truth to power. May you who are in power have the humility and courage to shut up and listen when it is spoken. May you have the courage to tell your secrets, in the right time, in the right place, to people who are trustworthy. And may you receive and create the gift of “home.”

Sabbath Sermon: Jubilee

The following is an adapted manuscript of from my September 3, 2016 sermon at the Walla Walla University Church. 

This past summer at the Walla Walla University Church, we have been exploring the book of Leviticus, asking the question, “what might we have to learn about living as a community through this ancient and sometimes seemingly irrelevant bo

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