Some of my friends happen to be homeless. Perhaps you’ve seen them, or folks in similar situations, around town. I just met some folks who are finally emerging from a life of addiction. They are thankful for the local shelter and the Turning Point, but finding a long-term home seems nearly impossible, which undermines their stability and ability to find a better life. But they keep striving.
Although troubling, to say the least, physical homelessness is relatively rare and often temporary. Spiritual homelessness, however, seems to be rampant and long-lasting, and no less troubling. Most of us, in my experience, have little or no healthy connection to a spiritual home. Our bodies may be clothed, fed, and sheltered, but our souls are not. We may experience temporary human love in our homes, but our experience of God’s eternal love is minimal. I am sure we all know the longing to connect with others, to know and be known, to be safe and supported, for the place where we can be our true selves: the longing for home.
Very few of us would choose to be physically homeless, but I did meet a fellow recently who described himself as a homeless veteran who travels from town to town. While his external appearance was a bit rough, he seemed happy and healthy. After sharing a cup of coffee together, I found him to be one of the most fascinating and enjoyable people I’ve ever met, and one of the most spiritually healthy and grounded. He may not have had some of the security, safety, and comforts that I think I have, but I could tell he had true faith, hope, and love, which are gifts from God himself. What he lacked in a physical home he made up for spiritually.
Most of us are just the opposite, myself included. If my immediate physical needs are taken care of, I tend to think I’m all set, and too often ignore my deeper, eternal needs. Multiplied out for a lifetime, I’m lulled and lured into spiritual homelessness. A nice pot of chili fills me up on a cold rainy day, but ultimately only masks my spiritual hunger. Meanwhile, Jesus says: “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35). A refreshing beverage may take the edge off after mowing the lawn, but ultimately only masks my spiritual thirst. But Jesus says: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink” (John 7:37). A warm bed and a toasty wood stove provides the physical rest I need after a long, cold day, but really only masks my need for spiritual rest. Again, Jesus says: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). A place to call home here in town may satisfy a lot of my earthly needs, but it can’t fulfill my true need: to find my forever home in God himself.
Jesus said in John 14: “In my Father’s house are many rooms…I go and prepare a place for you.” A paraphrase of 1 Peter 2:11 says it like this: “Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it.” And a very loose paraphrase of St. Augustine might go like this: “My heart is homeless until it finds its home in God.” Though on our own we are spiritually homeless, God has provided our eternal home with him, and the way into that home is Jesus himself who said, “I am the door.” And right after Jesus promised to go prepare a place for his followers, he told us how to get there: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
We come home to God only through Jesus, but we don’t come alone. None of us can make it far alone, so we have each other: fellow pilgrims for the journey in our local church families. So whether your local church home is Methodist, Pentecostal, Assembly of God, Alliance, Baptist, Presbyterian or whatever, if you hear God calling you, let’s head toward home arm in arm. Together we follow Jesus: celebrating, enjoying, and serving God with our whole hearts. Together we love our neighbors and serve our community with the power of God’s Spirit. Together we enjoy the support, security, and encouragement our spiritual home on earth as we look forward to our eternal home together with God.
Perhaps you’ve never been physically homeless, but there’s a good chance you’ve found yourself feeling spiritually homeless. Hear the gentle invitation of the old hymn chorus: “Come home, come home; You who are weary come home; Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling; Calling, O sinner, come home.”
Bob Wiegers is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Bennington, who invites you and yours to join us on the journey home.