Foreshadowings of Eternal Home by John Lawrence Gillis
Imagine Abram, near the end of a long journey.
Still perhaps unsure where God is leading, he sees two mountains in the distance, and what appears to be a city in the valley.
As his caravan draws nearer the city, he decides it would be a good place to encamp. When they arrive at Shechem, he gives instructions, and then looks for a place to rest. He finds it beneath a terebinth tree.
But now, eyes closed in the cool shade, he is startled awake by a sudden brightness.
And the Lord said unto Abram...
"To your descendants I will give this land."
Imagine Abram beneath the terebinth after the Lord's appearance, paralyzed with joy and wonder. When he finally regains strength, I see him rushing to his beloved Sarai, lifting her high, shouting the impossible word "descendants!" I see him nearly dancing as he gathers stones for the altar.
And at the spry age of 75, I see him leading Sarai toward one (or both!) of the summits, where their view of Canaan stretches from the Jordan to the Mediterranean.
Here, sweet bride, is the home He has promised.
Now imagine Abraham's descendant Jacob drawing two mountains in the sand -- Gerizim and Ebal. He's giving his favored son "directions" to Shechem, where his brothers are grazing their flocks.
Years earlier, "their sister Dinah had been defiled" by Shechem, the son of Hamor (Gen 34:13). Two of her brothers, intent on blood vengeance, "came upon the city boldly, and slew all the males." Jacob, fearing for his family's survival, quickly gathered them and moved south.
But now, even with the passing of time, Father Israel still worries. Will the elders of Shechem recognize his sons? Will Shechem have its revenge, all these years later? Jacob sends young Joseph on his way, praying he'll return with good report.
Joseph rejoices at his first sight of the mountains, then steels himself as he nears the valley. But soon he fears the worst. His brothers are missing. I see him climbing both mountains for a better view of where they might be, his coat of many colors unfurling in the wind.
He descends in shock and desperation. He wanders ... aimlessly, gazing toward the heavens: "Where are my brothers?" "Where are my brothers?"
But then he meets the man (the subject of much apocryphal legend) who points him in the right direction, thus sealing Israel's future.
Centuries later, all of Israel returns to Canaan and renews their covenant on the slopes of Gerizim and Ebal. Joshua reads the entire Mosaic law to a new generation. Simultaneous "Amens" rise to heaven. And "Joseph's bones" are finally buried. All of Israel, home at last.
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. (Acts 2:1-2)
Thus, it can be said that the birth of Christianity ... was a "home birth"!
In the Jewish calendar, the feast day Shavuot commemorates the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai. Shavuot is also a mandatory pilgrim holiday in Judaism, and it also coincides with the day of Pentecost. (This explains Acts 2:5: "Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.")
Many also consider Shavuot to be the birthday of Judaism. Can it therefore be said that Judaism and Christianity were born on the same day, centuries apart?
The skies above Jerusalem surely quaked with the Wind's descent, not unlike the "exceeding loud" thunders and "trumpet blasts" of Sinai. (Exodus 19). For pilgrims near the temple precincts, it must have sounded like the end of days.
When the echoes subsided, they came slowly, cautiously, toward the world's first "house church."
And that day, three thousand Christians were born.
House churches were the heart and soul of early Christianity, and they were also the safest place to worship. Large public gatherings risked a swift response from Rome. Every gathering was a feast of prayer, song, fellowship, and sound teaching. (And was there a Hebrew word for "potluck"?!)
Nor were wayfarers denied entry. How tenderly their hosts washed the desert from their hands and feet.
So here's a question that our church should take seriously:
How can twenty-first century homes become more like first century homes?
Here's my first answer, which I pray you'll also take seriously: Edit the WELCOME mat!
Picture a community well described by the phrase "our home is your home," where a hundred houses feel like one home.
But such communities are sadly rare.
But now imagine the role that a beautiful mat with the words "Welcome Home!" could play in creating such a community!
Our hosts open the door, and we immediately sense an atmosphere of "Welcome!" A home where love is not merelyin the air, it is the air!
Therefore let us begin to explore new ways that home life can bring us closer to God, and each other.
At the dinner table, "How was your day?" is probably the most common conversation-starter, but it also invites complaint and extended monologues. A better start would be sharing highlights, the best moments or insights of our day.
We could also ask our kids to tell us the most interesting things they learned in school today. It shouldn't be too long before they're making lists of lessons they'd like to share with us. And best of all, they'll pay closer attention in school tomorrow. And imagine this, if you dare: teens staying at the table instead of returning to their i-devices!
Another new tradition we might consider involves "counting our blessings." Doesn't sound all that new, but what I propose is that we keep a diary of our blessings through the entire year, and then tally them in time for Thanksgiving. This tradition could also encourage us to be more of a blessing to each other in daily life. We can also use the web to approximate a full count of America's blessings for the past year. What a glorious "reveal" that will be on national television on Thanksgiving day.
And once this tradition is established, we can invite other nations to join us.
In doing so, can we then look forward to the ultimate fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham?
"...and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." (Gen. 12:3b)
Imagine Father Abraham at the end of a long journey: all the families of the earth, home at last.
Finally, imagine a sanctuary in every home, a hallowed place for praying together, for healing and strengthening relationships, for making promises we intend to keep, et many alia.
A time and a place where we're so close to God, we can almost hear His heartbeat.
It can be as small as an "Amen corner," or as large as an attic.
And thus our sanctuaries become...
Foreshadowings of eternal Home.