What does the word Home mean to you?
It is an incredibly evocative term. Say the word Home, and my mind goes back to a small three-bedroom, brown brick veneer home in Cheltenham, a southern suburb of Melbourne.
Our three-bedroom house at Kristine Court was almost a mini sporting arena for us as kids. Dad was a champion sportsman, and we were surrounded by polished reminders of his various pursuits on the mantelpiece. Outside the cricket pitch was a narrow concrete driveway, where you would have to adjust your bowling action to accommodate the slender branches of a silver birch tree. The wicket keeper was a metal garage.
The football field was the road with the mailbox being the right-hand goalpost. The brown brick mailbox doubled as the venue where my brother would repeat Bradman’s golf ball routine with a golf ball. A billiard table was somehow squeezed inside the lounge, with trick shots being played around corners not unlike the film The Castle.
My brother Mike and I even installed a high jump rope over his bed during the 1984 Olympics, which led to the slightly controversial incident of a plaster hole being covered by a U2 poster for years. The climbing course was that tall silver birch tree, which provided a view from Port Phillip Bay, across Moorabbin Airport towards the Dandenong Ranges.
Home in Cheltenham spoke to our senses:
· The smell of fresh cut grass in Spring, with that slight scent of two stroke in the background.
· The sight of an old petrol drum being used as an incinerator and filled with autumn leaves and plastic.
· The taste of fresh cut parsley from a small veggie patch in the backyard.
· The shock of bright orange and yellow curtains in the kitchen
· The taste of gravel from a fall while playing football out the front
· The sound of the bell in the distant schoolyard.
As we got older our world expanded a little. We would head out to Heatherton exploring drains and parks, on our racers and BMX bikes, and no one would worry until it got dark. You would round the corner of the court at about 6pm in winter and there would be that glowing, warm light in the living room.
The Promise of Home.
When we left that home in Cheltenham after twenty years, I think we each struggled with the adjustment. Leaving home can be a wrench. It’s all those memories; all those connections, much more than bricks and mortar.
In the Bible the children of God, have a deep and abiding connection to home. It is their castle, their land of milk and honey, the place of promise and meaning, it connects them to God. Home is a place of Spirit; a place to pass to their children.
There are two key movements in Isaiah: One is when they are looking at the prospect of being away from Israel in Chapters 1 – 39 and the other is when they are away from home in Chapters 40 – 66.
In chapters 1 – 39 the message is that the Home, the nation of Israel, the land of milk and honey, is falling into dis-repair. It is overgrown. The nation of Israel will become homeless, dispersed and sent to unfamiliar places. The cause of the trouble is that the nation was meant to be a blessing, a good crop, an illustration of God’s mercy, kindness and justice. But instead, their rulers looked after themselves, and ignored those who needed their help most, and trouble was on it’s way.
What follows is:
By the time we get to Isaiah chapter 61, the language of homelessness and displacement is threaded the whole way through our text . . .
The work of the prophet is to splash water across the face of the nation. To get them to see that despite their loss, God is with them, and his light lasts forever.
The hope of the later chapters in Isaiah is that God takes broken things and fixes them. Isaiah 61:4 says: “They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.” (NRSV)
The covenant will be restored, and the House of Israel will be a place of blessing once more.
The Promise of Home.
The Promise of a Home, made from broken bricks and fragile things.
So, how do we apply this passage to our lives, our families, our friends and to our church today?
The hint, I think, is in verse 11 of Isaiah 61:
“For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is grown in it to spring up, so the Lord will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.”
The encouragement of this text is for the people of God to go looking for green shoots and signs of God’s activity in the world. To see once more, the promise of fresh buds in the branches.
A little later in Isaiah 62 it says this:
Go through, go through the gates
Prepare the way for the people,
Build up, build up the highway,
Clear it of stones . . .
Or as we might say:
Find your way,
Find our way,
Home to God,