On Tuesday morning, one traumatized mother and daughter in Manchester said – they just wanted to get home where they would be safe. We too tend to think of home as a place of safety even of peace. It is our castle, refuge and fortress. Or as Mary Jac wrote:
May angels fly with you wherever you roam,
And guide you back safely to family and home.
Yet if we leave it as a citadel, we may find that we only have a house and not home.
Since a home is not directly equated to walls, roofs, patios and double glazing. In truth, we all know that our homes are much more than that. For we turn houses into our homes by making them places of happy memories. Places of growing and celebration and reunions. Buildings usually become true homes where people feel included and include.
Paul knew that. And that is why he corrects the Galatians so firmly. Because not only were some needing utter obedience to the Jewish law to be a Christian, there also seems to have been racial and social barriers being thrown up as well. Put bluntly, their house was not a place of inclusion for all. It wasn’t a place of welcome for all. And so, it wasn’t a home to all.
Well, Paul mentions several divisions in his text. In Christianity, for him there are neither Greek nor Jew, male or female, free or slave.
Let’s think about the later – neither free or slave.
Now strange as it may seem to us today, Paul does not directly comment on his slave owning culture. In fact, we cannot be certain about his feelings towards slavery; it may well be he accepted it as just part of ancient Mediterranean life. But what he would not accept was that there was a different degree of humanity between free and slave. To him, Galatians whoever they were, had become one in Christ. They had been forged into one home congregation not by their rule keeping or social status but by including and being included by Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone.
Well of course we do not live in a society with legal slavery nowadays. Yet whilst we cannot see that extreme division in our community, there are many other divisions. There are many who are included and excluded due to various unspoken rules and regulations. There are many who do not feel hugely home across our nation.
What is to be done?
I don’t know about you, but I do feel God close by when I am in the countryside or some great cathedral. But it is at home that I feel most intimate with him. For there is a great truth in the tapestry sampler so often seen on the Victorian wall. It said – Jesus is the silent guest every room and witness to every conversation.
If then we are to make our community a home, we need to include and be included, we need to help others grow towards their celebrated reunion with their creator. Above all, we need to free the slaves of loneliness, fears and difference. And we do that by welcoming them into a building that Christ is not a guest but the home-owner.
Something of this sort of welcome can be envisaged by the response to Steve Jones, one of the two homeless men who rushed to the Arena in Manchester on Monday night to help the wounded and dying.
I am pleased to tell you not only has a public appeal raised £20,000 for him but the owner of West Ham Football Club is giving him 6 months’ rent-free accommodation and he has even had a job offer.
Let us then rebuild our common community with inclusion for all. Let’s not get bound up in rules and practices and offer a safe harbour to neighbours in Christ. Let us not wait until evil strikes again in any place before we are angels of good, apostles of welcome and heirs to another sampler saying – Home is where your day begins.