My home is a very special place. Whether I live in a detached house, semi, flat, apartment, or in a room let – it is the place I call home. My home is more than simply a place to eat, sleep and reside in. As long as I have the right to call it mine – it is my possession, whether I own or rent, it doesn’t matter. I impose my own rules, own the front door key, and have the right to invite whom I wish to visit me in it. It is great going on holiday to another place, and there are some really beautiful places to go and stay in. Yet, none, no matter how nice, are the place I come home to. Although for some, including children, home is not a safe place – for most, home is that place of refuge from the world. The origins of the saying, ‘an Englishman’s home is his castle,’ are based in fact and law. A person has no right to enter another’s house without a clear invitation.
We share our homes with those we love, unless we rent out a room. Usually the people who live with us in our homes are our families. Therefore, over the years of living together we build up a treasure trove of memories – hopefully more good than bad. We put up photographs of our family in them, hold special events like birthday parties etc, celebrate family occasions like Christmas and weddings together, send out our children from them into the world for school but always make them warm and safe places for them to return to, fill them with mementos of good holidays, our hobbies and jobs. Our homes say a lot about our identity, our taste and style whether warm and welcoming, up-to-date and beautiful, functional or minimalist, we put in them the things we like. They also reflect the state of our minds. A cluttered home full of stuff often reflects a mind that is full of clutter; whereas, a very clear, well laid out home reflects a very clearly regulated, organised mind.
Our homes are made, they don’t just happen – just like a bird makes its nest. We choose where to live, what type of home we would like, and what we put in them. As part of the Coronavirus lockdown, unless we are key workers, our homes have become the place we are confined to, except for essential’s shopping and exercise – so we are finding out if we really like the home we have made. Many of us have spent more time in our homes over this last 11 days than we spent in them over this last 11 weeks. We are creating a whole heap of new memories simply by having to spend so much time in them. Some have decided that after the Covid-19 lockdown is over that they will have to move. The time inside has helped them to think about their future, about why they are living in the area they are, about what they need to do in order to fulfil their dreams, about what is really important to them – thus for some, that is in another home elsewhere.
Paying for the Home
People often complain that they are forced to work in order to keep their homes; whereas now, we are spending endless hours in them. The fortunate are able to continue to work and earn from home. Many others are staying at home without work and have no guarantee that the job will still be there when allowed to go back out again. Those who can work from home are turning a room into an office space as a way of trying to create a routine that allows them to do the work required – their home has just developed into something more, a place of income. Unless you have a lot of savings, for most of those without work, their home, at the moment, is a place of uncertainty and insecurity – almost becoming a type of prison confining them in a place of encroaching poverty. They are worried if they will be able to keep their home.
Our Grandparents/Great Grandparents Homes
is worth taking a moment to consider what our great
grandparents-grandparents had to endure as they sought to build and keep
their homes. Many of them lived in substandard homes without running
water, indoor toilets or enough space for their large families. Our
great grandparents and grandparents faced incredible pressures to keep
their homes, feed their families, and make their homes safe places to
live in. Many of their homes contained a cottage industry – a skill or
trade that provided where them with enough to feed and keep their
families. I give thanks for their strength, courage and resilience in
the face of the great pressures they faced – they were amazing people!
As they lived in these homes – huge events took place all around them. My forbears faced: i. two World Wars, ii. The great Recession of the 1930’s, iii. Large levels of emigration from Ulster in the 1920’s and 30’s – my great grandfather never saw four of his children again as they emigrated to the United States, iv. Hunger, malnutrition and poor living conditions, v. A high infant and child mortality rate with the accompanying trauma and grief the loss of their babies, infants and children brought (10% of infants, live births, died within the first year of life in 1915 – really tragic), vi. A lot more devastating diseases such as Scarlet Fever, Diphtheria, Tetanus, Measles, Mumps and Rubella; and of course the terrible Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918-1919.
As a young person, I remember my maternal grandmother speaking about the Spanish Flu outbreak in 1918-19. She spoke about the fear, devastating impact of the flu, and the way it just seemed to sweep through the nation. It was a terrible H1N1 influenza virus (the same that led to the 2009 Swine Flu Pandemic) which ultimately killed between 17- 50 (some argue as many as 100) million people worldwide – historians argue over the actual number. In British India – present day India, Pakistan and Bangladesh – 13.88 million died. In the UK, 250,000 died with nearly every village, town and city affected. It was different from Covid-19 in that it killed mostly healthy young adults. Scientists now believe that their strong immune systems would go into overdrive trying to kill the infection but end up in a Cytokine Storm which led to death – many others died from secondary infections such as pneumonia. It is worth remembering what our forebears had to go through, and to draw strength and courage from their example. In spite of the hardships they faced – most managed to make their homes into good places to live in. We can make our homes great today.
In the Bible
homes were much more than simply a place. At the heart of their home
was the table, (Hebrew, sulhān, Greek, tra/peza) the centre piece of
their homes. In the wilderness or bedouin context the table was a
prepared area or skin laid on the ground in the centre of the home. See
Psalm 23:5a ‘You prepare a table before me in the presence of my
enemies;’ & Isaiah 21:5 ‘Prepare the table, set a watchman in the
tower, eat and drink. Arise, you princes, anoint the shield!’ However,
in the more settled environment of Palestine the table had become a
piece of furniture around which reclined to eat. See 2 Kings 4:10 and
the room prepared for the prophet Elisha by the Shunammite woman which,
among other things, contained a table and chair. Your own table meant
that you were the one who provided the meal. See Nehemiah 5:17-18 where
Nehemiah feeds many at his own expense at his table.
In Bible times they did have breakfast, but it was not regarded as a meal. At midday they had a light meal and then a main meal after work at the end of the day. They simply did not have a meal to eat food, the meal involved so much more than that. It meant:
- Family time: Psalm 128:3, ‘Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house, your children like olive plants all around your table. Behold thus shall be the man be blessed who fears the Lord.’ The wife was the source of the family’s life in the heart of the home, the children growing in a good environment that included the table time when the family came together as one.
- Fellowship: 2 Samuel 9:1-13 and David’s kindness and generosity to Mephibosheth, Saul’s grandson, verse 7 ‘So David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will surely show you kindness for Jonathan your father’s sake…and you shall eat bread at my table.”’ It was a time when people ate, connected with each other, and showed kindness to each other.
- Hospitality: See Abraham’s reception of the three strangers who came to him at the trees of Mamre in Genesis 18:1-8 ‘Then the Lord appeared to Abraham by the terebinth trees of Mamre, as he was sitting in the tent door in the heat of the day…“My Lord, said Abraham, if I have now found favour in Your sight, do not pass on by Your servant. Please let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. And I will bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh your hearts.”’ The home was a place of refreshing from the world around – wash your feet; a haven of rest from the busyness of the world; a place for renewal of strength and encouragement as they ate what was provided.
- A chance to think of the wider community outside the home: The different yearly feasts, especially Passover, drew the whole nation together in a shared experience. See Exodus 12:1-28, 43-51.
As the world around us is in this season of change, flux and worry – let us:
- Value our homes and pray for each other’s homes to be strengthened, blessed and full of God’s grace in Christ
- Pray for our families as we are together at this time remembering especially those key workers who need to go out and continue to do their vital work
- Remember and give thanks for our forebears and their example of fortitude and courage in the face of the great pressures they faced in their days
- Consider how we can make the most of the family time we are now having together
- Make it a priority to eat together, connect with each other, and show kindness to each other
- Think seriously, be intentional, about how we can make our homes places of refreshing from the world around, a haven of rest from the busyness of the world, and a place of spiritual and physical renewal
- Remembering those isolated and alone at this time, the vulnerable and broken, those in great need – how can we help support them in their homes, while remembering all the government’s rules on social distancing?