By Mary Abrahamson
When I was young I pined for a home. A place to be from. Before I graduated high school my family and I had lived in five different houses. This was not a ton, but still quite a bit a change. New friends, new neighbors, new ways of organizing possessions.
I remember telling my mom once that I was NEVER going to marry a pastor.
“Pastors don’t have homes and I want a home. I want my kids to have a place to look back on as home, and have sentimental memories about. And I want them to know where everything is and who all the neighbors are.”
Or something like that.
Mom replied with her great maternal wisdom which as is the wont with teens, I did not appreciate.
“There are more important things than living in the same house. Life is not about having a home.”
A few years later I recall hearing about some sociological study by way of which “the experts” proved that kids who do not move during childhood grow up feeling more stable and secure.
“See, Mom,” thought I, “I knew I was on to something.”
And then I married a pastor.
But I also grew up. I grew into physical and emotional adulthood. I grew into spiritual adulthood. And I understood what Mom meant.
In this life there will always be trouble. There will always be change. There will always be theories about what makes people stable and secure. There will always be challenges of any number of different kinds. There will be pain and heartache. There will be joy and loss.
And yet we can rest secure. We can be stable. We have a firm foundation in Jesus Christ our Lord. Remember the story of the wise and foolish men who built their houses upon sand or stone? (Matthew 7:24-27).
There are many kinds of idols in the world, but home can be a big one. Our comfort and security and even identity gets to be wrapped up in our home. It’s who we are. “I’m from Northern Minnesota.” Or, “I live at the old Johnson place.” Or, “I graduated from MACCRAY in 2005.” “We’ve lived in this house for 52 years.”
These statements in and of themselves are not sinful or idolatrous statements. But they give a little glimpse into how we equate our identity with our home. Whether it’s a home town, a home church, a home community, we like to feel that sense of belonging. We like to know that things are going to be the same even after we spread our wings and settle down ourselves. We like to know the people in the various communities of which we’re a part.
The idea of home is foundational to many of us.
But it’s important to remember in all of this where our real home is. What is it, really, that makes us who we are? Who is it, really, who gives us stability? Through what means do we get true comfort and peace and wholeness and belonging?
Heaven is our home. Our faith in Jesus is what makes us God’s children. God’s provision and redemption and sanctification give us our stability. We get true comfort peace and wholeness and belonging through the message of the Gospel. The message of Jesus’ perfect life and sacrificial death and glorious resurrection for us.
This message of the Gospel comes to us in God’s Word: when it is read, heard, recalled, sang or spoken. And it comes to us in those specific gifts He gives us in corporal worship: Baptism, Confession and Absolution, and Holy Communion.
This is our Rock. This is our home. This is our stability and comfort and strength. This is our launching point.
About a year ago my husband accepted a call to serve a new church after we had been at the same church for almost 14 years. We had lived in the same house. We had known the same people. The kids had gone to the same schools. All these things stayed the same for 14 years.
I thought about this Wednesday night during church. One of the things about which I sometime get is Lenten services. I have memories of such fun in that excitement of church at night. But I also remember crying one night during the passion reading.
“Jesus did that for me. That is so deeply sad. I can just feel what He was going through when everyone was so mean to Him. And then He died on the cross. For me. And I am just like the Jews because I sin all the time.” And I sat in church listening to the Passion reading, tears pooling in the corner of my young eyes.
I have fond memories of the Lenten hymns we mostly only sing during this time of year. They are so spooky sounding. I remember thinking that. But later I came to love the Words. The special meditations of the agony and death of Jesus for us sinners. The special images of our own brokenness and need for Him and His work to save us from the quagmire.
Those are my childhood memories of Lent.
I don’t know what Lenten memories will stand out to my kids.
One thing had become very special to me during the years we lived at up north was individual absolution. My husband used it during Lenten services each year. Ash Wednesday and Maunday Thursday were special with Holy Communion being offered. But during the other Lenten services, we had Individual Absolution.
The practice of Individual Absolution is not one with which I grew up, so I’m going to take a minute to tell what it is. After the Confession of Sins, rather than the pastor proclaiming the General Absolution in the stead and by the command of Christ, he instead offers individually, to all who desire it, the forgiveness of sins. Those present, all ages, members or not, who desire forgiveness file forward and kneel at the communion rail. The pastor lays a hand on each head, offering the forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus to each person. This practice has come to be very special to me, and it adds to the specialness of the season of Lent.
While we lived up north, the children of the congregations often sat together across the front row for the evening services. I loved seeing them hearing the Word of God together with these other kids who had become part of their lives. And I loved seeing them approach the altar together for individual absolution.
Now we are at a new home. With new friends and new traditions. My kids no longer sit in the front row with a whole community of other children who they have known all their lives.
But some things are the same. We still go to church on Wednesday evenings to hear about our sin and our Savior. We hear the same Passion reading. We sing the same hymns. And my husband has continued his preference for doing individual absolution during the Lenten services.
My children now have a new community with whom to partake of things spiritual. The eternal things. My kids still have all the important stuff. This what will carry them through to their heavenly home.