What makes a home?
Is it the people? Is it the house?
Is it the house renovations?
The bells and whistles you see on HGTV?
Is home simply a place where you can lay your head?
The Hebrew people have been searching for a home.
They have not felt at home yet.
Egypt was a place where they could lay their head.
But it was not a home. Not really.
Pharaoh stole their labor and their time.
The people did not belong to Egypt.
Now, here in the foothills of the mountains,
they do not belong to this untamed wilderness.
Where will they belong?
They are heading to a rich land of milk and honey,
but even in that earthy space,
they will find themselves on the move.
War and violence will exile them.
They will start over, trying to make a home again and again.
Life will not stay still long enough
for them to find a place to belong.
How will they make for themselves a home?
My colleague Bro. Anthony Zuba wrote a song,
which many of you have heard, called “Dear Home.”
In “Dear Home,” he sings, from the perspective of God,
“Oh, won’t you come away with me?
We don’t belong to here.
We don’t belong to there.
Our home is love forever.”
Home is more than our décor.
Or a resting place even.
Here on Mount Sinai,
God is making a home for the people.
In Exodus, we read:
“Then Moses went up the mountain,
and the cloud covered the mountain.
God’s glorious presence settled on Mount Sinai.”
God’s glorious presence settled.
The Hebrew word for settled can also be translated as
rested; dwelled; lived; abided.
Here on Mount Sinai,
God settles and creates a home.
There, in that scary, beautiful in-between space,
God tells the people,
I perceive who you are.
Perhaps you are terrified of change and this is all too much.
Leaving Egypt. Living in an untamed wilderness.
Trying to find your way to the Promised Land.
I imagine God says to them,
You do have a place where you belong, people-on-the-move.
You belong to love. You deserve to be loved. To be love.
Thus, God gives the Torah, or the covenant
that will direct their lives, elevate their relationships,
and bring them closer to True Love.
God is giving the people more than they bargained for.
All the people wanted was to get away from Pharaoh.
They wanted to get away from slavery, oppression, greed.
God obliges to set them free,
but God is offering them more.
God offers them a vision for their life that is far beyond
what they imagine for themselves, which is merely surviving.
God takes the initiative!
God calls to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain, and wait!”
God’s call to Moses epitomizes God’s call to all people.
Come up to me! Oh, won’t you come away with me?
Our Holy One has a vision of living
that is broader and richer than we can imagine.
This is part of what God puts on the table.
A home is not defined by décor.
A home is defined by freedom, equality, and compassion.
To these things, we are called homeward.
Making a home begins with dwelling with God,
coming away, resting in love.
This rest allows us to dwell well with others.
Dwelling with God precedes God’s moral commission to Moses
to bring a new prophetic vision to the people
so that they can dwell in the world more justly.
It takes time to make a home.
Come up to me, God says to Moses, and wait.
God turns off the light. The blare. The advertisements.
All that is left is Moses’ fragile beating heart.
Moses slowly hikes into the black cloud of unknowing.
He leaves more and more people behind.
His brother. His friend. His elders.
Until it is just him and the cloud.
And the instruction to wait.
God turns off the light.
So Moses can see his dreams.
God turns off the light.
And Moses waits here for the revealing.
No buzz of electricity here.
Only truth. And the hum of the holy.
Moses lingers on the mountain for a long time.
Down below, the Hebrew people get tired of waiting.
They may doubt that Moses is even alive;
it was thought you could not look on the face of God and live.
While Moses is up on the mountain, they think,
“Okay, I guess this god doesn’t really care about us.
We don’t belong to this god.
We are going to fill up the vacuum with our own gods
and our own sense of fulfillment.”
So they make décor. They forge a golden calf.
They want to belong to something so badly.
Yet, God is bidding us, Wait. Go up. Stay. Be patient.
For six days nothing happened for Moses.
Nothing happened until the seventh day,
when from the cloud a voice speaks to Moses,
bidding him to come closer.
Moses journeys further in. And stays there for forty days!
There is a progressive journeying into the unknown.
Likewise, we find ourselves on the cusp of Lent.
Lent begins on Wednesday.
Lent is another forty-day period. Another period of intensification.
A deepening of our own experience of God. Of Love itself.
We are preparing to receive the mystery of God
as epitomized in the Easter mystery of death, waiting, and resurrection.
What can the ascent of Moses up Mount Sinai teach us about
encountering this God who wants to know us so fully?
There will be periods of dryness and wandering in the wilderness.
We are going to grumble. Why did you send us out here to die?
Why did you take us away from that which was familiar
even if it was unhealthy to our body and soul?
The Exodus text says Moses goes up three times.
Moses leaves behind the people.
Moses leaves behind Joshua.
Moses leaves behind the elders.
Moses leaves behind the rest of the known world
to enter the obscurity of the black cloud and the glory of God.
If we track this with Lent and our own pilgrimage,
we can see there is a period of leaving behind so we can go beyond.
There is a letting go so that we can lean into something new,
that which is eternally new, which is God’s way of being and bringing life.
God is bidding us to go up higher and higher
into this journey of intimacy.
Each season, each Lent, each year is an invitation
to trek deeper into pure love.
There is never an end to our interior journey,
a final moment where we say, “Oh! Now, I know everything.”
There is always another door to be opened.
Come away with me, God says. Come higher. Come closer.
As we enter into the fire of God, part of us will die.
The fire of God will scorch the unhealthy parts of ourselves.
That which harms others and ourselves will be burned away as
we draw closer and closer to the heat of love.
We trek deeper and deeper into the mystery
and discover that the spiritual life is like the matryoshka,
the Russian dolls that keep opening to reveal another doll.
Except they never end. We keep opening and are like,
Wow! Another Lent! Another day!
Another moment where there is still another door to open.
A door in our soul. A door in the community.
There is still another way
where we can welcome freedom, equality, and compassion more.
Come home. Open. Be opened.
Let the layers peel back. This takes time.
We may spiral back to the same thing over and over again.
Like Moses, who was on Mount Sinai
when he first saw God in a burning bush.
Afraid, young Moses kept his distance
and said, “I am not qualified to be a leader.”
Still, God wanted him.
God peeled back Moses layers of shame one by one.
Moses spoke truth to power, accompanied the people to freedom,
and then returned, spiraled back to this mountain.
Again, God says, “Come to me.”
God choses Moses.
A guy who was originally just a criminal on the run,
after he killed an Egyptian.
Moses didn’t think he had a place to belong,
which is why he hid out by Sinai.
Yet, God says from the cloud, you do belong. You belong to me.
You belong to love. You deserve to be loved.
This is the vision God has for you.
This is the vision God has for community life.
Come, leave behind everything, bit by bit,
until we can come face to face with God.
Slowly. Quietly. Patiently.
So that we might know we need nothing else.
We are home.