Weekly Bible Devotional
“Close to Home: Homesick”
December 3, 2023
Introduction to the Theme:
This Advent and Christmas we will be using the materials from the series “Close to Home” from A Sanctified Art. This theme speaks to our inner longing to belong to God and to know that we are welcomed, loved, and celebrated for who we are with all of our shadows and light.
Scripture: Luke 21:25-36
25 ‘There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26 People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud” with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’
29 Then he told them a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30 as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
34 ‘Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, 35 like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.’
Commentary on Luke 21:25-36 | by Elder Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri
“…Mi corazón se quedó frente al mar en mi Viejo San Juan…”
The famous Puerto Rican song, “En mi Viejo San Juan” has described the sentiments of many in the Puerto Rican diaspora. The song, written in 1943 by Noel Estrada for his brother stationed in Panamá, recounts memories of life in San Juan and the long-awaited return: “My heart remained at the seafront in Old San Juan.”
Listening to this song sometimes makes me a little homesick, but most of the time, it evokes warm, nostalgic feelings and brings forth memories of the cobblestone streets and blue seas of my hometown. When hurricane María hit Puerto Rico in 2017, the news footage of the massive category 4 storm contrasted with the lovely memories of the island. The words of the song resonated; my heart was, indeed, at the seafront in Old San Juan. The storm passed, and we anxiously awaited news from our families on the island. Homesickness crept in as we were far away from loved ones and wished to be close to them in the moment of need. Days later, el silencio de la espera was finally broken by the buzz of a text message: “Estamos bien” (“We’re OK”). Those two words were hope in the midst of chaos. Those words were home.
Images of distress, confusion, and fear emerge in Luke 21. In many ways, the feelings that these words evoke mirror the past…years of pandemic crisis—a world in turmoil suffering from disasters, both natural and human-made—speaking to the realities and injustices of a chaotic world. Thankfully, Jesus enters this world offering words, not of foreboding, but of hope to a homesick people that felt far away from God and longed to be close to kin in the middle of the crisis. “Stand up and raise your heads,” Jesus said, “because your redemption is near . . . So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near” (v. 28-31). Even in el silencio de la espera, we are reassured that God’s kin-dom is near. Kin-dom, in Ada María Isasi-Díaz’s definition, is “interconnected community, seeing God’s movement emerge from la familia, the family God makes.” God is close. These are words of hope for a homesick world. These words are home.
– The word “homesick” originated in 1765 from the German compound, Heimweh, meaning “home pain or woe.”5 What is your first memory of homesickness? When you feel homesick, what do you long for?
– What is your community homesick for? What are the collective “homesicknesses” we hold within ourselves? How does our deep longing intersect with deep hope?
– What are the stories of people who have lost their homes—due to natural disasters or financial strain? What are the stories of people who have been displaced from their homelands or have had to flee them? How can you honor these stories in your worship? How can your community help provide support?
– In her commentary, Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri says of Jesus’ lesson on the fig tree: “These are words of hope for a homesick world. These words are home.” What are other examples of words that are home? Where do you see God entering a homesick world?
From the Artist:
Awake to Wonder
by Rev. Lisle Gwynn Garrity
Inspired by Luke 21:25-36 | Digital painting with collage
It is peculiar that we begin Advent with adult Jesus offering us a prophecy and parable filled with fear and mystery. This particular scripture is within a longer section of Jesus describing the coming destruction of the temple, a public statement that no doubt added to the conspiracies and plots stirring against him. The fate he speaks of is filled with terrifying details: the temple demolished, false prophets, wars and uprisings, food shortages, natural disasters, persecution, and epidemics (Luke 21:5-24). As we read these words now, this litany of fear and foreboding feels far too familiar—a bit too close to home.
When I began this series of visuals, I printed an architectural blueprint on a large piece of cardstock. Using acrylic paint, I added fluid strokes of blue, obscuring the white lines in the blueprint so that the plans for building a home would appear present but also blurred and concealed. I added hints of gold leaf, trying to emulate the texture of paint peeling from the exterior of a building. I then shifted to digital media, photographing the painting from a number of angles and then drawing figures and details into my compositions with my stylus and iPad.
As I began this particular image, I imagined a scene of chaos and apocalypse. However, as I drew a woman lifting her head and reaching for the fig tree, I began to see a vision of beauty and hope, a glimpse of one’s whole being awake to wonder.
I think we all share a collective homesickness. It feels like nostalgia. It looks like the trauma hiding in our past. It can turn into foreboding fear that robs us of real joy. But in this image and in Jesus’ words, I see a call to resilience despite the difficult realities that confront us. I see a longing so deep that it keeps us reaching—for a home restored, for comfort renewed, for the fruit that is sure to come.
For Reflection (Pastor Roula Alkhouri):
Upheaval is all around us and it is tempting to think that if we just build a strong enough home or if we could just go back to a simpler time, we would be okay. But notice that Jesus does not recommend that his followers work to rebuild the temple after it is destroyed. Instead, he gives them the foundation that will keep them feeling at home in their lives no matter what. Home in that way is not something we can hold on to as much as it is an inward reality that flourishes through our connection to God and to others. It is an inward reality that flowers into outward experiences of peace, justice, and compassion.
No matter how hard we try to keep things the same around us, so that we may feel at home in this world, disruptions are always there and will always come in small and big ways. The invitation of this season of Advent is to stay close to our inner home with ourselves, God, and others. Instead of being drawn into the fears that the current realities of our world are the final word, we are invited to dig deep into the home of peace that is within and around us. This kind of grounding is always where something new is born.
When the disciples were listening to Jesus’ words about the destruction of the temple, I am sure they were devastated. Losing such an important part of their identity as Jews would have been catastrophic. They could not have imagined a new way of being without Jesus being in their midst or without the Temple in Jerusalem.
But by being awake to the realities of God’s love in and around them proved to be enough! They not only rebuilt their spiritual home, but they also founded new communities for others to experience a spiritual home of love and transformation.
If you look all around you and are feeling the pain of the realities of our world, I pray that you will take the words of Jesus to heart. Stay awake to wonder! Look for love in the present moment. Be alert but not in the way of worry and fear. Instead, be on the lookout to see where love is flourishing or can flourish.
Poem by Sarah Are Speed:
How do you describe homesickness to a child?
Children know the feeling of being away from home.
It’s fear, dipped in loneliness,
that “What if I’ve been forgotten?” sonnet,
or the “What if I can’t go back?” refrain.
Even a healthy, scrubbed-clean,
knows the longing of home.
But if I had to.
If I had to describe
that aching feeling, I would say:
“Homesickness is when longing and grief
wrap themselves around you like a blanket.
It’s the door to comfort thrown open.
It’s an eye on the horizon for what could be
and the only way out is to keep walking,
to keep dreaming,
to keep looking
for signs that will point you back home.”
And if you tell that to a child,
you just may realize
that a part of your spirit
has shoes on
and has always been walking,
always been dreaming,
always been looking
for the home that could be.
The door to comfort has been blown open.
Tell God I’m homesick.
I’m on my way.
Prayer by Caroline Myss:
Hover over me God. Fill in the grace gaps for me when I am incapable of compassion and kindness. Help me live in harmony with nature, to do no harm to my fellow creatures, and give me the grace of courage to do more for others each day and to worry less about what tomorrow might bring. Amen.