“Even the sparrow finds a home and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young,at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God. Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praise.” (Psalm 84:3-4, NRSV)
In the earliest weeks of the COVID-19 lockdown, my Mom and I stepped into the backyard with our dog Silas one early spring morning and discovered that a birds’ nest had been built overnight on top of a high pipe near the gutter – not an ideal spot. The nest was balanced so precariously, so delicately, that it didn’t look like it would take much to topple it. A slight breeze, or the whizzing of a climbing squirrel, or even a light rainfall, would probably be more than enough. A couple leafy bushes grew about four feet below the nest, the only shield cushioning it from total destruction on the stone patio.
As the rest of the family woke up and joined us, we all kept a close eye on the nest as we went about our pandemic-lulled morning. Before long, we learned that the nest was built by two cardinals. The first, a delightfully round, bright red male, swooped in from a nearby tree and kept a watchful eye on the nest from the top of the nearby gutter – we called him Steve. And the mother, who we called Thelma, followed a few minutes later, flying in with building materials to her perch on the nest. Steve, of course, didn’t offer any help in this construction and seemed perfectly content to watch, which made us laugh. But Steve and Thelma were always together, always a pair, as cardinals often are. Wherever one was, we could rest assured that the other was not far behind.
Day after day, we watched Thelma and Steve as they built their nest. We worried when a thunderstorm rolled through and nearly knocked it over, and we watched in awe as they worked together to reinforce the nest afterwards; we laughed when we saw Steve munching on some crumbs left over from our dinner on the patio; we listened for Thelma’s distinctive song.
In those difficult and unsure early days of the pandemic when the ground under our feet felt shakier than ever, Steve and Thelma taught me and my family how to find home. Their nest was balanced precariously atop a decades-old pipe; they were a stone’s throw from the rumblings of a major interstate highway; the tumultuous Chicago springtime brought with it sunshine and rain and snow and thunder and floods and wind and heat waves and cold fronts. But in the midst of all these things, Steve and Thelma still found their home not because of their own merit or skill or exceptional ethical decisions, but simply because they were, simply because they were together.
In the midst of all these things, Steve and Thelma still found their home in one another; they still built their nest; they still fortified and reinforced and supported; they still rested and ate and worked and sang.
“Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.”
Steve and Thelma remind us, dear friends, that from beginning to end, God is our home, not because we’ve earned it or deserve it, but simply because God has made God’s home with us. Even when our nests aren’t built in the best places or under the best circumstances, God is our home. Even when we’re reeling from a storm, God is our home. Even when we’re rebuilding and refortifying, doing our very best to get back on our feet and stumbling all the way, God is our home. Even when we can’t get out of bed, God is our home. Even when we are anxious, God is our home. Even when we are stumbling around in the dark, unsure of where to turn or what to do next, God is our home. Even when we make mistakes, God is our home. Even when we’re grieving, God is our home. Even when we can’t bring ourselves to pray, God is our home. God is our home in all times and in all places, dear friends, because God has made God’s home, God’s dwelling place, with us, with each and every one of us – young and old, Republican and Democrat, rich and poor, faithful and unfaithful, sinners and saints. No boundaries. No exceptions. God has made God’s home with each and every one of us. And that means that we belong to one another, that we find our home in God in one another.
It is said that Saint Martin of Tours once encountered a homeless, naked man shivering on the side of the road on a chilly evening. Moved by the man’s plight, Martin removed his own cloak, cut it in half with his sword, and used it to cover the man. “Lord, if your people need me, I will not refuse the work,” Martin famously said. “Your will be done.” Martin understood that day what it meant to find his home in God. He saw the face of God in his neighbor; his very soul, his very being, was bound to his neighbor’s, so much so that he shared his neighbor’s plight in his very body, dividing his cloak evenly between them, making himself a little chillier so that his neighbor could be a little warmer. Martin didn’t ask if the man believed the right things, or if he could recite the Lord’s Prayer perfectly, or if he could provide proof of his poverty or worthiness of his gift. He simply saw his neighbor, saw the face of God, and found his home, made his home with him.
How might we follow Martin’s example? How might we be a little more like Steve and Thelma, a little more like the sparrows and swallows? How might we find our home in God and in one another – and how might we be a better home for our neighbors? How might we rest in our God who is our home? And how might we be a home, a place of rest, for our neighbors?
God is our home in all times and in all places, dear friends, because God has made God’s home with us. “Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself,” in our God – and that means that each and every one of us, our whole human family, finds a home there too. Thanks be to God!
Hannah Hawkinson is our guest blogger today. She is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, and a child of Winnetka Covenant Church.
Please consider joining her as a guest blogger! Contact Pastors Peter or Jen and we will gladly help you through this simple process. Writers, get busy!