4 things buying a house has in common with the spiritual life
So one of the things we talk a lot about at church is how 'everything is spiritual.'
Its the way we acknowledge that not only is everything a spiritual issue - that even stuff like how we spend our money, or going to the park, and how busy we are matters on a spiritual level,
but it also acknowledges that if we are attentive and reflective enough, everything has the potential to teach us about the spiritual life; it can all help us think about, imagine, and understand what it means to be human and alive in this world and what it means to be connected with God, each other, and ourselves.
Are you with me?
So, as some of you know, Dawn and I bought a house.
Over the past month or so that we’ve lived there, I keep saying to Dawn: “Ya know, buying a house is a lot like …”
and then I’ll ramble on some spiritual thing, to which she always replies, “you should write that down for a sermon.”
trusting that everything is spiritual,
that every day stuff can teach us about the kind of life Jesus opens up for us,
and having finally written down enough stuff for a sermon,
here are 4 things buying a house has in common with the spiritual life.
So we’ll go over the them together and after each one I’ll offer some questions to take home and sit with that can draw us further into some of these points and tensions and ideas.
The fist thing buying a house has in common with the spiritual life …
So according to Google Maps, we moved exactly 3.7km east of our last place.
We moved from living at the corner of 17th and 35th, to living at the corner of 17th and 14th.
And really, in the grand scheme of things, that’s not a whole lot, is it?
It’s not like we moved from the country to down town.
It’s just two neighbourhoods over.
Its like a 5 minute drive.
What could happen in 3.7km?!
But here’s the thing we discovered … a lot can happen.
Just 3.7km east, there’s a completely different energy to the city.
Just 3.7km east, there are more locally owned businesses and public spaces.
Just 3.7km east, the city becomes more pedestrian and bike friendly.
Just 3.7km east, and it feels like we’re living in a completely different city.
It feels more like home than before.
3.7km makes a huge huge difference.
And I think thats got something to say to us as people trying to live the life Jesus teaches us.
When Jesus came on the scene and started teaching people about what it meant to be human,
what it meant to be spiritual,
what was the way he invited people into that life?
He said: “follow me”
He said that because the spiritual life isn’t about digging in with the right answers,
but rather the spiritual life is about movement and growth. Its about becoming.
Its about moving step by step in Mystery,
deeper and deeper into a life connected with God, each other, ourselves.
And throughout the Bible we can see Jesus inviting people into that movement by calling people out of one thing and into another.
And some where huge paradigm shifting movements:
“Wait, God loves me just as I am?!”
“Wait, love my enemies?!"
“Wait, everyone belongs?!”
But others were pretty small steps:
"Wait, I should embrace my questions and doubts?”
“Wait, forgiveness is a process?"
“Wait, God pays more attention to my heart than to what I believe?”
“Wait, the right way of worshipping God isn’t the only right way?!”
The truth is, sometimes even the smallest of movements can make the biggest of differences.
In the life we’re pursuing,
sometimes the things that we put off because its only a little movement,
sometimes the things we rationalize away because they couldn’t possibly make a huge difference,
sometimes those are the very things that will bring you deeper into life and are the very things that you need to do to help you find the home you’re looking for.
So, as people on the move, as people invited into that kind of life, the questions become:
whats your 3.7km?
what distance are you resisting travelling?
what new home is waiting for you just down the road?
So I was sitting on the couch one morning.
It the first morning we had our new couch because the original one wouldn’t fit up the stairs (more on that later).
I was doing my morning routine, drinking coffee, doing my meditation, and reading the news, when all of a sudden I was caught between two conflicting feelings.
The first one was feeling so incredibly thankful for all the things that made buying a home we love possible,
and the second one was knowing that while I sat on my couch,
1.6 billion people in our world dont have access to housing, let alone have housing at all;
or to bring it closer to home,
that 1 in 10 people and 10% of children in Calgary live in poverty,
thats 160,000 people who cant afford to do and have what I had and was enjoying so much.
And so I was sitting there,
caught between gratitude and privilege,
and if you know that tension,
if you’ve been caught up in it before,
it’s a tricky one to navigate, isn’t it?
And its a tricky tension to navigate because at the root of the tension is a really heavy and important question:
how can I live with when so many live without?
I know, right?
Privilege, once you notice it, can become a really uncomfortable thing.
Now as humans, we dont like tension, do we?
We do all kinds of things to get out of it, don’t we?
And when it comes to this tension,
some of us try to get rid of it through the penance of shame or guilt,
others try ignorance,
neither of which work very well,
but the way the Jesus tradition offers is a different way all together,
a way that doesn't help us escape the tension so much as it helps us live within it:
Baked into our tradition is this idea that the only way we can truly live in that tension is through generosity.
We’re called to practice generosity because baked into our faith is this scandalous idea that we are all one,
that we are all connected,
that we are all responsible for one another,
that we all matter.
And for those of us living in privilege,
whether thats wealth, gender, material, education, race, whatever it is,
for those of us living with,
for those of us who have,
the way we live within that tension is by being generous.
It’s by sharing our clothes with the naked,
our food with the hungry,
our medicine with the sick.
Its by using our power to make space for immigrants, refugees, the homeless, the marginalized,
its by using our voice to say black lives matter, that indigenous lives matter, that creation matters,
its by giving others the benefit of the doubt,
by assuming everyone is doing their best,
by offering unconditional positive regard to everyone around us.
We live in that tension by recognizing that because we are connected, because we have that responsibility,
the only thing we can do,
the only way to live,
is by lifting up whatever it is we have,
giving thanks for it all,
we break it,
and we share it,
doing what we can to help everyone have enough.
You’ll never escape that tension, but you can create a life where our privilege doesn't separate you from the needy, but bends you towards them through generosity.
So, the questions for you to rumble with this week:
how will you be generous this week?
what privileges do you have that need to be shared?
what can you do to turn your gratitude into generosity?
So the third point takes us to that couch which wouldn’t fit up the stairs.
The morning we moved into the new house we realized that the couch would not fit up the stairs to the main floor.
Unless we sawed the thing in two it simply wasn’t going to happen.
Anyone experience that before?
Yah, if you move enough, that’s bound to happen.
The truth about moving is sometimes you just can’t take it with you because sometimes, it just wont fit anymore.
Sometimes even the stuff you love, the comfy stuff, the sentimental stuff, it simply wont fit.
Thats a truth about life too, isn’t it?
If this life is all about movement,
if this life is all about becoming and growing,
if it’s about moving step by step towards the kind of life Jesus calls us to have,
a life of dignity, value, and belonging,
a life the sees God’ moving in everyone and everything,
a life bent towards justice and peace and wholeness,
the spiritual task isn’t just to look up to what’s ahead,
its also about looking at what needs to be left behind
because the truth is, sometimes, as we grow and move, things just don't fit anymore.
And we’re not just talking about false narratives, lies, and labels.
We’re not just talking about the things that affirming community and extravagant love do away with.
We’re not just talking about leaving behind things we want to leave behind.
As we grow, become, and move in our lives and faith,
the fact is sometimes the things we love,
the comfy things we love to collapse into,
the things which have supported us and nourished us,
they too will need to be left behind.
A friend and I were talking about this on Friday.
My friend spoke about how because his understanding of God has shifted,
that God is no longer a guy up on the clouds we need to glorify and sing songs to,
but rather God is this Mystery that’s all around us for us to connect and commune with,
he struggles to go to church now because the hymns and spiritual practices he once loved,
these practices and hymns that once brought so much comfort and joy,
dont work anymore because he’s in a different place,
he needed to leave them behind for him to truly move forward and grow.
And he talked about how while it was so tough to experience,
how after some grief and searching,
he’s found new practices and songs to take their place,
ones that fit with where his heart and soul have moved to.
Anyone know what he’s talking about?
I for sure do.
Maybe you’ve been in the same boat.
Maybe you’ve been experiencing the same thing.
And while we’d no doubt love to just take it all with us, the questions we have to ask are:
what in your life - whether its spiritual or otherwise - isn’t needed anymore?
what wont fit up the stairs as you move onward in your spiritual journeys?
what space needs to be freed up for something new?
And finally …
One of our friends is an interior decorator and designer.
She came over just after we moved in to help us figure out not just what we do with the space,
but how we could make it feel like home for both of us.
So we’re there talking about what a minimalist industrial mid-century modern home would look like,
when she said the best piece of advice she could give us is “its all about the couch.”
Start with the big pieces,
the central pieces,
things like the couch,
and go from there because everything else will revolve around that.
The couch would shape the rest of the room.
“Its all about the couch.”
Jesus said something similar once.
He was having a conversation with some religious leaders about what the greatest commandment is.
They were trying to decide what was the one commandment, the one teaching, that summed up all the others.
What they were essentially asking was “whats the couch?”
"What's the one piece that if you got that one right, everything else would fall into place?”
Which really is a conversation about how to be and how to exist.
Its a conversation about the one singular mode of being we’re really supposed to inhabit.
So one agued that we need to worship God with our heart, mind, and strength;
another argued that its about honouring the Sabbath,
another was saying “no, it’s about being kosher,"
and they turn to Jesus and ask him what he thinks the greatest commandment is,
and whats he say?
Love God, love neighbour, love self.
As people trying to figure out how to live, move, and have our being,
as people trying to figure out what we’re supposed to furnish our lives with,
love is the couch.
Thats the thing we need to front and centre in order to truly live and exist.
Jesus was saying when it comes to both the lives we’re trying to create and the individual decisions and actions we take,
the place we begin and end,
the thing we always let shape us,
is with the loving thing to do.
Dont begin with getting what you want.
Dont begin with budgets.
Dont begin with personal preferences.
Dont begin with shame, or fear, or aggression,
begin with love.
Love for God, love for neighbour, love for you.
As people who are on the move, remember: “its all about the couch."
Get the couch,
get that set up first.
learn that rhythms first.
and everything else will flow out and you will feel at home in who you are because love is where it begins and ends.
So, some questions for you:
Do you need a new couch?
Whats taking up space that you need to get rid of?
How can you better let love be the centre piece of your life?