What makes a good place to live?
Bible reading: Psalm 84
How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, indeed it faints
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh sing for joy
to the living God.
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. Selah
Happy are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.[a]
As they go through the valley of Baca
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength;
the God of gods will be seen in Zion.
O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer;
give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
Behold our shield, O God;
look on the face of your anointed.
For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than live in the tents of wickedness.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
he bestows favour and honour.
No good thing does the Lord withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
O Lord of hosts,
happy is everyone who trusts in you.
What makes a good place to live? Psalm 84 focuses on the house of the Lord, God’s dwelling place. The subject of home has been much on my mind recently. Two weeks ago the Archbishop’s Commission on housing released Coming Home, a report in which the Commission set out what they think makes a good home. They state:
‘A good home is a place that enables us to live in harmony with the natural environment, it is a place where we feel safe, it enables us to put down roots and belong to a community, it is a place we enjoy living in and which is a delight to come home to.’
Psalm 84 offers us a vision of a ‘good home’. It’s a place that is lovely, where even the sparrow can find a nest, where God is our shield and where we can go from strength to strength.
For many of us, our ‘dwelling places’ have become intimately familiar to us as we have travelled through one lockdown after another, as we have been asked to ‘stay home’ to protect the NHS and save lives. It is the place where we have not only eaten and slept, but where we have worked, socialised and even attended church.
My connection to the place where I live has been on my mind recently as we have seen the English roadmap for coming out of lockdown. I have realised I am actually very nervous about leaving home now. I do so regularly for exercise and essential activities, but only to local, familiar places. When I think about both the places I used to travel to and the activities I used to get involved in I find myself wondering if I will be able or want to do them again.
I remember when I was young, living and growing up in the countryside, I was quite nervous around people and took comfort in knowing my home well and in being able to get out into the fields and hide in a copse of trees if I needed to get away. As I got older, I discovered I was quite good with people, particularly one on one, to the point of describing myself as an extravert and feeling completely at home in and among lots of people and community life.
Zoom and other technology have been great at keeping work going for me but has not substituted for being with people. I now realise I am going to have to relearn both how to be with other people and the fact that I actually like being with people.
The idea of coming home is about more than just bricks and mortar. It’s the place where you live, where you are most fully yourself. Psalm 84 reminds us that ‘coming home’ is about returning to dwell with God, a place where you are in harmony with your environment, where you feel safe and where God’s love builds you up from strength to strength.
I have found this lockdown Lent has – without any effort from me – stripped away much of who I am and pushed me in ways I would not have chosen. The challenge I have now is finding my way back home. I’m not sure I know what ‘home’ looks like anymore, but God’s love is consistent and his presence leads us on.
- Take a moment to consider whether there are things that are worrying you as we approach a time when we can again leave our homes and meet one another. The journey towards Easter is a good time to acknowledge these and offer them to God. God cares for you, so turn all your worries over to him (1 Peter 5:7).
- Take time to listen to friends, family or those in your community who have fears or anxieties about the future at this time.
- Spend time thinking about what home means for you, that place where you are in harmony with your environment, where you feel safe and where God’s love builds you up from strength to strength.
O God who calls us to live in your presence
and make our home in you,
help us to feel when you are near
and give us courage in the next steps you ask us to take.
About the Rural Response partners…
Focus Partner: Rural Mission Solutions
With roots going back to the mid-20th century, Rural Mission Solutions offers our extensive experience and contemporary research to rural churches of any tradition wishing to be more effective in mission and outreach within their local community. We run periodic webinars, provide advice and training on sustainable bespoke mission strategies that fit and are appropriate for rural churches. We conduct rural mission consultations and also administer the national Rural Evangelism Network. No church is too small. No fees are charged. We are based in the East Midlands but can work anywhere in the UK. Enquiries to email@example.com or 01858 414930.Website: ruralmissionsolutions.org.uk.
Mark Betson, National Rural Officer for the Church of England