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.
“Ahh, it feels so good to be home!” That’s what friends said to me recently returning from a fantastic vacation. It was a reminder to me that no matter how enjoyable it can be to roam God’s wide and wonderful world, “there is no place like home”. That is exactly what Dorothy sang in the Wizard of Oz after three clicks of her heels transported back home to Kansas. “Home is where the heart is”, we like to say.
Jesus said that when the Prodigal Son “came to his senses” he wanted to go home. Poet Robert Frost noted that “Home is the place where, when you go there, they have to take you in.” The late Barlett Giametti, once President of Yale University and later the Commissioner of Baseball, explained America’s long fascination with baseball: “Baseball is about going home and we all want to go home.” Giametti pointed out that our word “nostalgia” comes from the Greek nostos, “longing for home.” I just looked in my Thesaurus for synonyms of “home” and found words like “familiar”, “family”, “at ease”, “at rest” and “in one’s element.”
I think our longing for home says something about today’s scripture. The words are taken from a pilgrim song that worshippers chanted as they journeyed to God’s house in Jerusalem. It was a celebrative song about the going home to God. On this particular day as the psalmist enters the temple, he is struck by what he sees right there on God’s altar: “even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself”. Note here that the Law of Moses prevented the disturbing of a bird’s nest: Deuteronomy 22:6-7. The psalmist delights in seeing on the high and sacred altar a sparrow’s nest of straw, twigs, and bits of string. And there, close by, he sees a swallow’s nest skillfully made out of mud.
The sight of those birds’ nests stirs in the psalmist the recognition of a profound truth: “God welcomes any sinner coming home to Him.” For the ancient Hebrews the pesty common sparrow symbolized a worthless person, the no-count of society. And the swallow, ever leaving and returning, suggested to them the shiftless, restless gadabout. But on that day the psalmist sees and understands that in God’s house a ‘sparrow’ and ‘swallow’ can always find a home!
I wonder if Jesus has this psalm in mind when He tells the immortal story of the father who sees his son a long way off, runs to him, kisses him, and with heart pounding says, “Welcome home!”
No matter how far you or I roam, our heavenly Father says, “Welcome home!”
A fellow traveler,