From The Kitchen Window - Houses
words by David Hollows
From the kitchen window – Houses
A recent news report read as follows:
‘As many as 34,000 homes in one state in America are at risk of collapsing due to faulty foundations. Without realising it, a concrete company pulled stone from a quarry laced with a mineral that, over time, causes concrete to crack and disintegrate. The foundations of nearly 600 homes have already crumbled and that number will increase over time.’
So, what does your home mean to you?
For many it is the building where you eat, sleep and do the laundry as their way of life means that they spend very little quality time at home. For many home is the place of comfort and memories, although these change as the family leaves the nest, and for some, their home is more than their palace or castle, it reflects the images in the luxury home magazines. Each to their own as we all have our own preferences.
Most of us will have noticed the huge changes in our homes: the coal fires, especially in the bedrooms in winter where the windows could be frozen up on the inside, now replaced with central heating. Most had carpet squares and there were the hand-made rugs as well as the linoleum now replaced by wall-to-wall carpet or parquet flooring. Of course, there was the outside toilet in the yard or the row of WC at the end of the street, with squares of newspaper dangling from a nail, now replaced by walk-in showers and heated radiators for warm towels. The dolly-tub is a museum piece and the amount of electrical technology in the modern kitchen would baffle those of yesteryear. We may not have lived in Downton Abbey style but our homes, 2-up and 2-down, were ours.
The Coronavirus pandemic has brought into close relief the disparity in our country regarding our homes: those who live with gardens and often with a spare bedroom which became the work-at-home room in contract to those who live in flats or pre-war housing in multiple generational families.
The valley typifies the changes in housing: from the old weaver cottages to the long rows of closely packed terraced houses, from the post war semi-detached housing estates to the mill-owner mansions and today the bungalow boom and detached housing estates claiming land upon which used to stand the industries which funded the valley. Even church buildings and mills have been re-designed and re-purposed and are now apartments. The area in which you live determines the price of the housing and this again has added to the disparity of lifestyles cause by the pandemic and related health outcomes. We all recognise the drain on finances our homes can become and for those who struggle to pay basis bills, the home becomes a burden. Some of us will also realise how difficult it is for the younger members of our families to place their foot on the first rung of the housing ladder and how disheartening it is for young couples to have to rent rather than have a mortgage.
The pandemic has also meant that for some, their home as a castle has become their prison where they have spent months shielding from the virus but also shut away from family, neighbors and social routines.
Photo by Toa Heftiba via Unsplash
In the Bible, homes feature in various ways.
Abraham and his family moved around so they would be in tents (Genesis chapter 18) but we do know that Lot lived in houses in Sodom (Genesis chapter 19) as he entertained God’s angels.
In the Joseph narrative, Potiphar has a splendid house (Genesis chapter 39) Nehemiah and the returned exiles rebuilt not just the walls of Jerusalem but the houses as well (Nehemiah chapter 8).
The Bible tells us that as Moses led the Israelites through the desert they pitched their tents and waited for God for the instruction to move on and we know that the tents all faced the Tent of Meeting which represented the presence of God (Exodus chapter 26) We know that the community groups who lived in Canaan also lived in walled houses. When the 2 spies were hidden by Rahab (Joshua chapter 3) they escaped from the roof of her home via the window in the wall. Also, we learn that Jericho was an organised city which not only had an impressive defence wall but the buildings in the city were advanced in design (Joshua chapter 6).
The word, house, not only applies to the homes in which people lived,(as tents were replaced by stone structures) but also to the Temple and the actual town or city. For example, the town of Bethlehem was known as ‘the house of bread’ and Jericho as ‘the house of dates’.
David lived in a splendid palace as did Solomon (2 Chronicles chapter 6) David had the idea and Solomon realised the idea of building a ‘House for the Lord’ (1 kings chapter 8) The splendor of the temple certainly impressed the Queen of Sheba when she visited Solomon (2 Chronicles chapter 9).
Houses regularly feature in the Gospel stories and in the Acts of the Apostles. Jesus visits Peter’s house and heals Peter’s mother-in-law (Matthew chapter 8) Jesus spends time at the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus (John chapter 11) and He has a meal with Levi, the tax collector (Mark chapter 2) Jesus visited the house of Jairus, the Roman centurion, in order to heal his daughter (Luke chapter 8) and the friends of the paralyzed man broke through the roof of the house where Jesus was (Mark chapter 2) Yet Jesus stated that; ‘Foxes have holes and he birds of the air have their lodging places but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.’ (Matthew chapter 8 verse 20) However, we do have these comforting words from Jesus; ‘In my Father’s house, there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, I would have told you: for I am going to prepare a place for you.’ (John chapter 14 verse 2) For many it is reassuring that we have a heavenly home waiting for us.
In the Acts of the Apostles, many houses are visited: Peter is on the roof of Simon the tanner when he is invited to go to the house of Cornelius (Acts chapter 10) Peter is initially ignored by Rhoda as he bangs for admittance at the gate of John’s mother’s home after his supernatural release from prison (Acts chapter 12).
Paul is invited to stay with Lydia whose house was home and shop (Acts chapter 16) and the building was 3 storeys high when the young man fell from the third floor and Paul revived him (Acts chapter 20) Paul was treated by his jailor in the jailor’s house following the earthquake (Acts chapter 16) yet Paul was under house arrest in Rome when he wrote many of his letters to the churches.
In the Nativity narrative, John explains that God became a human and ‘tabernacled’ (pitched his tent) with us (John chapter 1 verse 14) and Paul writes that Jesus left the glory of heaven to live with us here on earth (Philippians chapter 2) all of which is reflected in the carol, ‘Thou did leave Thy throne (Mission Praise 697) For those of us who believe, we are encouraged to open our houses to the strangers, just as Abraham did (Genesis chapter 18) We are encouraged to offer hospitality to all as the disciples on the way to Emmaus did (Luke chapter 24) and to provide support for others in need, just as Boaz did (Ruth chapter 3) which means that our houses become a physical and concrete extension of our faith.
So, how is your house?
You may find the following prayer helpful:
Lord Jesus, you visited the house of Peter and healed his mother-in-law, you relaxed with Mary, Martha and Lazarus in Bethany, you accepted the adoration of Mary in Simon’s house as she covered your head and feet in perfume and you broke bread in the house in Emmaus. Jesus, come to my house as both host and guest, I pray.
God bless you