Searching for Home

Christian Schmidt

This sense of finding a home, even a temporary one, is so human, isn’t it? We all want to feel at home, somewhere, somehow. We want a space and a feeling that is ours—that we are safe—in a world that is often not safe, and where very little is ours.

The festival of Sukkot—literally, the festival of the tabernacle or shelter—is in part about this. The temporary structures observant Jews build have several meanings. They’re like the simple structures farmers used out in the fields for shelter, and they’re also reminders of the temporary, portable structures the Israelites used during their journey through the desert as they sought the promised land.

Symbolically, the structures themselves are rich, then. One interpretation of the sukkah's message is: Though this is a place of shelter and (relative) safety, this is not your home. Not the home you are searching for. You may stay here for a while, but your true home lies elsewhere, and you must go to it.

Though only some of us here draw upon Judaism in our spiritual lives, I think we can all learn something from this.

We are, each of us and all of us together, looking for that place to call home. It may be the place we are staying right now; it may not be. It may be that we never find the perfect place to call home, though we may make do with some good temporary homes on the way.

That perfect home, perfectly safe or perfectly suited to us—that perfect theology—may not be possible in our lifetimes or even in this world. But we try. And we try to do better. So I look at the terrible mass shootings we've endured, or the tolls of various natural disasters in our nation and around the world, those turned into refugees from violence in their homelands, and I pray for those hurt, I grieve for those lost, and I want to begin to work to do better. To make our world a little safer, a little more like a place where everyone feels at home.

But it has to be more than this world we see now. Yes, there are places where many of us can feel safe, can feel at home. But as we’ve seen in recent years, when movie theaters, concerts, workplaces, churches, restaurants, and schools become scenes of violence, we can’t guarantee the safety of any place. We have to work to make all places and all people safer.

We have to remember that all of us are interconnected, that no one is truly separate. Our actions affect others, and we are affected. As Unitarian Universalists, we affirm that we must act to make change for the better, and that “better” has to mean better for all of us.

Friends, I hope you feel at home. And I challenge you to make that home safer, better, more welcoming for all people, and for all the world. We can do better, and we must.

The edge of a sukkah, decorated with leaves and vines