Wine Before Breakfast – Coming Home in the Empire

You know that I think a lot about “home.”

Some folks think that next to “empire,” home is pretty much all I do think about.
Or at least that I’m likely to find either home or empire (or more likely both) under every verse of the Bible.

Guilty as charged.

But I am not sentimental about home.
I know all about broken homes,
homes of violence,
homes of exclusion,
homes of betrayal,
homes that are far from safe and far from sweet.

Just ask a Palestinian or a Sudanese refugee.
Just ask that young girl turning tricks on the streets of Toronto.
Just ask any of our First Nations neighbours.
Just ask anyone who has gone through divorce.

The old adages “home sweet home” and “home is where the heart is”
meet “home … hard to know what it is if you’ve never one”,
“home … that’s where the hurt is.”

Now lets bring home and empire together.

If Bono sings, “home … that’s where the hurt is,”
then Israel sang,
“how can we sing the Lord’s song at the heart of empire?”

Whether it was Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece or Rome
– one damn empire after another –
the question was the same,
“how can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?”
How can we sing those songs of homecoming,
those songs of homemaking in covenant,
those songs home,
when we are so far from home,
so dispersed,
so displaced,
so disconnected?

These are, I think, perennial themes in the Scriptures,
indeed, perennial themes in human life.

And, like all experiences of home, it gets messy.
Even our best attempts at homemaking are mired in home breaking,
deeply ambivalent,
and, it seems, invariably expressions of exclusion.

Especially in the church!
Specifically in the church at the centre of the empire.
The church in Rome under the rule of Claudius and Nero.


How do you make home together as the family of God
under a regime in which the emperor is the father of all?
How do you embrace one another as sisters and brothers
when the imperial household is structured with
some as honoured, others as shameful,
some as free, others as slaves,
some as rich, others as poor,
some as privileged, others as scapegoats?
And how do you make home together in Jesus,
when all of these divisions,
all of these exclusions,
are woven into the very fabric of your life?

So we will begin at the end.
Tomorrow at Wine Before Breakfast we will kick off our year in Romans at the end.
We begin with that final chapter in which Paul gives us a picture of the community to whom this letter is addressed.

Deb Whalen is back directing our bandhood of all believers and they’ve got some Ryan Adams and Alexi Murdoch cooking, together with some very fine hymns.
Andrew Federle will be serving the bread and the wine.
The Bread Guild will bake that bread,
and we’ve got some breakfast happening (including the ever famous “Amish Summer Sausage.”

If we are going to make a sense of home together, then
we need to sing,
we need to pray,
we need to dwell in the homemaking Word,
we need to eat.

Welcome home. I look forward to seeing you tomorrow morning.
And, of course, your friends are always welcome at our house.

In Christ,


Wine Before Breakfast
Tuesdays @ 7.22am
Wycliffe College Chapel
breakfast to follow in the chaplain’s office.