First Third Conversations


By Dr. Terri Martinson Elton, Director of the Center for First Third Ministry at Luther Seminary

This morning the idea of home was swirling in my head. This past week I was on the road traveling, so sleeping in my own bed, hanging with my family and even cleaning my house was a gift. Home, a shelter and place for family. Last night my college daughter returned from a week traveling abroad and our family got to join her for dinner. There in the restaurant sharing stories, a feeling of home. A friend’s husband was hospitalized last week. This weekend was filled with praying for his recovery and awaiting news on when he’s be going home. In the hospital, longing for home. The morning news announced the pending storm on the East coast. Several states are preparing for the worst. Communities are on alert. Wall Street is shut down, public transportation halted, many schools closed and people are asked to stay home. In the midst of crisis, home. Home - a place of safety and security.

Home means different things to different people, but all humans have a need for it. Jess Rice, in The Church of Facebook, notes our human need for authenticity, depth, protective safety, dignifying freedom, loving concern and becoming a better whole person (47). Home can be such a place.  Messy and complicated, home seeks to be an environment where people thrive.

Humans thrive when connected – physically, emotionally, spiritually and relationally. Today creating and sustaining human connections does not require sharing physical space. I’m the first to admit the virtual world has much to offer us as we gather, inform, share and care about one another. Yet such connections can only take home, in its deepest sense, to a certain point. Home, without people gathering in time and space, misses a crucial element. The smells, the touch, the being present are missing in our virtual connections. For me, the examples listed above drive home the point. Being home after traveling is more than hearing my husband’s voice; it’s also about giving and receiving a hug. After being in a foreign place, sharing a meal with familiar food and people who know you each connects deep into one’s soul. Returning home, after being in the hospital or serving in the military, is life giving. In the midst of storms, homes are more than shelter.

Ministry with those in the first third of life must be connected with the places and people we call home. As imperfect and chaotic as home can be, tending to the home is part of our calling. So today let’s offer prayers for the home: Prayers for people celebrating being home, prayers for people longing to be home and prayers for homes to be places where people are safe and secure.

- Terri

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Terri Elton is passionate about young people and their families, and loves the church. No really! She's our Associate Professor and teaches with an eye toward developing leaders and leading change.

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