Homecoming Today, Home Tomorrow

My family and I lived in a huge house in 1969.  Room for the hippies, the hitchhiker, refugees, foreigners, evangelists, Amishmen, shoe salesmen, elderly, missionary ladies.  But all belonged there; when they were in town, our home was their home.  Only once did we run out of room.  When Pete came home in the middle of the night and got in bed with the elderly evangelist Sister Stanton.  I don't know if Mrs. Stanton had ever been in bed with anyone before; but I know for a fact, Pete hadn't.

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Jackson Snyder Monthly Viewsletter

The Homecoming

   Snyder / Hardy

 

It seems forever you've been here,

And in our hearts we've held you dear,

Longing ever to be near, to tribute pay.

We've seen our children grow in grace,

Experienced God's loving face,

We've grown to cherish this old place,

We've learned to pray!


You may not mean so much to some

Who haven't taken time to come,

But just in being here the memories drift

And we find ourselves lifted up

And young again

As though our lives had begun again!
 

When in those times we've turned to run,

To hide ourselves from God's dear Son,

Here in our anguish we have come

To seek his will.

And now no matter where we roam,

When in a crowd or all alone,

We have a place to call our own

That's peaceful still. That's peaceful still!

 

 

Yochanan 14:1 Let not your hearts be troubled: believe in Elohim, believe in me also.  2 In my Father’s house are many mansions; if not so, I would have told you; for I am going to prepare a place for you.  3 And when I will have gone and prepared a place for you, I will come again, and take you to myself, that where I am you also may be. 4 And whither I go you know the way.

 

 

 Homecoming means "Coming Home."

 

  1) In a home I visited, there was displayed a plaque:

 

Home is where you can still be silent, and still be heard...

Where you can ask and find out who you are...

Where people laugh with you about yourself...

Where sorrow is divided and joy is multiplied...

Where we share love and grow.

 

Informal poll: How many of your homes does this poem describe?  Not many; this description is unrealistic!

 

  2) Yet we conjure an ideal when we think of home -- something wonderfully nostalgic -- like what Dorothy of the Wizard of Oz remembered when she tapped her ruby slippers together and recited, "There's no place like home."

 

  3)  In the last 10 years (since 1987), we've lived in nine different houses -- each one we've tried to call "home."  In a very real way, the church building has become our house and the church -- the Kingdom of God, anyway -- has become our home.

   We, like many others Methodist ministers, are wanderers, moving frequently from church to church, ministry to ministry, house to house.  The famous poem by J. Howard Payne really describes an apostle's way of life:

 

Mid pleasures and palaces, no matter where we roam,

Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home. 

 

(Wherever that is.)  As a Methodist preacher, I'll add a few lines to describe my perception of home:

 

And in our roaming, no matter where we roam,

Though home's what we're seeking, 'tis roaming that's home.

 

  4) You see, home doesn't necessarily need to refer to a house.  After all, "Home is where the heart is."  We return here, year after year, because pieces of our hearts are here; here we find the ideal home, even if it's for just one day out of the year.

   For here there is familiarity: old friends, family, surroundings; fellowship in the eating of both physical and spiritual food; and memories: even those who have "gone home" seem to be here. And when folks like us meet, there is a certain effervescence -- a "bubbliness" -- like that which shoots forth when the champagne cork pops from the bottle.  Can you feel the effervescence?  Of course you can, or you wouldn't be here.

 

  5) But today is fleeting by and passing away; moreover, we shall never pass this way again.  So we want this good feeling to last.  For some, home is not "Where we share love an grow...," as described in our opening poem.  For some, home it is chaotic; there's never any peace; the effervescence has long gone.  Many homebodies don't feel appreciated, but used and used up.  And we know that some homes are dysfunctional -- cursed with violence, alcoholism, mental illness, disease, lack of love.

   Although home, as one pundit describes it, should be "That personal place from which no one can ever throw you out," many homes are actually places of rejection, not acceptance.  And for others -- "it's just so lonely at home..." -- and keeping the skeletons from breaking down the closet door is almost a full time job.

 

   6) If you've resonated with anything I've just said, then it's for you that I want to share this message of hope and peace in Jesus. 

 

(Mat 8:18-20) Now when Jesus saw great crowds around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. A scribe then approached and said, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go." And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head."

           

(BOW 545) Almighty God, shield of the oppressed, hear us as we pray for the friendless, the rejected, the lonely, the tempted, the abused, and the unbelieving.  Be merciful to those of us who suffer even as we seek our home.  Let your love surround the homeless; we often feel so homeless.  May each sufferer find an eternal home with you in your Kingdom, where there is joy and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Jesus Understands Our Feelings of Alienation

   1. In our scripture, Jesus calls himself the "Son of Man," a title that defines a special aspect of his messiahship.  The Son of Man was to descend to earth from the right hand of God in heaven for a twofold purpose -- (1) to reveal the elect and (2) to judge all evil.  You would expect that when the Son of Man finally came, there would have been a gala celebration on earth.  It should have bee a glorious homecoming!

   But what he received was hardly a homecoming welcome.  In fact, there was no home for his mother and him in Bethlehem -- a cave had to do.  Mark 3 tells us that the king tried to kill him before he was out of diapers.  John 1 tells us that his own people rejected him.  John 7 tells us that his family didn't believe in him.  Mark 6 tells us he was the scandal in his home town.  And Luke 4 tells us that his church family tried to throw him off the cliff.

   John the Baptist doubted him; his friends betrayed him; the religious leaders hated him; the masses that he healed called for his crucifixion.  Even his disciples split.  He was called demon-possessed lunatic: when Pilate asked him where his home was, Jesus said that he'd come from outer space.  It's no wonder that we find him here woefully teaching the few followers he had left that "Foxes have holes, and birds have nests; the Son of Man had nowhere to lay his head."

   2.  Do you think the constant rejection at home here on earth affected the mental outlook of the Son of Man?  You bet it did.  He suffered everything that we suffer, and much, much worse.  Besides that, his entire life may have been an internal struggle between his calling to humanity and his desire to go back home to glory.

  3.  But, thank God, his calling won out; and, as he had planned,

 

He descended that we might ascend.

He became poor that we might become rich.

He was born that we might be born again.

He became a servant that we might become sons.

He was hungry that we might be fed.

He was thirsty that we might be satisfied.

He was stripped that we might be clothed.

He was forsaken that we might not be forsaken.

He was sad that we might become glad.

He was bound that we might go free.

He was made sin that we might be made righteous.

He came down that we might be caught up.

He died that we might live.  

He had no home that we might have a home. 

 

Jesus Became "Home" 

  1.  Jesus, a homeless man, became home for those who followed him.  When the time came for him to leave this earth, Jesus knew his friends would be homeless without him -- with no place to go -- forsaken to the rejection of a cruel world.  When he explained his going away,

  Peter said to him, "Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you." (John 13:37)

  2.  But Jesus realized that Peter's zeal stemmed from his need for a home in Jesus.  After surprising Peter with a mild rebuke, Jesus comforts him and the rest with these familiar words:

  "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house there are many mansions. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also."  (John 14:1-3)  

   "Mansions" is a funny word for additions to or spare rooms in a home.  We don't use the word "mansions" that way.  But when Jesus speaks of "mansions," he is referring to something the disciples knew about.  In those days, when a son was married, he would build an addition onto his father's house, where he would take his bride to live for their first year together.  That addition was called a mansion. 

   Jesus means that he was leaving earth in order to build an addition onto the Father's house for his bride.  All who are truly born again are his bride, you see.  And the Father's house is the New Jerusalem, the home of peace that will one day descend from Heaven to earth.  Jesus' promise is to come for his bride -- those whom he loves and who loves him -- and take them home where there will be no more strife, abuse, or loneliness.

   3.  We know something about the New Jerusalem from the Bible: Besides being "beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth," there will be absolutely no more sadness, rejection, tears, pain, disease, alcoholism, racism, abuse; Life will be eternal: joyful and  challenging; There'll be no more homecomings, because we will be home.

   4.  And in our new home, there will be plenty of room.  According to Revelation 20, it will be over 1,500 cubic miles big. 

   My family and I lived in a huge house in 1969.  Room for the hippies, the hitchhiker, refugees, foreigners, evangelists, Amishmen, shoe salesmen, elderly, missionary ladies.  But all belonged there; when they were in town, our home was their home.  Only once did we run out of room.  When Pete came home in the middle of the night and got in bed with the elderly evangelist Sister Stanton.  I don't know if Mrs. Stanton had ever been in bed with anyone before; but I know for a fact, Pete hadn't.

 

Hope for Home

  1. Although the memories remain strong, I don't know if that old house we lived in 30 years ago still stands.  It was already over 100 years old then.  The houses in which we dwell down here deteriorate; our loved ones depart; things aren't like they used to be; even memories fade.  For some of us, our earthly home has become a place of pain that we can't just leave.  There may not be any other "hole" in which we might "lay our heads."  Christian friends, when it gets too tough or too lonely, remember: 2,000 years ago a lonely man endured untold hardship that you might be rescued in the end, and enjoy an eternal home of happiness and peace.

       An orphan boy was living with his grandma when the house caught fire.  Grandma tried to get upstairs to rescue the boy, but she died in the flames.  The boy's cries were finally answered by a man who climbed a hot iron drain pipe and brought the boy down hanging to his neck. 

      Weeks later, there was a custody hearing for the boy.  A farmer, a teacher, and the town's richest citizen all gave reasons why they should be chosen.  During the proceedings, the boy's eyes focused on the floor. 

      Then a stranger walked to the front and slowly took his hands from his pockets, revealing on them severe and yet unhealed scars.  As the crowd gasped, the boy cried out in recognition.  This was the man who had saved his life -- he just knew it!  His hands had been consumed when he climbed the scorching pipe. 

      With a leap the boy threw his arms around the man's neck and held on for dear life.  The others silently walked away, leaving the boy and his rescuer alone.  Those scarred hands had settled the issue.  Those hands carried the boy home.

 

  2.  Friends, scarred hands reach out for you today; and a voice is heard:

If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.

   Put your hand in his scarred hand; If home is where the heart is, allow him to make his home in your heart.  Then, when redemption time comes, he'll take you home to his Father's house, where there's plenty of room, and room for you.

 

NOTES:

 

 Previously preached May 2, 1993 and October 27, 1994; Updated and preached October 19, 1997.  The United Methodist Church slogan, "Come on home."

 The author of this poem is unknown.

 Poem by Larry Farthing.

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