“Coming Home” is the theme we chose for August worship and study. We chose it largely because our special offering this month is for Habitat for Humanity. In some ways, it is not an easy theme to work with – maybe because the possibilities are large. There are many approaches we could take – biblically, theologically, socially, and practically – to address the idea of home, and, more specifically, “Coming Home.” I suppose the most obvious biblical text would be the Parable of the Prodigal Son, or Waiting Father. But that’s too easy. We’ve chosen other texts which you will see elsewhere in this Spire to challenge us and lead us along the way home.
Let’s begin with home itself. In one sense, that’s always the place we begin, isn’t it? Unless of course, you’re a nomad or homeless or orphaned or a refugee. But even then, I think we carry an ideal sense of home as the place where we start out. You could argue that the Garden of Eden was created as the ultimate Home for all that the Holy One had brought into being. In a psychological sense, most all of us desire a place where we would be welcomed, held, cared for; a place that is warm and secure; a place we can call our own. Would we not name this home?
The Hero’s Journey inevitably leads back to the beginning. The singer sings, “Anywhere I wander, anywhere I roam, till I’m in the arms of my darling again, my heart will find no home.” Or as T. S. Eliot so eloquently puts it, “We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time” (Little Gidding). Home known and known again in some deeper, richer sense. There are so many ways we can express it, but longing for this deep sense of home is universal. What we find there may differ with individual needs and desires, cultural traditions, religious belief, life experience, but the desire for that “place” is known to all.
There are also all sorts of reasons that we wander, get lost, find ourselves disconnected. Maybe it’s a reach for independence. Maybe home becomes contaminated by abuse or neglect. Maybe things get blown up, literally or figuratively. Maybe it’s wanderlust. Warren and Mary discuss old Silas, the hired man, who has come “home” to them, though there is no literal family connection:
“Warren,” she said, “He has come home to die:
You needn’t be afraid he’ll leave you this time.”
“Home,” he mocked gently.
“Yes, what else but home?
It all depends on what you mean by home…”
“Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in.”
“I should have called it
Something you somehow haven’t to deserve”
(Robert Frost, The Death of the Hired Man).
Of course, they are both right in their individual point of view, but regardless of how they see the old man, they and their farm are home to him. Whatever they say will not make that different, nor will they say anything to dispel the dying man’s homecoming vision. This is exactly what makes their place home for Silas. Begrudging, frustrating, tense as it may be, there is still an acceptance of him here that makes all the difference and creates home for the wanderer. The writer of Hebrews says sometimes we may “entertain angels unaware.” Well, sometimes we may provide home and not realize it. “When did we see you homeless and take you in? Inasmuch…” Hospitality, home matters.
Another old song says, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through…” Maybe there’s truth in it. I don’t know. I can’t say. I haven’t gotten that far down the road. Maybe we won’t “get back to Garden.” But it’s not for lack of desire or failure to try. The road is long and the journey arduous. We definitely need way stations, oases, places of respite along the way. Maybe FBCPA is or could be such a place.
Even if these are not Home in the ultimate sense, they are home in the meantime and that can be good enough. In fact, it can be better than that. Something we may not somehow deserve but where we are willingly taken in with welcome arms. Coming home…amazing grace!
Yours on the journey,