“Homecoming”

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Rev. Jocelyn B. Gardner Spencer

September 9, 2018

Mark 6:1-13

 

We call this day “Homecoming Sunday,” and it is indeed a gift to be back in this sanctuary, back in this sacred space, back in your favorite pew (or perhaps being bold and brave and trying out a new one).

It is a gift to be back in the company of our ancestors in faith, so many faithful people who have prayed here, sung here, laughed here, wept here, baptized here, blessed here, married here, said goodbye here.

It is a gift to be back with this gathered congregation, this family of faith, these friends old and new who pray for us, who forgive us, who bring us casseroles when we’re sick, whose presence and witness bring such depth and richness to our lives.

It is a gift to be home.

But then, home is complex and multifaceted thing, a word that has different connotations for different ones of us.

For some, it’s an image from Country Living or Yankee Magazine or Martha Stewart, a beautiful living room or patio with a place for everything and everything in its place.

For some—especially if you live with a young child, as I do—it’s a little bit more chaotic, with toys and books and crayons scattered around, and a few (or more than a few) dirty dishes in the sink, and dust bunnies in the corners, and laundry waiting to be folded or put away.

For some it’s a nostalgic image from your childhood, a place you loved long ago, that still has that larger-than-life feeling that comes with memories from when we were small.

For some it’s a contemporary image, a place you just moved into, or an aspiration for the future life you hope to have.

For some it’s a place filled with comfort and love, a place where you were surrounded by care and nurture as you grew into yourself, a place where you will always be able to return, no matter what.

For some it’s a place filled with the heaviness of grief or regret, a place where you miss someone whose presence has turned to absence.

For some it’s a place of raised voices or clenched fists or empty pockets or hungry bellies, a place you couldn’t wait to leave, a place you may never see again.

For some it is some combination of these things, of the beauty and struggle and joy and pain that being human brings.

Home is complicated.  And Jesus was no stranger to that complexity.

 

In today’s reading, Jesus returns to his hometown of Nazareth, and he is greeted by those who knew him way back when.  “We remember you!” they say, and then (you know how this goes) they proceed to tell some embarrassing stories of the things he did in his childhood—about that time when his family went on vacation and he pitched a fit when the waves washed away his sandcastle at the beach, or that time when he broke his arm and couldn’t go swimming all summer, or how he sang off-key in the synagogue and went to school with toothpaste all down his shirt and had that one really terrible haircut—stories he would probably just as soon not have repeated in front of his friends and disciples, stories that don’t exactly help him step into his full adult identity and authority.  And when he reminds them that he’s actually a grown-up now, when he tells them who he is and what he’s about, they take offense, and they try to undermine and diminish him, and (in another version of the story) they go so far as to run him out of town and nearly drive him over a cliff.  Home is complicated.

So if, for you, home has been a place where the fullness of your identity has not been welcome, know this:  in the household of God, every part of your truth belongs.

If, for you, home has been a place where people have tried to keep you stuck in some previous version of yourself, know this:  in the household of God, you can grow and change and evolve and be loved for every version of yourself, for all that you have been, for all that you are, and for all that you will be.

If, for you, home has been a place where your strength has been diminished and your power has been denied, know this:  God needs every ounce of you, your body, mind, and spirit, to bring about God’s realm, on earth as it is in heaven.

For even though we are told that his powers were limited by the people’s closed-off hearts and minds, Jesus was still able to heal a few sick people and cure them of their disease.  Even though he could not do as much as he probably wished he could, you better believe that his presence mattered enormously to those people who found themselves healed.  Even when home is complicated, even when it is not as welcoming as we would wish, even when it does not immediately seem to have room for the fullness of ourselves and our gifts, that does not mean we cannot have an impact there.  It does not mean that we cannot do deeds of power there.  It does not mean that we do not matter there.

And here, in this home, as followers of One who knows what it is to be made to feel distinctly unwelcome, it is our call to build a home where every child of this community and every child of God can flourish and grow and thrive and contribute, where every person of every age knows that they belong, where every one of our siblings knows that they are loved.

 

And here’s the thing about this home.  Here’s the thing about being followers of Jesus.  We don’t come home in order to settle in and get comfortable and never leave again.  We don’t come home because this is where God is and everywhere else is not.  We don’t come home because this is our family and everyone else is not.

We come home, we come here, to be formed in our faith, to be restored and renewed by God’s presence, to grow in our relationships with one another—and to be sent out into the world as disciples with love to offer and good news to share.  We Christians are always being sent forth to serve, always being propelled out into our community, always being commissioned to heal and to teach, always being scattered far and wide by the wind of the Spirit.

Because every corner of creation is God’s home.  Every place we can find ourselves is part of God’s realm.  Every person we can encounter is part of God’s family, even and especially when earthly powers and principalities say otherwise.  As Christians, as followers of Jesus, no matter where we find ourselves, the journey itself is home, because Christ goes with us, because the Holy Spirit travels before and behind and beside us, because God’s love dwells within us and fills us to overflowing and empowers us for the work ahead, every step of the way.

 

So, friends, welcome home to a place where you are seen and known and loved, both as you are and as you are becoming.

Welcome home to the journey.

Welcome home to the way, the truth, and the life.

Welcome home, pilgrim people of God.

 


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