One year after retiring from active ministry, one of my friends in the New York Conference was invited to preach on Homecoming Sunday by the church he had retired from. During the fellowship time after the service, an old lady said to my friend, “Pastor, since I last saw you, I had all my teeth pulled and a new refrigerator put in.
Well, I want to believe that for most of us a lot has happened during the past twelve months, enough to treasure this day — new teeth, new appliances, for some. All manners of blessings for each and everybody!
We’ve have seen some joy; we’ve seen some laughter. We’ve also experienced some sickness, heartaches, and tears, and some of us have lost loved ones, but through it all, God has been so good! Won’t you agree?
Friends, I believe Homecoming fills a great need in our lives — it’s a time and an occasion to consider the past, our heritage, how God has been with us to this day. Quite often surrounded and inspired by wonderful people who preceded us in life, in ministry, in fellowship, in service. And for which reason we now call “saints,” our own saints!
But Homecoming Sunday is also a great occasion to celebrate that same sense of belonging and togetherness that many others – our saints included — have experienced in the company of Christ.
Our Gospel lesson today takes us all the way in time to that day when Jesus literally transformed our most domestic understanding of home and family. The day when he called “brother,” and “sister,” and even “mother” to any disciple who, as he says, “does the will of my Father in heaven” — imagine those folks’ surprise!
Whether coming from healthy families or dysfunctional families, those men and women who dared to follow Jesus suddenly realized they also belonged into God’s extended family, where everybody was a brother, or a sister, or a mother – even a nana, or a grandpa.
So inspired by Jesus, those men and women began to gather around a common fireplace or even a common rustic table to share their food and their cup as they prayed together for a new way of living, what they called “the Kingdom of Heaven,” or “the Kingdom of God.’”
Little by little, those Christian homes became like a sacred network that connected the entire family of God through prayer, worship, fellowship, and service, and the sharing of bread and wine. That’s how the “church” – our church — was born, and everybody got a new name: “brother,” “sister” in Christ.
Sometimes I wonder, did they also have a familiar greeting as “Mi casa es su casa”? Or its English equivalent, “Make yourself at home”? I want to believe they did! What a joy they experienced whenever they gathered together, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles each and every time was a sort of homecoming for them. And what a joy when their apostles returned home after having shared Christ with other lands –what a great homecoming moment as well!
Times have changed somewhat, yet we still honor that legacy by keeping our doors wide open to all who return today and every day, for we are the church, together! So, whether you are already a “member” of this Body, or just a passing angel visiting with us today, we reach out to you the same way: “Mi casa es su casa.” “My home is your home!”
In a few moments we will gather around this altar table to share our bread and our cup the way Jesus loved to do it with his friends. And you are welcome to partake with us –it doesn’t matter to us — it doesn’t matter to Jesus — whether you already belong with us, or look forward to belong with us. Whether you are a “purebred” United Methodist, or not. Whether you feel, speaking spiritually, on top of the mountain, or all the way down in a dark valley.
Alone or with family or friends – your children too are welcome to this table. For this is a welcoming table, a Homecoming Table where we all belong with Christ, and together, to one another.
Please let me close with this story about a Sunday School teacher who one day asked her class, “What is love?” One by one, all the kids volunteered great answers, yet it was a little boy who stole the show: “Love is when mommy or daddy reads you a bedtime story. True love is when they don’t skip any pages.”
Come, my friends, enter with us into the joy of the Lord knowing that here, in this place, and inspired by the memory of many great saints and passing angels who inspired us to this day, in this holy place, we never skip any pages.