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Home by Another Way: Homecoming Sunday

Preached:   September 29, 2013
Psalm 122; Ruth 1

HOME – I imagine we all have so many connotations, perspectives, definitions, experiences of that one word – from geography, to people, to our soul’s memory, and ultimately to our home in God.

Reflection questions:  Where is home?  Who is home?  What makes it home?
Is it familiar landscape, geography, a quality of life, the presence of particular people?
Is home a place or a person for you?  Is it within or without? 

I know there are a few of you here who grew up just a stone’s throw from here.  How many of you grew up or had your formative years within three miles of here?

Others of you, for whatever reason, have chosen N. Seattle as your home – some of you made your home here for love.  Others may have come here for a job.  Still others may have fallen in love with the geography and gentle rain of the PNW.  Where are you from?

There is something interesting happening in my hometown of Aberdeen.  There is a house going up for sale not far from my elementary school.  It’s assessed at $67k, but is on the market for $500,000.  Perhaps you heard about it in the news.  Kurt Cobain’s childhood home.  People are hoping someone might make it into a museum and help revive the struggling economy down there.

I know when some people think of home, they feel connected to a particular geography.  If anyone asked Berta Cohen where her sense of geographical home is, I would bet at least a dozen of you could answer the question…

Remember reading/watching Gone with the Wind.  Rhett Butler confirms what Scarlett already knows in her heart: “You get your strength from this red earth of Tara, Scarlett. You’re a part of it. It’s a part of you.”
Another place in the book, Ashley Wilkes attempts to encourage Scarlett when she feels she has lost everything:  “There is something left. Something you love better than me.  There’s Tara!‘  As he pressed the red earth into her hand. Scarlett suddenly knew how very dear that red earth of Tara was to her and how hard she would fight to keep it.

Is there a geographical place in your mind that holds you in this same way, or does the word home mean something different to you?

I posed this question on FB and received 20 answers – some literal, practical, thoughtful, and theological responses – here are a few of them:

  • Home is wherever I lay my head for the night…
  • Home is where you can shamelessly wear over-sized sweatpants while eating ice cream directly out of the carton.
  • A place you can always return; a place that will always receive you and beckons to you
  • Where your authentic self meets your heart’s desire.
  • Home is where I feel accepted and loved, no matter what. It’s that feeling of relief, that feeling when you let a breath out and just say, “I’m home.” You can be your true self and take off the mask of daily survival.
  • Home is being with people you love. Family love and friends who have become family love – anywhere can feel like home when you’re with them.
  • Home is a place where I’m loved, safe and comfortable.
  • Home means acceptance of who you are, celebration of who you want to be. A safe environment to grow.
  • Home is the place I help create where all feel welcome and special, regardless of “where” we are.
  • Home is any United Methodist Church I’ve ever stepped into.
  • Home needs to be something grown inside, not physical space
  • God is home where I have complete peace and unconditional love.

Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.
~Robert Frost from The Hired Man

Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.
~Oliver Wendell Holmes

In the scripture from Ruth 1, we find Naomi returning to her Jewish homeland after her husband and her two sons have died.  She is in Gentile country, and she has decided to return home to her Jewish roots.  Accompanying her are her two faithful and dedicated daughters-in-law, Orpah & Ruth.  At one point in the journey, Naomi says to them, GO BACK HOME.  Neither turn back, until Naomi is a bit more insistent, telling them that she no longer has ANYthing to offer them.  Orpah sees the sense of this and reluctantly turns back, but Ruth, Ruth chooses Naomi as home.  She chooses Naomi’s people.  She chooses a land she has never experienced as home.

When I was in high school, my choir director introduced me to the anthem Song of Ruth.  It was at a time when we could sing sacred music, without getting in trouble.

Whither thou goest, I will go. Whither thou lodgest, there will I lodge.
Thy people shall be my people now, Where thou goest I will go.
Entreat me not, to leave you, and return again to my father’s house.
For the God that watches over all has commanded me to stay.
And where thou diest, I will die, and with thy people be laid to rest.
For the God that watches over all will ever with me stay.

Who and where have you chosen to be your home in your lifetime?

Many of you have chosen Sand Point Community as your spiritual home – a place where you are known, accepted, and loved.   Within most of us is a longing for a community, a people that will accept us, a place where when we walk in the door, there is great rejoicing and celebrating – a place of belonging, of safety.  

The hard part is – what happens when we leave the places that have been home to us for the last time –OR- the people we have chosen to be our home have passed on? Inevitably, this is a sad reality.  How then do we define home?  Perhaps that is where our spiritual life and our spiritual practices enter in, for isn’t the home we ultimately seek found in relationship with God.  We can certainly experience that relationship through other people and through sacred places, but Homecoming is about returning to the source. The source of love, nurture, acceptance, warmth.

When St. Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee, O God”  he meant that our natural home is in God.  That home in God also means finding home within oneself.  Are you at home with yourself?  with God?

Returning to God is our greatest lifework. Returning to God calls us to become navigators within the inner world of our hearts. We pray for help, to be still, to return to our breath, to observe the old stories, to return to the God in whom we live and move and have our being.  Welcome home.  Welcome in.  May we all experience this sense of Homecoming.