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HOME – Video and Manuscript for Homecoming 2015

The sermon from September 20, 2015, at The Patterson Avenue Baptist Church is included in this blog post (both the video and the manuscript).   The sermon is titled:  “Home” and is based on Jesus words recorded in John 14:18-20.

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You can watch the video below and/or read the manuscript.

HOME John 14:18-20 (NIV)

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.

Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.

Wouldn’t you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go

Where everybody knows your name,
and they’re always glad you came.

You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same

You wanna be where everybody knows
Your name.

No doubt you recognize these words as the lyrics of the theme song for the sitcom Cheers, a show about a corner pub in Boston where a small ensemble of characters gathered every afternoon, to share beverages and stories about the struggles of life.

The show seldom veered away from that one location.  More than any other place, Cheers was HOME for its characters.  It was a place of warmth, welcome, and wittiness.  It was a place of acceptance, friendship and inclusion.

We yearn for that sort of place.  We long to find a place of belonging, where we can feel fully alive, and feel at HOME.

That’s one of the reasons we have this event called Homecoming.  We try to get everyone to attend, especially former and current members.  We gather to worship, sing, laugh, and cry.  We share stories, mourn losses, and celebrate victories.   We gather because we hunger for a place called HOME.

Taking his lead from a line in C.S. Lewis’ essay “The Weight of Glory,” theologian Baxter Kruger refers to this longing as an “inconsolable dream – a dream that haunts and plagues us.  That dream to belong, to be alive, to be at HOME.”

I heard of a pastor preaching about the subject of HOME and wanting to find some creative way to engender the feelings of warmth, intimacy, and acceptance that we associate with that word.  So, he went to the sanctuary early in the morning before any else arrived.  He brought with him several bread machines – the ones that mix ingredients, kneed them into a dough, and then bake that dough into a loaf of bread.  He set the bread machines up near all the doors so that when people enter the first thing that greeted them was the aroma of freshly baked bread.

I love that idea.  The aroma of freshly baked bread.  Thinking about it stirs a hunger within us.

That’s what the word HOME does to us.  It triggers memories, desires, and longings.  It arouses enthusiasm and excitement.  It inspires a passion for something somewhere that will bring us satisfaction, peace, and comfort.

But what is home?  It is certainly not this place.

Now, as far as places go, this is a good one.  We have great memories of terrific people who have passed through this sanctuary.  Students who were with us for a time, but then moved on toward college or careers.    Staff members who were here but are now in new places of mission and ministry.  Friends who have relocated to new communities.  Family members now deceased.  Homecoming gives us an occasion to remember those people.

Yet as much as we love this place and its people, this is not the HOME we hunger to find.   At best, this place and those memories are like the aroma of freshly baked bread.  It inspires hunger, but it does not satisfy that hunger.

So, what is HOME?  Some folks say its heaven.  The thing is, we live in the here and now.  We live at this time and place.  This is where we wake up the morning and lay our head down at night.  We don’t want to wait till I die to find the peace and contentment of HOME.

So, what exactly do we mean by HOME?  Obviously we are talking about more than a house in which we live.  Not every house is a HOME.

What is home?  Home is that place in life where we fit in, belong, and know our niche.

Baxter Kruger describes home that that place where there is “no sense of foreignness or alienation…no headwind…no interference, nothing against the grain…everything is right, suitable, and perfectly matched….Everything is in harmony, spontaneous, free-flowing, utterly lost to the dis-ease of self-consciousness.”

People everywhere are looking and longing for that kind of place, a place of belonging – a place called HOME.

Of course, lots of folks are looking in the wrong places.

It had been reported that several hundred evangelical pastors have been forced to resign because of the scandal surrounding the Ashley Madison website.  I don’t know the validity of that report, but I do know of one man whose story made the headlines.  He was a pastor of a church and a professor at an SBC seminary.

Can’t you imagine the tense words in his home after his name became public?  Still, his wife forgave him.  His children forgave him.  His church forgave him.  We know that God forgave him.  But evidently he could not believe or accept all that grace.  He did not believe God’s love was big enough to still include him after what he had done.  Unable to forgive himself, he committed suicide.

He was looking for something.  He suffered from the inconsolable dream – “that dream to belong, to be alive, to be at home.”  But he could not seem to find that dream’s fulfillment.

Religious rituals and routines of the church are not much help.  We know that.  Many of you have been going through the motions week after week after week.  But you still haven’t found that place called HOME.

I had a weird dream last week.  We were all here, gathered for worship.  We sang hymns, read scripture, and all of the other things we do.  But I noticed that you were all zombies (you know, the walking dead).  At one point, I looked back at this little mirror on the organ and notice that I, too, was a zombie.

Many times, that’s the best religion has to offer.  It gives us routines, rules, regulations, and rituals.   But it only turns us into the walking dead.  It does not satisfy.  It does not give us that place of belonging.  It does not provide us with HOME.

People everywhere are searching for HOME.  They are searching for something that will bring fulfillment.  They are longing for that place of belonging.  Go into any secular bookstore and you will discover that the largest section of books is focused on personal development, new age spirituality, the occult, and all sort of world religions (including Christianity).  All those books were written for people trying to find HOME.

In Luke 15, Jesus tells a parable about two boys who were at HOME, but did not believe it.  So, they started a search for acceptance and belonging.  The youngest went to the far country and spent all his money on reckless living, but he ended up lost in the process.  The elder boy stayed at the house search for that place by following all the rules, regulations, and routines, but he, too, ended up lost.  Neither could  find that place of belonging for which their hearts longed.

Here’s what we are like in our lostness.  We are like a fish out of water.  When you removed a fish from the water it goes berserk.  It flips and flops around, trying to find its way back to the water.  You see, that fish was made for the water.  It will never be at HOME until it is in its native environment.

So, here’s the question  “What is our native environment?”  What were we made for?  What is that situation in life, that state of being, where we are animated, flourish, and find abundant-overflowing life?

Folks, that may well be the greatest of all life’s questions.

Think about the situation in which we find ourselves.   I know we like to lament how bad things are, but in reality, we’ve got it good.

We carry hand-held computers that allow us to connect virtually with the sum-total of human knowledge with the few swipes of a finer.

We have numerous shopping centers that are easily accessible and filled with filled with food and clothing and all of the basic necessities and comforts of life.

If we get sick, there are surgeons, and doctors, and hospitals within easy reach.  As a result, we’ve been able to extend both the quantity and quality of our years on planet earth.

Even the poor among us have cell phones, cars, and televisions.  These are things that the wealthiest of people did not have just one hundred years ago.

So, no matter how bad you think things are right now, the reality is that we have it better now than at any point in human history.  We’ve got all the necessities for life, occasions for advancement, and blessing of recreational time.

And yet, if we peel back the layers to look inside, there is so much loneliness, frustration, and alienation.  There is so much grief.  That’s what C.S. Lewis called it in his essay, “A Grief Observed.”  It’s the kind of grief that comes when know we have been made for something more, but we cannot find that something more.

And so, as we flip and flop like a fish out of water, everything in life becomes like poison.  We fight and fuss and fume to gather more stuff, more power, more popularity, more prestige, thinking all that will gratify our hunger for HOME, but now of that brings satisfaction.

So we end up more frustrated and in the process all that stuff, all those people, that spouse, that parent, that child, that church, that home, that career, that job, that income, it all becomes like snake venom entering the blood stream.  We know that we were made for more –and until we find that more, we feel empty and discontent.

HOME is the MORE for which we yearn.  It is place where we fit in, where we discover the natural environment of our lives.  It is that place where we feel the energy and passion of belonging.

So, life becomes for us a journey to find HOME.

When I was a youngster, my family lived just a block from the ocean in Ormond Beach, Florida.  I use to love going to the beach.  It was filled with people, sand crabs, seagulls, ice cream trucks, noise, excitement, and fun.

One afternoon we went to the beach.  I was playing in the sand with some friends.  My parents were nearby, keeping a watchful eye.  Every so often, I would turn toward my mom, showing her that sandcastle I was building, looking for her approval.

At one point, I looked where she had been sitting, and she wasn’t there anymore.  I found out later that she had walked about fifty yards away to talk with some neighbors.

In that moment, the joy of the beach was lost to me.  The sand, the water, the sand crabs, and all the other pleasure of the seashore became like poison.

In my panic, I began walking down the beach in the direction where my mother had been.  I kept walking and searching and longing to find my mom.   As I walked, I became more and more frightened, more and more agitated.  In my fear, I began to walk faster and faster, becoming more and more frantic.

Most of us understand that feeling, even as adults.  We each have our set of fears, doubts, concerns, and apprehension.  We pretend it isn’t so.  But at night when we can’t sleep, we know the reality of our circumstance.  We feel frantic and fearful and all of life’s pleasures seem like poison.

Geoffrey Chaucer, called by many the Father of English literature, once commented on this on this search.  He said we were like a wealthy drunk who knows he lives in a mansion, but he can’t find it way HOME.

We live in a mansion.  We have been made for so much more.  But we can’t find the mansion.  We are like a fish out of water, flipping and flopping about, unable to find that place of belonging, that place Jesus called abundant life.

So a police officer found me and took me to the station house.   I can still vividly remember that moment the door opened and I saw my mom.  I ran as fast as I could to jumped into her arms.  She held me, hugged me, and kissed my cheek.

That’s what it feels like to be lost and then found.

Understand that I did not find my way HOME. HOME found me.  To experience HOME, I simply needed to accept that embrace.

HOME finds us.  That’s the gospel.  It’s like the embrace of a loving parent.  It’s joy, salvation, eternal life, the kingdom of God.  God’s grace holds us, hugs us, and kisses our cheek.  We discover in that embrace that we are safe – that we belong.

Now, for some, that’s going to be hard to accept.  They will be shocked by the discovery that HOME is actually the embrace of a loving God.  The reason is that they do not see God as a loving Father.  Religious culture often paints a picture of God that is largely different than that revealed in Jesus Christ.  It paints a picture of a God who is distant, angry, and whose rage must be appeased.

My favorite line from the parable of the two sons in Luke 15 comes during the exchange between the older brother and his father, after his younger rebellious brother has been welcomed home.  This older brother thinks he has earned something the father by staying at the house and working on the farm.  But the father says, “My son, you have always been with me and everything I have is yours.”

Do you see what was happening?  The boy has always been in the house, but he did not believe that father was good to make that house a HOME.

In Jesus day, the religious establishment focused on the rules and regulations.  They spoke about the things you had to do to earn your keep.  Jesus blasted that kind of thinking, preaching about the love of the one he called Abba (or Papa).

Religion has some of the same faults and failures today.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am not writing off the church.  But I can’t lie, either.    The church has lost its way.  It is stuck in the notion that life is found by going along with the motion and supporting the machine.

You want something more, don’t you?  You don’t want a bunch or rules, rituals, and regulations, you hunger for the embrace of grace.  You don’t want stale and stagnant water, you want a river of life flowing from the throne of God.  You want more.

You are not alone.  Believe it or not, all those people outside the walls of building like this have that same longing and passion.

They have the same “inconsolable dream.”  They dream of being alive, belonging, and finding HOME.

They just find it hard to believe that any of that has anything to do with the mechanical god of the machine called church.  And they are right.  Sometimes they might stumble inside the doors of sanctuary somewhere, seeking something, but what they get are these instructions:  “stand and sing, sit and listen, pass the place, and come back next week.”

Is it any wonder that so many traditional churches in western culture are experiencing decline?  People are looking for God and the church gives them religion.   That does not satisfy.  They want more.

People are looking for HOME.  They are looking for that place of belonging and acceptance.  Jesus teaches that he is HOME, and that he will find us.  Did you hear what Jesus said to his disciples in John 14?  He says he comes to us.  He brings us into intimacy with the Father.  He puts his very life within us.

In his essay, “The Weight of Glory”, C.S. Lewis says that the one thing we need from God is FAME.  It is FAME WITH GOD that gives us the acceptance, inclusion, and belonging of HOME.

Understand that when he says FAME, Lewis is not talking about that word as our culture defines it.  He’s not talking about having our name up in lights with everyone singing songs about our glory and greatness.

What he’s talking about is the FAME a child longs for in the approval of his parent.  What child does not need to hear that they are loved by their father?  What creature does not want to be looked upon with pleasure by its Creator?  What pupil does not want the praise of her teacher?

That’s the fame Lewis says we long to find.  We want to be loved by God not merely pitied.  We want to be liked, acknowledged, recognized, and seen.  We want to be cherished and praised.  We want God to be thrilled by our presence.  That’s HOME.

That’s the gift Jesus brings us from God.  He comes to us.  He includes us in His life and love.  We are in him.  He is in us.  Together we are in the Father. There is no better place to be found.  There is no place more loving and inclusive.  That’s HOME.

Now we can choose not believe it is so.  We can reject this as too good to be true.  But our disbelief does not change the reality of what Jesus said, only our experience of its truth.

Have you heard the phrase, “Hell on earth”?  Let me tell you what that is.  Hell is living outside the awareness of Father’s pleasure.  Hell is rejecting the embrace of God’s grace.  Hell on earth is going to work, to school, to church – Hell on earth is being with your parents, your children, and your friends – and feeling like you don’t belong, are not accepted, and will never measure up.

You don’t have to believe that lie.  There is another option.

The other option is to believe.  Believe that the gospel really is true.  Believe that God is really good.  In choosing this route, you will begin experiencing the joy of belonging, the salvation of HOME.

Listen.  You are famous with God.  God sees you.  God knows your name.  God is pleased with you.  God is smiling over you with joy.

Here’s the invitation of faith.  Listen!  Hear the Father say, “Child, I like you.  I love you.  I accept you.  You are mine!”  Hear those words, believe they are true, KNOW that Jesus is your HOME.

When you believe this is true, then all the things of life will be blessing, rather than poison.  Then you can sing, dance, and work, and play, with joy.  Then we can gather in this building and really know what a homecoming is because we know we are at HOME with God.

Resources cited include…

Home by Kruger, C. Baxter published by Perichoresis Press (1996) [Paperback]
publisher: Perichoresis Press
ASIN: B00A04YN2M
sales rank: 8529375

  

The Weight of Glory
by: C. S. Lewis
publisher: HarperOne, published: 2001-03
ASIN: 0060653205
EAN: 9780060653200
sales rank: 4820
price: $4.75 (new), $3.25 (used)

The classic Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis, the most important Christian writer of the 20th century, contains nine sermons delivered by Lewis during World War Two. The nine addresses in Weight of Glory offer guidance, inspiration, and a compassionate apologetic for the Christian faith during a time of great doubt.

A Grief Observed
by: C. S. Lewis
publisher: HarperOne, published: 2015-04-21
ASIN: 0060652381
EAN: 9780060652388
sales rank: 3363
price: $6.15 (new), $2.20 (used)

Written after his wife’s tragic death as a way of surviving the “mad midnight moment,” A Grief Observed is C.S. Lewis’s honest reflection on the fundamental issues of life, death, and faith in the midst of loss. This work contains his concise, genuine reflections on that period: “Nothing will shake a man — or at any rate a man like me — out of his merely verbal thinking and his merely notional beliefs. He has to be knocked silly before he comes to his senses. Only torture will bring out the truth. Only under torture does he discover it himself.” This is a beautiful and unflinchingly honest record of how even a stalwart believer can lose all sense of meaning in the universe, and how he can gradually regain his bearings.

 

Home by Kruger, C. Baxter published by Perichoresis Press (1996) [Paperback]
publisher: Perichoresis Press
ASIN: B00A04YN2M
sales rank: 8529375

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