October 21, 2017

Sermon: Epiphany II – There’s No Place Like Home

Note from CM: I will be moving our weekly sermon from Mondays to Sunday afternoons for awhile, to create more space for other things. So we will have both a cantata post in the morning and a sermon post in the afternoon on Sundays.

Sermon: “There’s No Place Like Home”

The next day he saw Jesus coming towards him and declared, ‘Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, “After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.’ And John testified, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.’

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’ The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come and see.’ They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas’ (which is translated Peter).

• John 1:29-42

• • •

The Wizard of Oz is one of my all-time favorite movies. From the time I was a small child, it was a staple on our family’s TV screen when one of the networks would broadcast it each year. It filled my imagination as a child, and continues to shape me.

Of course, everyone knows the message of that film: “There’s no place like home.” In order to understand how blest she was to have her home in Kansas, young Dorothy had to go through a dream-experience of traveling to another world. There, in the land of Oz, everything appeared in technicolor; it was more vibrant and interesting, fascinating and attractive than drab old Kansas had ever been.

But soon she learned from the characters she met in Oz that there is something deeper and more lasting than bright colors, interesting sights, and magical experiences. Dorothy learned about faith and hope and love in Oz. She learned what it means to have a brain, to have a heart, to have courage. And she learned that all those things were available to her where she never thought it possible before — right there in her own home. She didn’t need to travel “over the rainbow” or “follow the yellow brick road to find them. They were right there, in the place she had been so eager to leave.

There’s no place like home.

In today’s Gospel, a couple of John the Baptist tells his disciples that Jesus is the Lamb of God, the one greater than John, the one who is the Son of God. The next day, when Jesus walks by, they decide it is time to leave John and become followers of Jesus.

So they run after him and approach him. He stops, looks at them, and asks them an important question: “What are you looking for?”

They reply, “Rabbi, where are you staying?”

And Jesus invites them to find out. “Come and see,” he says.

What were they looking for? According to the text, they were looking for a place to call home. They were looking for the place where Jesus was staying, so that they could go there and stay with him as his learners and apprentices. They were looking for Jesus to become their Master, their Leader, their Rabbi. They wanted to dwell with him, to abide with him, to learn from him. They wanted to find their home with Jesus.

Their experience with John the Baptist had been good, but it wasn’t ever meant to be permanent. It was a stepping-stone along the way toward their real home with Jesus. Now they had graduated from John and it was time for them to find their permanent vocation, their life’s calling, the place in life for which they were created. There’s no place like home, and they had come to realize that they were meant to make their home with this Rabbi, the Lamb of God, the Son of God.

Do you mind if I ask you? What are you looking for?

I doubt if you and I are much different than these disciples. Like them, I would guess that there is a deep longing in our hearts for home. For acceptance. For a place where we can rest and be ourselves. For a place of welcome, a place of fellowship. A place at the table where we can sit down and share meals and converse and laugh with others with whom we are bound together by cords of love. A place where we can rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. A place where we can learn and grow, where our questions can be heard, where our hopes and fears can be spoken.

One of my favorite music artists is a wonderful pianist and singer named Ken Medema. Ken once wrote and sang about such a place:

If this is not a place, where tears are understood,
then where shall I go to cry?
And if this is not a place, where my spirit can take wings,
then where shall I go to fly?

I don’t need another place, for trying to impress you
with just how good and virtuous I am.
No, no, no I don’t need another place, for always being on top of things.
Everybody knows it’s a sham, its a sham.

I don’t need another place, for always wearing smiles
even when it’s not the way I feel.
I don’t need another place, to mouth the same old platitudes;
everybody knows that it’s not real.

So if this is not a place, where my questions can be asked,
then where shall I go to seek?
And if this is not a place where my heart cry can be heard,
where, tell me where, shall I go to speak?

So if this is not a place where tears are understood
where shall I go, where shall I go to fly?

There’s no place like home.

In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy discovered that, and Kansas was never drab and uninteresting to her again. This is how she put it: “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard.”

I know some people find places like church drab and uninteresting, especially on the surface. It’s just people getting together, singing old songs, reciting words, listening to someone talk, going forward for a bit of bread and wine.

But I tell you: Jesus is here, right here among us in the common, ordinary actions of worship, in the faces of women and men, boys and girls who gather as brothers and sisters, fathers and mother, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and friends.

It just depends what you’re looking for.

If you’re looking for something like Oz, something “over the rainbow” where “troubles melt like lemon drops” and everything is novel and surprising and stimulating all the time, where horses change colors and cities are brilliant emerald green and you can be friends with scarecrows, tin men, lions and beautiful good witches, and engage in thrilling battles with powerful enemies, then I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed.

But maybe that’s not really, down deep, what we’re looking for. And maybe none of us need to look any further than our own back yard.

Maybe home is right here, where we pray and give thanks, where we hear God’s word of grace, where we come to the Table together.

Perhaps this is where Jesus is, and there’s no place like home. As he said to the disciples that day, “Come and see.”

Comments

  1. William H. Martin Jr says:

    Well now isn’t it wonderful home and all. My father’s mother died when he was 4. Told me as my dad as I first understood it that he still remember time and place at that age. My grandfather a rough man after he had remarried took him from the dinner table and beat him nearly everyday with a razor strap. His step mom told my grandfather everything my dad had done till he became outrage. His oldest sister once asked after grand pa left why do you come out here and help Her when no one else will. My dad said she is the only mom I have known and I still love her just like pop which is what he always called him.

    My father here tried really hard not to pass those things on. When my mom would tell on me expecting dad to put things in place he would just say why didn’t you take care of it and refused to follow pop. Sometimes it became to much and I got beat and sometimes I just got beat. Saw those tweety birds and stars from the cartoons. I remember when it first dawned on me you can really see that crap.

    Home, Yep I left the minute I was 18. Last time dad and I got into it he begged me to hit him and I was bigger and stronger than him. I said I can’t and he called me a feminine part. I said I can’t dad, I love you. His head got so red I thought he’s gonna pop. He walked away and never again did we fight. He stood by me from then on like his stepmom.

    I learned he was right about most things and we actually got close on my leaving versus staying. Still I have trouble with mom because she has the distinct ability to get right under my skin in an instant. I love her just being around her is hard. Home, yea right. There is no place like home. Mine now. Would never do that crap again.

    Problem is now as you talk about the gray church. Home….nope…. Was raised in the Methodist. thought about going back but it is dead to me mostly. Here come do the same every week there it is on the board and the pamphlet so everyone can understand where we are in a hymnal from songs written 100, 200, 300 years ago. Don’t get me wrong there are some I really enjoy. The words are tremendous like early in the morning our song shall rise to thee. I get goose bumps from things like that. What love….

    Home isn’t here no more for me. I’m really not sure it ever was. Home to me is the Garden, His presence filled with peace and love that overflows my heart like waterfalls. A mountain walk filled with tears and questions all by myself. No one ever did understand me including me. Still trying. Oz, I need some shrooms to help me like that. Just kidding.

    First movie that I can remember is Puff the Magic Dragon. Cried so much as my heart broke for the dragon. Sometimes that’s me…. the dragon. It is what makes me hit the mountain everyday for 5 years now because I’m still a little boy and cannot leave em down. They run to see me at full speed. Half the time I worry to run them over. Wish I could be that way with Him all the time. A lot of the time but not yet……w

    • William H. Martin Jr says:

      Yep there’s home……….. I guess it’s hard to put into words unlike Saturday stuff. Guess symbolically that’s what the tornado was at the beginning. Sometimes towards the end home becomes something other than what was left. Father becomes other than what is remembered and still dear to the heart. The big Father I can’t wait to ask him to pull my finger. Hake what’s the worst then can happen. I’m just going to point to my earthly one and tell the big one he taught me that……At least I won’t be blaming eve but some how abstractly I could…. Think He might smile??????I would hope so because something like a smile would overflow my heart with love. Do we really have to be that serious. Man if we do I’ll do hell and wait for a drink I’m always thirsty anyways..

  2. Home is a problematic subject for some of us.

    • Robert, that reminds me of a girl I knew in college. We were trying to “lead her to Christ” through several conversations. She eventually made a commitment. We often spoke of our “Heavenly Father” and such terms. Finally, she disclosed that just language gave her the creeps because her own, earthly, father we very abusive to her.That was a new concept for me.

    • William H. Martin Jr says:

      I do believe that Robert. I was hoping for other perspectives. I love my earthly father with all my heart and would die this instant just to see that smile again which only happened with a 6 pack in him or me doing something really dumb like hitting my thumb with a hammer hard enough to loose that nail. Oh and by the way I have lost every nail on both hands. Guess he smiled more than I realized. We worked together when I was 14 on Up but after 18 and I moved out was it then we grew. So much fun after that. Also after that I learned so much of craftsmanship. Only did I ever see him smile after a couple of beers. He truly enjoyed that except for mom hated it and was always mad at him. Me I saw the different side off him. She never has…………………………………………………………………………… I quit trying there.

      We here see this magical thing in the Eucharist………. For me it isn’t that much different than what I have seen everywhere. Pentecostal, Charismatic,Lutheran, Catholic, Orthodox, and much of sub denominations. Sorry it isn’t magical in anyway and to me Jesus didn’t want it to be. He just said do it often in remembrance of me, Remind yourself as if you had just reminded the priest with a kiss of who he is like the prostitute who washed his feet with tears and wiped them with her hair. I’m going home and it does not matter what I do because he did it. I remind myself and the rest who think different give me a hug cause I could really use one, Not kidding, I just spent much time weeping. I could use a hug. I understand He wept. I long for home with all my heart and everything I am…… I am…….. I am……. I am……… I am just like Him made in that image. Please a hug before I journey with the creation on my own. It would be of great importance to me.;…… Thanks from this guy w

      • Heather Angus says:

        Oh, William, Your words are a wonderful sermon to me, and your picture of the cats on the mountain is the way I hope to come Home.

      • Heather Angus says:

        Another perspective? I was raised by fine parents, and they gave my brother and sister and me everything they had to give. But as the country song says, Everything they gave to us took all they had. In her last days my mom and I were talking, and I was telling her how much she and Dad had done for us, and it made me sad. I said, “We weren’t worth it.” She said, “To us you were.”

        Don’t get me wrong; they went through very bad times in their relationship — financial problems that neither of them could get over emotionally. They bickered (mom) and declined into a deep depression (dad). He died at age 62 of every stress-related illness possible; she lived to be 90, and she and I made peace in her last few years, after I hated her for a long time because of the way she hounded Dad. She and I took trips to England and Hawaii — what fun.

        I know I should be thinking of Heaven as reunion with God and Jesus, but I can’t think of anything sweeter than meeting my mom again for a cup of tea and a good talk about Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael, or walking along a trout stream with my dad in the Adirondacks. If there is an afterlife, which I can only hope for but not really expect, then they will be part of it. Not to mention my dogs and cats.

        • William H. Martin Jr says:

          Awwww thanks Heather……….Hope…. Each of as different as snowflakes yet He meet us there and in some way each of us the same. A paradox at best but not so with love maybe a law he lives by. Love doesn’t seem logical at its best but yet when asked and answered because I love you it never makes sense. I’m sure I have many on the mountain shaking their head. How would they know the mama I met who had no hair left and was ugly because of her stress is the very one I have shown up for 5 years. Olie one of hers a small female that couldn’t have survived and trapper who was caught in a fur takers trap who cost me 2000 dollars to have his gang green leg cut off after he tried to chew it off and lives with my mom and is a blessing. I respect mamma and she is why and Roger her son who stays by her side and now a drop off and the kitten with her whose spirit was a joy so much that someone took him with them and gave him a home these are the things I could spend forever doing. So wish I could say the same for people. Hardest I have known….People How does He do it….Oh lord have mercy

          • William H. Martin Jr says:

            I’m sorry for this really I am. Those who love their intellect and can’t comment on this kind of thing may God and Son and Holy Spirit bless you to the overflow mark so I may hear from you. If not I am is okay with it And I am too. Wish you could so I may profit from what you have. It’s okay though sometimes in the silence we do. If that isn’t hard I don’t know what is. So busy upstairs. Hard day tomorrow with little rest and my hope is just to get to the mountain and be able to walk to see mama cat and Roger before dark. Mama is named Oreo because she is black but the cream center. Always does she greet me with a roll on her back and as she comes to me her tail sticks straight up which means respect and the roll means bonding. You sort of learn these things. Wish I knew how to greet Him always but I don’t yet. Hope…………………………………………………………..w needs prayer please

  3. I think my “coming home,” was after I tried to create a house church. I spent several years working on it. I got if off the ground. But then felt like I was the zookeeper rather than an elder figure. One family wanted us to start collecting guns and ammo for the coming war with Bill Clinton and Janet Reno. Another family thought we should follow the OT Jewish laws to the letter and the third family . . . . well, they were stranger than the other two. So, I pulled the plug and gave up my idealism of the “Problem of Wineskins” type of church (I had even met with Howard Synder and others during my lead up to starting the church).

    So I returned to the traditional church and gave up my aspirations for my concept of the ideal chruch.

    • There will never be an ideal church, just like there will never be an ideal government or an ideal culture – human beings, ingenius sinners that we are, will always find and exploit the flaws in any system.

    • Real pastoring is one of the toughest jobs there is, frequently with little compensation and graditude.

  4. The world and the people in it are themselves; that’s enough, and at the same time not enough. I hear Jesus’ voice, What are you looking for? If only I were certain, if only I could answer. Lead me, Lord! I’m lost! I don’t even know myself, or what I want. Except that I don’t want to remain forever in this half-light of fear and uncertainty into which I was born.

    that strange light
    through my windows —
    the cloud swept moon

    • William H. Martin Jr says:

      I saw it too and wish for sleep to come so I might find rest here, I was born and it was that day I started to die here. A heart that says I can’t do what you did might I share it with You because without I am surely lost in the dark. Then I partake of the cross and am reminded with bread and wine,,,,,,,Me the man with the hammer. Why????? never mind I’ll take Your word for it because my heart overflows with you and this I somehow understand. Have mercy Dear One as i need of You and help me see more or not if I am really as far as I can go. Please bless us as we hold onto hope and love………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………Finish if you want. All I have to say is I speak the truth from my heart……just a w