Welcome Home

by Pastor Heath Howe, Family Ministries

There are so many stories of homecomings found in the Bible. There is the story of the Exodus and Moses leading the people of God to the Promise Land, home. There is the story of Babylon and the nostalgia of home. There is the story of Ruth and Naomi who find home in their love for one another. However, the story that stands out most in my mind this year as I ponder Homecoming is the story of the Prodigal son.

I completely appreciate the son's humility to return to his father and his father's household and ask for forgiveness. Such an act requires great courage and hope. I am also delighted that all works well for him in the end. He is forgiven, reunited, and his healing begins. All of this is wonderful news and reignites my faith in the love of God.

However, it is not the son that has my attention the most now. Instead when I think about homecoming, it is the father in the story who shines most brightly. After weeks, even months, of looking to see if his son might be coming home, he finally sees him walking up the long road to their home. I picture the father jumping up and down and cheering with delight, "He is coming! He is coming! He is back! He is here! Rejoice!" I see the father running and breathlessly grabbing hold of his son with a huge embrace. He kisses him and says, "Welcome home! I love you."

What a beautiful image of God. A God who loves us. A God who desires us. A God who is eager to greet us as we are. A God who wants us to be whole and home with God and one another. This is the God we celebrate each time we gather for worship, and this is the response God gives us when we return home.

For many of us the sanctuary at Holy Comforter is home. It is the place where we return regularly to remember how loved, forgiven, and desired we are. It is a place where we can settle down, regroup, and reconnect with God and other followers of Christ. It is a place where we can dig deep into our faith, and a place that gives us the joy and encouragement to fly high during the week outside the church walls.

Many of us are still learning that our homes are actually our first sanctuaries. Our homes are the places where we take off our "work clothes" and put on our blue jeans, both physically and emotionally. Our homes are the places we share the Eucharist, outside the sanctuary at Holy Comforter, whenever we share a meal. Home is the place where, when we arrive, "they have to let us in," and even want to do so. Our homes are where we are greeted by our pets who love us and our children who have been waiting at the door for us. Our homes are where we wait for our children to walk through the door after their first day of school. Our homes are where we welcome those we love and those we hope to know better. Our homes are where we let go of the day that has happened and rest for the new day ahead. Our homes are where we engage in caring conversations, practice new and well-worn family rituals and traditions, share prayers, and offer service to others. Our homes are where our faith is most nourished and grown.

As we move into the fall and begin another year together, let us be conscious of our homecoming. Let us pay attention to where we find God eager to meet us and love us. It might be in our common life together at Holy Comforter. It might be in our outreach ministry with CUMALI. It might be on Sunday morning or at youth group. It might be in the classroom of All Things Bright and Beautiful.

And it might be in our very own homes.

So, stand up and begin the journey back home and know that nothing less than Love is dying to welcome you back.