High School Football programs often observe an annual celebration of homecoming in the autumn when one game is chosen where the graduated seniors from the prior year class return home for the weekend to remember where it is they came from. College freshman look forward to this weekend, not just to reconnect with old friends, but for many it is the first time returning home after having left for college. Many students develop a yearning in those early days away from home, and homecoming is a time where those yearnings to return to parents, friends, school and community are sated, even if for just a few hours, and students can return to college with the reassurance that indeed they can return home again!
I like to think of All Saints Sunday as the church’s celebration of homecoming. On this day in the church year, we remember people who have died, specifically for how these saints have modeled faith, love and service in their lives, and how they taught us to follow in that example. But it is also a day on which we give thanks that these saints have gone home after their long journey. And by doing so, they point us toward the way home – the promise made to us in our baptisms – that God will someday welcome us home to eternal life.
Jesus teaches blessings and woes to his gathered disciples with a two-fold purpose. Jesus is pointing the disciples to the needs of the present – that the poor, the hungry, the grieving – are all blessed in God’s eyes and that we need to be about God’s business of caring for those neighbors who are hurting. And woe to those who are living comfortably, but in ignorance of the suffering so prevalent around them. It is a call to repentance – to reorient our focus to present and urgent needs of God’s people.
Jesus also points us to the realities of the future with God, and what it will be like as we journey toward the home to which God is calling us. It’s a home where all people are welcome – where there is no division between rich and poor, hungry and satisfied, joyful and grieving, friend and enemy, haves and have nots. It’s a homecoming that promises eternal satisfaction, not just a few hours of getting in touch with a familiar place. It’s a homecoming that Jesus promises us will cause us to “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy”.
But for now, we are on that journey home, and every time we give welcome to a stranger, love an enemy, bear the burdens of the suffering, and act selflessly for the benefit of others, we are adding another stone to the walkway that will end with our homecoming – our eternal life with God.
Devotions for Week of 11/6/2016
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Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church (GA) in New York City has been chosen as one of eight internship congregations to participate this year in a church-wide initiative designed to increase our understanding of Holy Scripture and most importantly, to cultivate our engagement with it. In partnership with The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, Vicar John Heidgerd will be working to develop innovative ways to deepen our faith formation and sense of discipleship for the sake of ourselves and our communities.