Calling all the Children Home

These notes are intended for distribution to members and friends of the Kirk of Kildaire Presbyterian Church family. While effort is made to give credit for work done by others, the notes may use material for which appropriate credit is not given. Also, the notes may differ from the actual sermon as it was delivered. Remember, sermons are meant to be preached and are therefore prepared with the emphasis on verbal presentation; the written accounts occasionally stray from proper grammar and punctuation. 

Psalm 95 

So I am wondering what a Sunday morning is like for you before you get to church. When I was growing up, I remember heading to the Penny burger (like a Krystal restaurant) for donuts and milk. Looking back it was probably a bribe.

I know some of you have fought with the kids… rushed to get here… tried to find a parking place… maybe irritated… some of you have come fresh from breakfast and a quick run through of the morning paper or checking email or facebook. Some have come fresh from a fight with a friend… a child… a spouse…

Before I walk in the sanctuary, I often feel a bit harried to be honest. Usually there is a last minute announcement someone wants to make or pastoral concerns to share… I’ve rushed to get on my robe… mike up… someone usually straightens out my stole… hardly the most prayerful way to get here… Sometimes Stephanie or Cathy and I are flying into here… and we pause to take a deep breath.

We walk into the sanctuary… and I know we have all brought our "stuff" in here. Some have come here hard of hearing and are adjusting the hearing aids… some of you grab the kids stuff hoping that will settle them down… a mother slips a lifesaver to her six year old… a college sophomore home for vacation, who is here because he was dragged here, slumps forward with his chin in his hand. Ready to text friends.

Then there are the heavy things we bring here. The couple who is contemplating divorce… the young adult who is alone… the unemployed worker wondering where the next job comes from… all of us with calendars and commitments on our mind… we all bring that stuff with us. 1.

Which is why the opening of worship… the call to worship is so important. Here we are…The opening is crucial to worship. It is the transition from "there" to "here"… That’s why we work hard on preludes and opening sentences… and even the call to worship itself. They are the parts of the service that navigate you from the world out there to the world in here…

The "here" of course is the house of the Lord… So we open with an invitation as God’s people have done for centuries… an invitation to come… come away from the stuff out there and come in here – set aside some time-to be… to be in the community of faith… to be in to the presence of God…

That’s how Psalms like Psalm 95 were used for God’s people. Listen to a different version (CEV)
1Sing joyful songs to the LORD! Praise the mighty rock
where we are safe. Come to worship him
with thankful hearts and songs of praise.
3The LORD is the greatest God, king over all other gods….
6Bow down and worship the LORD our Creator!
7The LORD is our God, and we are his people,
the sheep he takes care of in his own pasture.
Listen to God’s voice today!"

What you have here, you know, is an invitation… not to "go to church"… but to "enter into the presence of God"… to remember that the Lord is our God and we are his people… we are his sheep… we belong to this God… We are invited to worship our God with songs and voices… to listen to what God has to say… To me, this sounds less like going to church and more like coming home.

Craig Nygard led me to a song by John McCutcheon that speaks this to me. He used it at a Montreat Youth Conference… McCutcheon wrote a song based on memories of his mother standing in the doorway calling his large family to the supper table, back when he was a child:
Home to the table and the big, black pot
Everybody’s got enough, ‘though we ain’t got a lot
No one is forgotten, no one is alone
When she’s calling all the children home.

John goes on to wish, in song for a day when everyone, everywhere in any circumstance is able to hear the invitation to come home in that same loving way:
Home to the table, home to the feast where the last are first and the greatest are the least
Where the rich will envy what the poor have got
Everybody’s got enough, ‘though we ain’t got a lot
No one is forgotten, no one is alone
When we’re calling all the children home…"

I love the image of that song… a parent standing outside, calling for all the different children in the family… children out in the field…out playing… out working… out dealing with stuff… out at the soccer game or the swimming pool– the parent standing on the porch… calling for the children in the family, one by one, to come home.

I love that image because that’s what I think we are doing when we ring the chime… and I say, "this is the day, the Lord has made"… I’m saying, "Come on home…"

Home is where we go when we want to remember where we came from and who we belong to. Home is where there is warmth, welcome, love and comfort… home is where you were nurtured, disciplined and challenged. Home is where there is joy, peace, laughter…and sometimes tears-but that is okay, because you are home.

Home is where you remember who you are whose you are. When I go home to Jacksonville, to the old house, to visit Dad, I remember where I came from… that I am a child of Joe and Martha Welker… and even with my Dad’s dementia… there is something about going up to him… and he says, "Welcome home Jody… I’m so glad you’re here"… and I remember who I am – I am a Welker…

But when I come here, I remember I am more than a Welker. I remember that I am a child of God and I belong to God… When we come here… I remember I am part of a large family, we are remembering we all belong to God…Coming here is an opportunity to come home.

It also is an opportunity to celebrate and give thanks for the one who made us and loves us and saves us from ourselves and the world. That’s why we are singing in worship… making joyful noises… it is because we are home. There is, as Dorothy said, ‘no place like home"

So in the opening of the service and the call to worship, you are welcomed home. You are invited… implored and encouraged to come, bow down and listen to the voice of our Lord.

We come home to listen. To listen to the Lord who loves us and made us… to listen to the one who can guide our lives… who can teach us so much about life… after all this is the one who created the heavens and the earth… who will tell us when we stray and guide us on the right paths. We come to listen to the one who made us… as God speaks in music, song, scripture, sermon… we come to listen even as we pray… For we are home…

And get this: We come to listen in order to leave. To return… For we all have to leave home… return to the fields and to the world. But we don’t have to return the same– we can return nourished and fed… we can return wiser and more able to live a life pleasing to God. We can return as we must to the rest of the week… ready to live in the world as God would want his children to live. We can live lives that would make a parent proud!

The prophet Micah understood this. He knew that coming to worship was more than going to church.That’s what he was trying to tell Israelites after years of complacency about worship. They came to church asking:
"With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come with burnt offerings…? "
What does God want of me when I come here? The answer: God wants you.
"he has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God"

What God wants from the children is for them to be there with him… to listen and when we leave the service… to continue to worship God with lives that are just and kind and reveal that we are walking with God.

In other words, as worship bulletins often put it: "We gather to worship and we are sent to serve". Micah might say, we gather to worship, but we are sent to live lives of justice, kindness alongside our God. What ever way you put it, we call you to worship… in order to give you some time with our God and to prepare you to return to the world… to be God’s people in the world.

Today’s service has a bit of that flow to it. We are sending teams to conferences, mission trips… we are sending them out… into the world… some to discover other members of their family at conferences… some to practice living lives of justice and kindness… We are sending them out.This afternoon Katelyn Gordon is coming home to be ordained where she was baptized…among the people who raised her and nurtured her in the faith. She is coming home to be sent away… to live a life of service as a minister of the word and sacrament.

And truth is… so are every one of you being sent away… we are sending you away to live a life of service… to live a life of justice and mercy in your place of work… in your relationships with friends and strangers… in your families… at school… You are leaving this home to be of service to the world…

Until… until… you hear that dinner bell ring… and your hear God calling inviting you to come home again:
Home to the table, home to the feast where the last are first and the greatest are the least
Where the rich will envy what the poor have got
Everybodys’ got enough, ‘though we ain’t got a lot
No one is forgotten, no one is alone
When we’re calling all the children home…"

Amen.

1 Apologies to  Frederich Buechner – adapted from Telling the Truth p. 22


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