Going Home *

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This recording is 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.

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Isaiah 55:1-13 Well, I’ve booked a flight to Jacksonville to go home… my home church invited me to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of Riverside Presbyterian by leading a Wednesday night program on my memories of Riverside… sharing memories of my home church that shaped my faith. I’m looking forward to going home… to see people I remember…Whenever I go home to Riverside… memories flood me of the child sitting in the pew… in fact, on those rare occasions when I get to go to worship, we sit on the same pew – 3rd row on the right—where my family sat and still sits. I look for the people who raised me… some are still there. Though I haven’t lived there for about 35 years… nor been able to attend worship on a weekly basis for about 35 years… funny thing… I still call it home.

I call myself, though my name is not on the roll, I call myself, A son of Riverside. A child of the church. The place where I was raised by people like you – who nurtured me in the womb of the church. It is my spiritual home. Home. It’s an interesting image. A powerful image. I’ll be going home.

Sarah Groves sings about going home in a powerfully longing way:

I’ve been feeling kind of restless

I’ve been feeling out of place

I can hear a distant singing

A song that I can’t write

And it echoes of what I’m always trying to say

There’s a feeling I can’t capture

It’s always just a prayer away

I want to know the ending

Things hoped for but not seen

But I guess that’s the point of hoping anyway

Of going home, I’ll meet you at the table

Going home, I’ll meet you in the air

And you are never too young to think about it

Oh, I cannot wait to be home

Oh, I cannot wait to be home.

I wonder if the exiles felt that way. The longing, the sense of restlessness… of being out of place – even after all those years of living in Babylon… I wonder if somewhere within them, they still dreamed of going home… to the place they remember being with God… Jerusalem… the temple… home!… to the time when they felt God was near… when the Lord spoke to them… But it had been years… many years…

Do you know that sense of longing for home? A pastor once told me that within all of us there lies a memory of Eden… of the time before the fall… when things were right with God… it is that memory that creates the restlessness… the longing… which is why life is hard… east of Eden… we can only dream of going home…

Then there is the great theologian Augustine… who after a life of prodigal living… restless searching for answers… discovered God… and he said a line many of us have repeated for 1700 years: “O Lord, thou has made us for thyself and our hearts are restless, until they find rest in thee”. What he is saying and many of us are saying… is that we are longing for home… home with God.

Anyone here ever known how that feels?

“I’ve been feeling kind of restless… out of place…

There’s a feeling I can’t capture. It’s always a prayer away.”

Lent is a time when we get in touch with those longings and hungers.

Some people even create the longing as they enter into a time of fasting. Do you know why? Fasting is a practice that creates a hunger… and reminds us of the hunger of the soul. Fasting forces people to give up those things we usually turn to in order to fill up our lives with everything but God—because our spirit longs to be filled with something. Not only nature, but spirits abhor a vacuum. So we fill up our lives with all sorts of stuff… much of which does not satisfy.

Fasting reminds us that we do not live by bread alone… we do not live by TV alone… or entertainment… or Sports alone… or work…or politics… or the Calendar alone…Oh, those things can fill the time… they may fill the emptiness of life… but truth be told, they are never enough for us… they leave most people wanting more… they are junk food for the soul. And that does not lead to a healthy soul.

Lent is a time when we get in touch with the hunger of the soul—and admit our restlessness before God.

We may even remember one definition of sin: separation from God. Sin… is more than breaking commandments or rules… it is anything in our life that separates us from God… removes us from the one who loves us.

Lent is also the time we recall the one who is able to fill that hunger… those longings.

Which is what I hear Isaiah telling those exiles… any restless exile with a longing for home.

This is God’s invitation to come home… to remind us where souls find their rest… where our hunger and thirst for righteousness and peace find their home with God…

This is a command and an invitation from our Lord God to come home. “Ollie, Ollie Oxen free”… it is time to come home. Listen to how the CEV says it:

If you are thirsty, come and drink water!

If you don’t have any money, come, eat what you want!

Drink wine and milk without paying a cent.

2Why waste your money on what really isn’t food?

Why work hard for somethingthat doesn’t satisfy?

Listen carefully to me, and you will enjoy

the very best foods. 3Pay close attention!

Come to me and live. I will promise you

the eternal love and loyalty that I promised David…

6Turn to the LORD! He can still be found.

Call out to God! He is near.

7Give up your crooked ways

and your evil thoughts. Return to the LORD our God.

He will be merciful and forgive your sins.

12When you are set free, you will celebrate

and travel home in peace. Mountains and hills will sing

as you pass by, and trees will clap.

13Cypress and myrtle trees will grow in fields

once covered by thorns.And then those trees will stand as a lasting witness to the glory of the LORD.

I love the sound of that… don’t you? God is inviting us to come home… to the place that we remember… home is waiting for us… for all who are ready to return…

A few weeks ago I read a story in the News-Observer about Denzel Washington who seems to me to be on a journey home. I have to tell you I am a big Denzel Washington fan. I will go to almost any movie with his name on it. To be honest, I wasn’t sure about his latest film, The Book of Eli… the trailers I saw focused on the violence, not the message or theme. Denzel said that the message of the movie is simple: “Do more for others than you do for yourself”. So I’m re-thinking it. Maybe I can handle the violence… after all, I’ve been reading through a lot of violence of the OT!

I like Denzel for several reasons. First he is a good actor. He usually stars in good movies with great stories that connect. Many, if not most of his films are stories with themes of sin, redemption, justice, dignity and compassion. Anyone recognize those themes from Scripture? But there are other reasons he interests me.

Before reading the article, I already knew some things about him: I knew he was a son of a Pentecostal minister. I also knew that he married a girl from Newton – Pauletta – from a well respected family in that town. (Where I had previously served a church)What I didn’t know (until I read the article) is how active he was as a Christian. In the midst of a busy and successful career he actually finds the time to attend church and participate in the life of faith. He attends Bible study and has worked his way through the Bible three times – thanks to the urging of Pauletta!

Denzel said that as he was reading the book of Proverbs recently, he began looking around his house, marveling over ‘all this stuff’. This led him to a sobering question: ‘What do you want Denzel?” He focused on “wisdom”, which led to the word “understanding.”

I said” “Hey, there’s something to work on. How about wisdom and understanding? How about that? I started praying, I said, “God, give me a dose of that,’ he said, ‘I mean, I can’t get…anymore successful, you know, but I can get better. I can learn to love more. I can learn to be more understanding. I can gain more wisdom.’ “So that is where I’m at” – he says.

Where Denzel is “at” is being a person of faith who having gained the world, still hungers and thirsts for more… so to Denzel and everyone like him, Isaiah has some good news. An invitation really: Hey, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you have no money, come, buy and eat… Listen carefully to me and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear and come to me, listen, so that you may live…Seek the Lord while he may be found… return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon”

God wants you to know… the invitation is there… you can come home now…anytime…come on home. God is waiting for you. Amen