On Sunday after church I went home to Indiana and preached at the evening service at my home church, Avon United Methodist Church. This is the church that has officially sent me into ministry; they have encouraged me, prayed for me and given financial assistance toward my seminary expenses. This church is my “home,” and no matter where I am appointed or end up in ministry, I can always return there for encouragement, support and love. (This in no way diminishes the love, support and encouragement I have also received from Holmesburg UMC in Philadelphia, the church where I grew up).
On Sunday night I shared with the Avon congregation that when I come home to preach at their Sunday evening services, I typically use the same sermon I’ve preached at Smithville UMC in the morning, with some modifications. This week, however, the lectionary Gospel text was Mark 6: 1 – 13, where Jesus is rejected in his hometown of Nazareth and we hear the infamous adage “prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown.” While the focus of the sermon at Smithville was about dismantling our preconceived notions and how we miss opportunities when we make judgments about how and through whom God’s work can be done, I still didn’t think it was the best text to use for my homecoming.
Another text that celebrates one’s homecoming is Luke 15: 11 – 32, the passage that we have traditionally called “The Prodigal Son.” I reflected on this well-known story of grace on Sunday night, not because I am the child who has returned home after squandering all my money on loose living, but because it highlights the extravagant love of God, our heavenly Parent, who waits for us, runs to us, and extends an invitation to both wasteful wayfarers and diligent do-gooders. God is the host of a great party where all are welcome.
Until next time … peace.