Returning Home

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As we bring our series on travel to a close, we contemplate what it means to return home. After stretching our spirits and our love to include more of God’s glorious creation, we return to a home that will never be the same to us. We have returned with “guests”–memories of new friends and new perspectives. Perhaps we also return with new convictions to be more active and loving citizens of humanity right where we reside. Jesus says “abide in me” and follows that with the commandment to love one another.

                                    Reflections on Returning Home

                                                August 6, 2023

Our Psalm this morning is a love letter about God’s hospitality. It is the formula for how we, made in the image of God, are called to provide for each other, how we might offer hospitality for travelers who may cross the threshold of our own doors. This poem speaks of a steadfast love, a feast of abundance, a drink from the river of delight.  And our reading from John draws on the deep interconnection we all share–part of one vine. We are to love one another because what affects one, affects us all. The fruit that “lasts” is the fruit that is shared and multiplied in community, as Jesus so beautifully taught us when he multiplied the loaves and fishes for the crowd that had gathered to be fed by his words and presence so long ago. Let us pray, O God of gracious hospitality, be with us now and whenever we venture out in our lives.  Help us to greet the stranger as friend, to open our hearts to the ways you teach us of your love in the ordinary moments of each day.  Amen.

Several weeks ago, I began this worship series with some reflections on  leaving home and  I referenced some thoughts from Rick Steves shared in his wonderful travel series on PBS.  He has said, “My travels have taught me to have a healthy skepticism towards those who peddle fear. And in so many cases, I’ve learned that the flip side of fear is understanding.  The beauty of travel as a spiritual act is that our prized souvenirs are the “strands of different cultures we decide to knit into our own character.”

When we plan to travel, we usually do much preparation for our departure.  We fill our suitcases with all the things we anticipate we will need. On our way back, we sometimes find that we are bringing new things home with us, whether souvenirs for friends or family or…something special we have bought for ourselves to remind us of our time away.  It’s also helpful to pause and reflect upon we will carry with us in our memories?  What new experiences or encounters will now fill our hearts and perhaps redirect our paths in the future?  How have we been changed?  Do we return home with excitement, with the sense that there really is no place like home?  And what awaits us at home?  Isn’t it the best feeling to sleep in your own bed, to reconnect to your own routines and daily rituals, and most importantly to see those you love? Home of course, is more than where we reside; home is hopefully a place where we feel most like ourselves, a place of security, of love.  Home is most often where our people are…family and friends who bring so much to our lives. 

Thoughts on home from Buechner…

There is an African myth that speaks to the power of home.

When a woman in the tribe knows she is pregnant, she goes out into the wilderness to pray and listen until she hears the song of the child she bears. This tribe recognizes that every soul has its own vibration, expressing its unique flavor and purpose. Then the mother to be teaches the song to the other members of the tribe.

The tribe sings the song to the child at birth.

They sing when the child becomes an adolescent, when the adult is married, and at the time of parting and death.

But there is one other occasion when the villagers sing this song. If at any time during his (or her) life, the person causes suffering to another member of the tribe, they gather in a circle and set him in the center. They sing the song, to remind him not of the wrong done, but of his own beauty and potential. When a child loses their way, it is love and not punishment that brings the lost one home. I cannot tell you your song. But I can tell you this: you have one.

We are a global community. Whether we have traveled the world, or not, learning about the world and its peoples, expanding our connections to those in our own communities especially to those with diverse backgrounds and experiences, is part of the Journey of Love to which we are called.  What if all these benefits of travel could be applied to how we live our lives at home?” How could we keep this wide-eyed wonder in our own little corner of the world? We have to be  intentional in reminding ourselves to stay open and curious.

I hope that times of travel remind us to savor, to wonder, and most importantly to love the world and its peoples. To love our neighbors and to  “love ourselves”  is about creating moments that nurture us spiritually so that we can give of ourselves freely and gladly, with passion. Stepping out of our comfort zones and doing new things can bring happiness to our lives.  May it also light a spark of kinship and delight, compassion and action.  May God bless our travels whether down the block or farther afield.  May we weave into the tapestry of our hearts the beauty of creation and the stories of those we meet along the journey.  Someday, we will be welcomed home to the One who has loved us always.