In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Homecoming. Coming home. There comes a time in all of our lives that we have got to come home. There comes a time when there is no other option, but home. When we need a good meal- we go home. When we need to feel the warmth of family affection- we go home. When we have experienced enough of the cold cruelty of the world and its empty promises- we need to go home. When I used to want to stay out all night long and be away from home, it was my grandmother who reminded me that everything that I needed to do or enjoy away from home should be done by midnight, and after midnight people who were still out in the streets usually were up to no good- so I needed get my behind home. Young people, it is a dangerous world out there. Your parents realize that you are of the age that you need some freedom, but they are concerned for your safety and well being as you walk in this world which is fallen and filled with the presence of evil forces which seek to destroy you. My parents could not go to sleep at night until I made it home. They lay a-many sleepless nights tossing and turning until they heard the car door slam and the key jiggle in the door, and then they fell fast asleep (some of you know what I’m talking about). It was not until they knew that I was safely home that they could rest.
Beloved, I submit to you that Jesus cannot sleep, he will not sleep, until you have come home. Not to your physical home, but to your spiritual home in him. “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” And when he comes home, there is rejoicing!
Some of us are runaways. Some of us have run far, far from home, haven’t we, trying to escape some pain or some sorrow; some tears and some trials. We rushed down what seemed to be more promising paths, toward more manageable gods, which always leads to unmanageable trouble. Haven’t we done this, my brothers and sisters? Haven’t we chased after those things, which glittered but were far from gold? We look for what we consider the easy fix, even though you know that nothing good in life comes easy and we like sheep have gone astray. We look for the easy way out and we end up lamenting for the salvation of God. Whether it is drugs or alcohol; whether it is embezzlement or outright robbery; whether it is dishonest living and compromised integrity for the sake of money, we live in a time where instead of loving people and using things, we use people and love things.
It is not surprising that so many of the psalms describe the churning, disruptive experience of being lost and found, judged and forgiven, sent away and brought back. David knew what it was to be lost and found, for in Psalm 51, the superscription of the psalm, which tells us the context in which it was written, says that David wrote this after he had been confronted by the prophet Nathan about the sins which he had committed; he having murdered the husband of Bathsheba in an effort to cover up his adultery with her. So David declares and laments:
Have mercy upon me, O God,
According to Your lovingkindness;
According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,
Blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my transgressions,
And my sin is always before me.
Against You, You only, have I sinned,
And done this evil in Your sight—
And then David Continues:
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Give me the Joy of your saving help again.
Yes, it is all a part of the pathos of people who got scared and lost their way, who sinned and needed salvation, and the high drama of a God who searches to find his lost sheep.
Fear. Certainly, we can think of the times that we have really been scared and the things that we have been pushed to do in our fear. Maybe it took a disease to scare you; maybe it took some financial situation that made you afraid and desperate. We speak sometimes of being scared stiff or paralyzed with fear; however, most people react to fear by running like crazy. It doesn’t matter where they run, which road they go down, or what they try next. They just run away; they try to escape. One psychologist said that “humans are the strangest of all God’s creatures, because they run fastest when they have lost their way.” Beloved, are you running today? This is how we get into trouble, by running when we are lost. It is then that we make the worst mistakes in our relationships, the worst mistakes in our family, the worst mistakes in our work, and the worst mistakes in our lives. We take that fatal shortcut through sin and ruin our lives in the process. We run, like terrified sheep.
Some of us have gotten lost in the battles with declining health. Others are lost in grief. And how many of us are simply lost in our shame for the things that we have done? And we have lost sight of who we are and who we have been created to be. And so we must realize and confess that we are lost; that we have lost our way; that we have made wrong decisions and have sent our souls in a dreadful direction. But the key to discovering salvation is to know that we are lost, and at last to realize that God cannot rest until his sheep are home. God is tossing and turning so much so that he sent the shepherd, the Good Shepherd, from his throne in Heaven at the right hand of the Father on a reconnaissance mission; to seek and save those who are lost.
Beloved, God is calling us home today. And when we get home, when we allow ourselves to be found by Jesus; when we allow Jesus to come into our minds and our hearts and take up lodging there, the bible says that there is joy in heaven for the one who decides to stop running and repent and turn back to God. Are you running today? Some of you, God is calling to special ministry. Are you running? Some of you, God is calling to trust him more by giving up your need for control. Are you running? Some of you, God has given you a vision. Are you running?
We celebrate homecoming Sunday today, a day when we welcome back into the community our
What would you say if I told you that there are in this world, and even perhaps in this church people who are spiritually homeless? What would you say if I told you that they are waiting for the shepherd, the savior to find them? What if I told you that it is your job, you who claim salvation, to talk about Jesus as savior? What if I told you that when you talk about people’s need for a savior they may not pay you any mind now, but later on when the sin that is so pleasurable becomes poison, when good times become bad times, when nothing they own can give them peace- they will know that they need a savior. And if they call upon the name of Jesus, they will know what it means to have him as savior. Because having Jesus as savior means that if you’re lost and running, he’s the way. If all of your energy is drained, he’s the life. It means that if you are groping in darkness, he’s light. It means that if you are feeling disconnected, he is the true vine. It means that if you hunger for relationship, he is the bread of life. It means that if your soul thirsts, and nothing satisfies, he is the living water. It means that if you woke up this week and felt that you have nothing else to live for, he is the resurrection. If you need protection and provision, he is the Good Shepherd. If you need opportunities, he is the door. If you’re messed up, he is the second chance. If you’re broken up, he’s Mr. Fix it.
Yes beloved, in Jesus we have a Savior. He saves us from the sins that entangle us by teaching us that n him, we are free indeed. He saves us from ourselves by teaching us to focus on him as the center of our Joy. He saves us from our foolishness and our wrong-headed thinking. He saves us from our backwardness by imparting to us wisdom and vision. He saves us from other by blessing us in spite of others. He doesn’t save us from trouble, but he saves us in the midst of our by his presence. Jesus is our savior. He not only saves us from damnation, but he saves us for development. He not only saves us from envy, but he saves us for excellence. He not only saves us from pride, but he saves us for power. He not only saves us from greed, but he saves us for generosity. He not only saves us from faults, but he saves us for faithfulness. He not only saves us from wickedness, but he saves us for wisdom.
Jesus is our savior and calls each one of us to come home! Let this be you homecoming today. Let this be the day that you realize as the songwriter wrote:
Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,
Calling for you and for me;
See, on the portals He’s waiting and watching,
Watching for you and for me.
Come home, come home,
You who are weary, come home;
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling, O sinner, come home!