Going home

Jul. 05, 2015

2 Sam 5.15, 9-10; 2 Cor. 12.2-10; Mk. 6.1-13

How would you describe yourself to someone who didn't know you so they'd have a good picture of who you are? Who's the real YOU? Obviously, you'd want to begin with a name...but as Shakespeare posed it, "Would not a rose by any other name smell as sweet?" Our family name has a way of pegging us...so that our roots can either speed or hinder where we want to go and what we want to do with our lives. If you were running for President of the United States, it would certainly help if your name was "Bush" or "Clinton".

Or maybe you're one of those people who identifies very strongly with a school you graduated from and on game days you're that person who attaches school flags to your car and drives around proudly displaying your colors...so everybody'll know that you're a Tiger or a Bulldog. Or yet again, so many people find their identity is tied up in what they "do," as in their profession or a craft or skill...so you ARE "a butcher, a baker, or a candlestick maker". But any case, it shapes how we identify ourselves. Or maybe your identity is attached to some award or accomplishment...or some other thing that makes you proud. And there's also where and how we grow up. Were you poor or privileged...it makes a difference in how you see yourself and the world around. Country music star Dolly Parton said, "I've been poor and I've been rich, and I can tell you, rich is better." So, basically, I'm wondering...what's your core identity? What defines you?

One thing we all share...is that we all came from a place we all call "home". The poet Robert Frost said, "Home is that place where when you go there, they have to take you in." Home brings a feeling of sanctuary. As with Dorothy in the Wizard of OZ when she said, "There's no place like home." It can vary for person to person...but home is where the heart is.

And, talking about "home" generally breaks out into two versions. There's the ideal or fantasy "home"...and then there's the unvarnished reality, which is often quite different. If home were written as a reality TV show, it would include the uncle who drinks too much, in-laws who cuss like sailors, a grandpa who drools and sleeps peacefully while warring grandchildren flail away at each other in the background. And there's usually a teenager skulking in the corner with his multiple body piercings and too many tattoos, and there're all kinds of not so subtle games of envy, jealousy, and criticism that get played out. Often there's a big difference between the home we'd like and the home we've inherited. That certainly seems the case with Jesus' homecoming and the reality that he was the incarnate Son of God. I wonder if they ever saw the "real" Jesus?

In a very different kind of way it reminds me of the story a parishioner shared with me this week about a woman who was tailgating the car approaching an intersection, and when the driver slowed and stopped at a yellow light instead of going through it, the lady in the trailing car was irate because she hadn't been able to draft behind him through the light. She laid on her horn, beat her hands on the steering wheel and put down her car window and unleashed a loud blast of the foulest language you could imagine. She was livid and rude and relentless in her abusive behavior until she was interrupted by a policeman who tapped on her car door and asked to see her license. He checked it and then he cuffed her and put her into his patrol car and took her down to the station. After a couple of hours, he came to her cell and escorted her back to the booking area to return her personal effects. The officer apologized, "I'm sorry, ma'am. But I came up behind you and heard your cursing, and the rude horn blowing, and overall abusive attitude and then I noticed the bumper sticker on your car that said, "What would Jesus Do?" And "Choose Life" license plate, and the "Follow me to Sunday School" bumper sticker and the chrome plated Christian fish symbol, and I thought to myself, "She must have stolen that car!" Sometimes there's a contrast between what we think we are and what our behavior reveals us to be.

When Jesus returned home to the place where he'd grown up...he didn't get the ideal version of home. Instead, although they were initially enamored, the home folks raced back in their memories to ask, "Where'd he get all this?" "Isn't that Mary's son?" Not surprisingly, there were no great miracles performed among them. Isn't it interesting that when we close off our minds to God, we lose contact with the miraculous? So, Jesus sent the disciples elsewhere.

The integrity of OUR message about Jesus and the integrity of our own witness has to be in what we are and what we do. It defines us. Without integrity in our message, we're like bumblebees flying about in a big glass jar, making a lot of noise, but not going anywhere...we see out into the world, but we don't really go there, we're too caught up in ourselves. We may be racing around and around, but to no real purpose.

It's interesting to me that instead of making a renewed appeal to friends and neighbors, Jesus just sent his disciples out on another mission: essentially, to find those who would listen. Our new Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Michael Curry closed the final Eucharist at the General Convention this week in Utah, by saying, "I have just one word for you. It's the message of Jesus gave to his disciples before he ascended into heaven and left the mission of the Church in our hands. Jesus said, "Go". We are to reach out in mission and ministry: we are to invite, to welcome, and to disciple in the name of Lord. The only way that you and I can really answer the question, "Who am I? And why am I here," is this: go and invite your friends to be here to share Jesus Christ with you. Christ says, "Go" and that is really the only way we can come to know who we really are. Amen.

The Reverend WA Ray St Thomas Church
Diamondhead, MS 7/05/15