It is such a wonderful gathering. Twice a year, we host numerous folk from nursing homes in the area for worship and lunch at Christ Church. It is always such a delight to see the buses and cars arrive and to welcome these honored guests.
The event is aptly called "Homecoming." Indeed it is. ... We welcome people home, to a house and table of hospitality in our parish and to "God's House," the place and space of welcome that God gives to us as his beloved daughters and sons.
Hebrew and Christian scriptures speak volumes about "homecoming." There are many examples of people gathering at table and finding God as the loving host.
One of my favorite stories in the Hebrew Bible comes early on in the Book of Genesis. Abraham and Sarah welcome three unexpected guests to their table and show wonderful hospitality to them.
As it turns out, they are three angelic figures who also represent the very nature and being of God himself. In one of those wonderful biblical turn of events, God is both guest (sitting at the table) and host (present in the hospitality offered by Abraham and Sarah). The message in this and other ancient Hebrew stories is that hospitality is a supreme value, shown by God and to be offered by human beings.
The Christian Scriptures of the New Testament make the same point.
Jesus of Nazareth experienced the hospitality of many people, among the most poignant being that of his friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus.
He also sits at table with others, including rather unsavory characters (and he receives chastisement for that). Jesus is clear.
God's purpose and love are essentially and utterly hospitable. It is God's purpose to invite, welcome and feed. Jesus describes the joy that awaits us in terms of God's house and hospitality in fact: "In my Father's house are many mansions. ... I go to prepare a place for you," he said. It is God's way -- hospitality, welcome and homecoming.
I love the Homecoming worship and lunch at Christ Church every spring and fall. For that matter, I love the many ways that God shows us hospitality in our worship and in our relationship with Him.
There is also a call in this. One of the most important practices of faith is hospitality. We are called to welcome people to our homes. Our houses of worship are a "house of prayer for all people," as the Scripture puts it.
I believe this means prayer in the broadest and deepest sense, meaning homes where people can be welcomed and embraced by God and communities in which we show that welcome and embrace.
Truth be told, there is a lot of opportunity for homecoming experience as people of faith -- in our houses of worship, at our own personal tables, through the hospitality of servanthood which we offer in the world.
Indeed, God's offer to us and through us is "Homecoming."