Philippians 3 selected verses
LUKE 15: 11-32

April 7, 2019

Many of you have heard the phrase, HOME is WHERE THE HEART IS.  It is a simple phrase that has come to mean different things to different people but did you know where the phrase came from?  Who put those words together for the first time?

Well the words come from the time of Jesus Christ from a Roman who throughout history has become known as Pliny the Elder.  He actually was born Gaius Plinius Secundus and he was born ten years before Jesus died.   He appears to have been an amazing man.  A lawyer, a naturalist, a philosopher, a military commander, and an author.  I am sure many of you have read the multiple volumes of his NATURALIS HISTORIA.  We even know, thanks to the historian Tacitus, that Pliny enjoyed light breakfasts … no overloaded plates of French Toast, bacon and eggs, with homefries or grits for our man Pliny.  Just a light breakfast to start his day.

There is nothing recorded to indicate that PLINY was a Christian but I am sure that he was aware of THE PEOPLE of THE WAY.  The people who followed the Nazarene who healed and brought a message of love and justice to the Roman controlled world.  I am sure that Pliny was aware that these individuals who self identified by drawing a simple fish in the sand were growing in numbers and that many of them were willing to go to prison or to die for what they believed.  I am sure that he, like those of us here today, was aware that the Roman legions had cruelly and viciously nailed this Jesus to a wooden cross on a hillside in Jerusalem to die.  But, did he know that Jesus rose from the dead three days later?  Did he know that Jesus ascended into heaven and was quoted in the days between?  Jesus teaching THE PEOPLE of the WAY of a way to get HOME with Jesus … teaching THE PEOPLE of the WAY how to bring HOME the KINGDOM of HEAVEN while they lived here on earth?  That I don’t know; if someone had the chance to tell Pliny about Jesus did they bother investing those few moments or take the risk?

Now, I do know that PLINY died trying to rescue a friend and that friend’s family from the volcanic eruptions of Mount Vesuvius … and I do know that the phrase “HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS” gained popularity in America when JJ McCloskey wrote a play about my namesake, Davy Crockett, in the 1800’s and then of course I know that Emily Dickinson wrote “They say ‘home is where the heart is,’ I think it is where the house is and the adjacent buildings.”

So church where is your heart this morning?  Where is your home?  Jesus taught, “In my father’s house are many rooms … I go to prepare a place for you.”  Is your eternal life home the home you are headed to?  The home where your heart is focused upon? Are you thinking about who will be in the adjacent rooms and buildings of heaven?  Are you traveling this journey to insure that others are joining you in the  homes of heaven that are alongside your own or do you view the journey home as one of exclusivity?  Just for yourself and perhaps your immediate family and friends?

We are in the Lenten Season for just a few more days and then Easter with its baskets of candy will be in our rear view mirrors and there will be no holiday of faith connection again until Christmas. Well there is Pentecost but the world hasn’t given us anything special to associate our daily lives to a church holiday so we tend to minimize that special day of holiness.  We will all have an excuse to relax and reduce our God-connection; summer vacation time; Spring days off; trips to the shore and other places …. Less church moments; we don’t have to study the Bible anymore but then again there really wasn’t any time for that was there? … After the bunny’s delivery’s and Easter meals are completed it seems that church winds down for a few months resting after all the hard work we have had to put in during Lent and the Christmas season.

But wait … wait church … on this Sunday when 6 individuals have stepped up to become members of the church we all come home … just a few short months after 13 individuals decided that this was a place they wanted to call their church home … who are you inviting to experience God in church with you?  Is this church home a place that you believe that your friends, your co-workers, the neighbors you like … You see, I fully understand that you wouldn’t want the neighbors you don’t like to be here … but perhaps some of your your co-workers … who are you inviting to get our numbers up to 130?

Although Jesus did declare in His very last words … spoken when our friend Pliny was 10 years old … Jesus had been killed on that cross … He was buried … He rose from the tomb leaving it empty and walked and taught but there on the crest of the Mount of Olives Jesus taught one more lesson to all of us who believe … because Jesus wasn’t creating an exclusive club with secret handshakes and complicated rituals … Jesus was welcoming all, loving all but also putting expectations on all who truly believe … you know the part about faith without works being dead and not really faith … He declared, “THEREFORE GO and MAKE DISCIPLES of all the nations … be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and Samaria … in Swedesboro and Woodbury, and to the ends of the earth.”  After that He was taken up … ASCENDING back HOME where He is waiting for us.

So, are you using this Lenten season … this Holy season as the opportunity to extend an invitation? The TABLE of the LORD is before us … the TABLE of welcome and love … the TABLE for ALL … a TABLE in its simplicity that represents God’s love, God’s forgiveness, and our opportunity to again become close with Jesus Christ.  “Take this bread and eat … it is my body given to you.  The cup is my blood,” said Jesus.  “Given for the forgiveness of sins.  The new covenant.  Do this in remembrance of me.”  Does the TABLE matter … it is there for everyone … it is our way of remembering Jesus.

The Gospel lesson for today is a story we all know … it is about leaving home but then turning around and heading back home.  The Prodigal Son.   Amongst the many lessons that Jesus teaches this is one of the most powerful reminders of God’s attitude towards humanity … it’s a lesson about God’s love for all humans recognizing our failures and weaknesses while always wanting us to come back … come back home to God.

So many of us … just wanted to get away from God during a moment or moments in our lifetime.  To take on our priorities … to just get away from the closeness of our relationship with God so that we could experience the world …

Now, I know I am making this simplistic when it isn’t.  I am making it sound like we make a conscious decision to wave ‘bye bye’ to God … telling God to have a good day when the truth is that most people who walk away from God and the journey; the ROAD TRIP towards God’s home … from God’s presence do it subconsciously … most people who lessen God’s presence do it for personal reasons that frequently do not even cause God to be part of their thought process … some who leave God actually still attend church but God is only that small segment of their life’s schedule rather than being the one they live and work for.  Some declare they believe in Jesus and follow Jesus but have no time to invest in Jesus nor willingness to accept Jesus teachings as their lifestyle.

Friends, life is complicated and life has its pressures and expectations that come from those around us and the world but God keeps looking over the horizon for all people to realize that life’s struggles have one answer … that there is just one true home to head towards and that is the one God has established through Jesus Christ.  It sometimes takes a moment of recognizing how unworthy we are of God’s love … but friends God is ready to embrace each person who heads home … Scriptures teach how the angels in heaven have a party when one person comes to faith … there is rejoicing and celebration when eternal life is brought back to a person through their coming home to Jesus Christ.

Jesus talks about a party … Jesus talks about a celebration … not quiet … not hushing things up but celebrating a return home; celebrating faith; being ALIVE not dead … being home not lost …

So, where are you?  Are you home?  Are you headed that way?  Are your friends?  Your neighbors including those you don’t get along with?  Do they need you more than you need them?

The verses from Philippians today are important for me because they helped turn me around towards my home with God.  It took a man, a friend, to show me the path even though I knew it myself … “WHAT MATTERS is KNOWING CHRIST JESUS as my LORD! To EXPERIENCE the POWER of HIS RESURRECTION … to want to be like Jesus … not the world …

We are not perfect here and what helped me fully understand that were Paul’s simple words … “I want to be like Jesus but I do not claim that I have already succeeded or have already become perfect.  I keep doing my best to win the prize that Jesus gave up His life for.  Forgetting what is behind me and doing my best to reach where is ahead.  So, I run straight toward the goal in order to win the prize, which is God’s Call through Christ Jesus to the life above.” 

HEADED HOME friends … I am far from perfect but I know where my home is … where my heart is … are you willing to forget what is behind you?  Do you want to be like Jesus and if you do then are you reading what Jesus was like?  Is your goal … God’s call through Christ Jesus to the life above?

I hope your answers are yes … I pray and hope that you are using this Lenten Season as your ROAD TRIP of FAITH to get back on the right road to bring you home.  I am asking you to find time to stay in the race year round … monthly … weekly … daily time with God and to use God’s Holy Spirit to discover how you can grow this church and take us on missions we never dreamed about before.

Jesus is calling … God is waiting .. the Holy Spirit is ready to guide us in our imperfection through God’s forgiveness and love to our eternal home but lets bring some friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family members with us in the race home.  Let that be where your heart is.





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