Posted: October 01, 2018
By Rick Summy, Senior Pastor
Recently, a pair of ruby slippers that Judy Garland wore in the Wizard of Oz was recovered in Minnesota after having been stolen from a museum. It reminded me of what Dorothy said when she clicked her heels together. Remember? “There’s no place like home.”
By contrast, the young man who eventually became known to us as the prodigal son, apparently wanted nothing to do with being at home. He asked his father for his share of the inheritance (long before the old man was ready to give up the ghost), and, surprisingly, the father gave it to him. The money didn’t last long. Before he knew it, the son found himself feeding pigs and wishing he could eat some of the pods they were eating. He decided that it would be better to be a servant in his old home than to continue to starve in the land of his folly. But even before he reached the house, his father, out of his mind with relief, came running out to greet him—something a father in that place and time would have never done.
The message is simple. God will do anything (even look as foolish as an old man running with his robes hiked up around his thighs) to welcome us home.
Maybe home for you is the house you grew up in. Maybe it’s family and friends you can’t imagine being without. Perhaps you have discovered precious moments in your life when everything seems to be just as it’s supposed to be—and that feels like home. Maybe you never had a particular place to call home, but you somehow know what it feels like. Home is complicated. None of us grew up in a perfect home, but we still have a rich and vivid image of what home is and what it means. And we all long for it.
In its deepest sense, home is the place where God is found. Or, perhaps to put it a better way, the place where God finds us. Where Jesus embraces us. Where the Spirit moves with compassion and care.
Deep in our souls, we long for such a place. A place where God runs out to meet us, is overjoyed to see us, holds us close, never mind where we’ve been or what we’ve done. It doesn’t have to be a perfect place, with perfect people who do all the right things all of the time. It just needs to feel like home.
Among other things, I’ve spent my first two years as your senior pastor listening carefully. And the one word I hear most often to describe Shepherd of the Valley? Home.
We are home in some typical ways. A welcoming place. Wonderful people. Moments—like the recent Block Party and our Big Band worship—when everything seems to go just right. It’s a place where we gather and are fed, where we are sent out to work, serve, and love.
But like Dorothy, like the prodigal son, we all can get a little lost now and then.
So, whether you’ve been here awhile, or have been wandering: Welcome home! Whether you’re lonely, lost, happy, or confident: Welcome home! Whether you’re doubting, believing, hoping, or despairing: Welcome home! Come just as you are. Anytime. And through ordinary people and imperfect surroundings, I trust you will experience the relentless searching, ever forgiving, unconditionally loving God.
From this home, we will be sent out just like Jesus sent the disciples after the resurrection, to be love in the world. And when that call is joyful, as well as when it bruises and batters us, we will know where to go.
Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church. Home.