Summary: Family reunions and other special occasions serve to focus on where we have been, where we are now, and where we want to go in the future. They help us to have a sense of belonging. We need this sense of belonging in the Christian family as well.
INTRODUCTION: You have probably gone to many family reunions, homecoming, summer picnics, high school class reunions or other gatherings where you “come home” once again to some part of your past. You look forward to it, but there is also a little sense of apprehension about it. Will it be like I remembered it? Will the buildings look different from what I remembered? Will my close friends of years gone by be there? Will they remember me? Will anyone speak to me or will I be accepted? Will I look as good as they do? Will I feel at home or feel like a misfit?
You might come up with a lot of questions and anxieties over a traditional “coming home” event. I think it is normal to have these questions and feelings.
ILLUSTRATION: I remember when I went back to preach at the church where my Mother took me as a four year old. I remembered that we sat on little wooden chairs in a Sunday school class. Those same little chairs were still there in the same room--after 50 years had gone by. In fact my Sunday school teacher was still there. I was accepted back into that home church after having been away for all those years.
ILLUSTRATION: I remember on one of our trips Walter and I went to the town where he was born--Harrisburg, Arkansas. We drove around the town, and he pointed out things he remembered. We drove by the movie theatre he and his Mother and their dog, Boots, went to every Saturday night.
There had been a barber shop on the corner, and it was still there. He went into the shop and asked about certain people. It so happened that there was a man there that day who Walter had gone with to a soap box derby 50 years before. He hadn’t seen this person for all of these years but there were instant connections.
ILLUSTRATION: A woman in Louisiana, Aunt Marty, who came home to a “traditional dinner on the grounds” at a rural church was asked, “Why do you travel all this way to come here?” She laughed and said, “for the food,” but then she said, “Because I NEED to…” She went on to explain:
1. I need TO KNOW there is someone who cares that I still exist.
2. I need TO FEEL family.
3. I need TO BE FILLED not only with food, but my soul filled and refreshed.
In our scripture reading for today, people “came home” to be with Jesus. Many had come for miles. Why?
1. A Need to KNOW: These people had a need to know some things too. John the Baptist had been killed. How was this going to affect Jesus? Would they be abandoned? Did they fear that Jesus would be beheaded too? Did they need to get their miracle while it was still available? Did they need the assurance that someone cared that they existed?
They probably needed to know all of these things and more. Scripture says that these people were like “sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6:34). They needed to be RECONNECTED to some kind of stability. Jesus saw this need and scripture said, “He had compassion on them” and took time for them (vs. 34). The account says that it was not a convenient time. Jesus and the disciples had ministered all day and were trying to slip away for some rest, but the people kept coming to Jesus who was the center of unity and stability for them. He didn’t turn them away. They needed to be there, and He taught them, healed them, and even fed them.
Just as they had a need to come home, we also have the same need. HOME is a place you can come even at an inconvenient time. Jesus was able to convey to them this sense of HOME--you matter, I’m here for you.
When we come home, things might always be like we remembered because things change over time. Things may not even be as good as we remembered. Buildings and furnishings deteriorate and might look worse than we ever remembered. There may not be as many people as we remembered.
This happened to the Jewish people who returned after long years of exile. What they found in the city was not what they had anticipated, and there was a sense of discouragement, doubt, and disillusionment. But they were home and that was what mattered.
Places you revisit may not be the same as you remembered it, but there is a sense of HOME in spite of it. You remember the times you came to family reunion and say, “I am still welcome. It’s HOME. I matter.”
2. A Need to FEEL Worthy to be a Part of the Family of God: A sense of family is important.