Summary: The significance of reunion and homecoming in this life points to the coming reunion and homecoming in the next. This sermon is appropriate for any church homecoming reunion celebration.
This sermon was given June 30, 2013, at the Palmyra Methodist Church in rural Bird Island, MN. The congregation has been disbanded for many years. Each summer the descendants of the founders of the church faithfully return to this tiny rural church for a reunion homecoming.
Title: “If What is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious”
Text: 2 Corinthians 3:2-11, 17-18
From far and wide, you, the descendants of the founding members of the Palmyra Methodist Church, have gathered here again this year to remember, give thanks, celebrate your roots, and renew the connection with the Palmyra Methodist Church family. You have come not only from diverse points of the compass, you have also, no doubt, come from diverse new church families, and yet all are drawn back to this place, to these friends, to these sacred grounds.
Year after year you are drawn by a spiritual identity planted springing from deep within your soul. Why might that be? Such a thing is very rare in the world in which we live today, a world that is each day becoming more secular and cut off from such roots. Why
is it that this group, the descendants of the Palmyra Methodist families, I would offer an explanation this afternoon. The tie that pulls you ever and again to this place is a blessing, a precious gift from our Heavenly Father, for you are not only children and grandchildren and great grandchildren of the Palmyra Methodists, you are also children of the Heavenly Father. And you are blessed in a wonderful way by being pulled back to this place. Perhaps this great blessing has come to you because of the prayers and faith of the original Palmyra Methodist congregation. I suspect it is. You are being blessed in an wonderful way because of their great faithfulness. But there is far more to the story than the blessing of being a part of the Palmyra Church family, for this church family as dear to you as it must be, is but metaphor for the eternal family for which your heart longs—the family of Christians who will someday very soon be reunited in heaven.
Today we celebrate a wonderful and important church reunion. But there is an even more wonderful reunion that lies ahead of us. It is the heavenly reunion, a great and permanent gathering of all those who have accepted God’s plan of salvation. Whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. And this everlasting life will be in reunion with the entire Church family to which you are being drawn and invited to be a part.
In the book of Hebrews Chapter 11, verses 13-15 we read a recounting of the story of many of our spiritual ancestors. This chapter of the Bible summarizes the lives of those whose lives are remembered and celebrated by saying: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, were assured of them, embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.”
In a similar way we might well summarize the life and the faith of the founders of this tiny country church. Because of their faith, you are drawn here today. But you must not remain here. You must look forward to another reunion in an even better place, that is, a heavenly homeland. Like the early Hebrews and Israelites of Old Testament days, we are wanderers and sojourners in a time and place which we instinctively, through the influence of the Holy Spirit, know to not be our permanent home, but only a temporary one. We are being led each day to the homeland of the heart, for which all of which we celebrate in this life is but a metaphor. That which we know points to that which we will one day know.
Your journey back this year to this the church of your spiritual roots is also a metaphor which can help us understand the longer journey to our spiritual homeland. Just as you have been led back today to this small country church by the call of love, family and devotion, so too you are being called toward heaven. These two calls, these two journeys, are related. The one, the call to return to this church building to be together with the descendants of the Palmyra Methodist Church family, points to the other. I invite you today to see and to understand, to accept and to believe.