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A homily based on John 14:23-29
by Rev. Tom Hall

All Dorothy really wanted was to go home. In the Wizard of Oz, a tornado tears Dorothy from her home and lands her on the other side of the rainbow. With Toto, that obnoxious little dog, she meets friends and makes enemies, dances with the munchkins, unmasks the Wizard, faces lions and tigers and bears, oh my, and finally destroys the wicked witch of the east. Yet, for all of her adventures and the friends that she’s met, she longs to return to her home in Kansas.

In the final scene, she clicks her heels together while repeating the words, "there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home," and poof! She’s back home in her own bedroom waking up to Auntie Em and her friends.


I can still remember that cube-shaped building on North State Street. Cream colored. Just inside the city limits. I called that building home. My family lived in the upstairs apartment of the building. It had been an old liquor store, then a funeral home, and now it was home. Didn’t have a lot of stuff in our house then. But we had some great times around the dining room table. Missionaries would visit us and captivate me with tales of life in the Congo or Liberia or Indonesia. We went through two dogs in that place. Played sandlot ball in the backyard. On the first floor was the sanctuary. That was my second home. Got to know the folks like family. It had about fifty theatre seats-emerald green-left by the funeral home. And at the front of the church we had a pulpit and a piano and organ. On Sunday nights huge Verle Lohse would lead us in enthusiastic hymn-singing, his arms flailing and his toothy grin. Then dad would preach his sermon. A favorite hymn was I’ve Got a Mansion. That seemed to be our theme song. Truth be known, compared to our old building on the edge of town, anything would be a mansion. But we sang with gusto, with conviction.

I’ve got a mansion just over the hill top,

In that bright land where we’ll never grow old.

And someday yonder; we will never more wander.

We’ll walk on streets that are purest gold.

And we believed it! We sat in those old chairs in that cramped little room and sang with abandon. With joy. And when we sang that song, I was transported, transformed. I was no longer sitting in that old building on State Street next to the canning factory, I was touring my mansion that would be our final home. My real home.

We clung to the promise in John 14 about Jesus going away to prepare a place for us, and that he would come again soon and take us with him. And we encouraged each other that since it had taken Jesus 2,000 years to build those mansions, then they must really be something. So every once in awhile I get just a little sentimental about John 14, because that’s where I first heard about mansions.

Home. Home is a place to hang the hat. A place to return after years of absence. A place to come to no matter what we’ve made of our lives. Whether we’ve made a mess of our lives or whether we’ve reached all of our life-goals. Home is a destination. A final arriving.

Home may be a place to hang the hat, but for the disciples, the bigger question was how to find the coat rack. Where is this home, they ask. And how do we get there? As the group sits at table around the table, Jesus answers them.

"Don’t be alarmed or frightened, but I’m going to leave you. I’m returning home to my Father. Please remember to love each other just like I showed you. Everyone will know that you’re with me if you continue to love like I showed you."

"Jesus, I don’t understand," Peter blurts out. "Where are you going? To Galilee? Over across the Transjordan?"

"No, Peter, I mean, I’m leaving you and you will not be coming along."

"I think you underestimate my commitment to you," Peter protests. "Look here, I swear right here in front of everyone that I will lay my life down for you. I pledge my loyalty to the death," Peter says.

"Will you now, Peter? Lay your life down? Oh my! Before the sun rises, you’ll swear that you’ve never laid eyes on me."

"Anyway, I’m leaving you, my beloved disciples. You’re going to be on your own for a bit. But remember to keep trust with me. My Father has a lot of rooms in his house. In fact, that’s where I’m going -to fix up some places so you can live with me. But I’ll return soon and before you know it, you’ll be home."

Of course, there’s always a Thomas among us. Thomas pushes for more clarity; tries to pin Jesus down to a home address.

"But Thomas, don’t you get it? I am the address to the Father’s house. I am the way home."

What do you think about that conversation between Jesus and his disciples? Don’t we also wish that Jesus would have a t least left us some bread crumbs so that we can pick our way back to the Father’s house? So that we can get back home?

But truly, the Scriptures tell us, that Jesus IS all the address we need to get home.

Home may not seem as far away as we think. Did you know that God has already given us a glimpse of what those mansions over the hilltop must look like? The Holy Spirit is working, sawing, hammering, and pulling us together every day that we’re here. When we gather-like now-Christ is among us through the presence of the Spirit. "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am in your midst," Jesus says. That means that because Christ is here through the Spirit, we already have a home away from home.

Maybe it’s time for you to come home. To come home to a family of brothers and sisters. To come home to a homeward bound community who really and truly care about you.

Do you remember that film, Places of the Heart? The setting is during the Great Depression. Everything is scarce. Life is hard. The movie opens with a church service. Good gospel singing going on. But in between the opening scene of Church and the end of the movie, we see the best and the worst of our lives. A young black man who accidentally shoots a white man is dragged to his death behind a car; we see a couple in which an affair pushes forgiveness beyond the breaking point. The Great Depression forces a young widow and her two children to live in the same house with a black migrant worker, and a blind man. Together the eke out a living in the cotton fields. Though they have nothing in common, they learn to work together and the house turns into a home.

As it began so the movie ends back in church. There, all of the characters-good and bad-have come "home" around the Lord’s Table. We all need the saving grace of Jesus to get home.

Have you come home? Home is where our hearts long for. Home is where we are reminded of our true home. "Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid," Jesus said, "in my father’s house are many mansions and I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go I will come again so that where I am there you will be also."

Welcome home, my friend. Amen.