Email Devotion Pentecost 17
But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate.
Most everyone gathered is familiar, beyond one or two family members that I somehow have not met before, or who have come home for the first time. Some I have seen within the past week, many within the past couple of weeks, and for most all of those who have come home, it has only been three or four months since we were last together in larger numbers. Yet somehow, it feels longer.
Summer possesses that quality of wiping the slate of life clean. It feels like a new moment in life with new opportunities. Fall arrives like a whole new world. And so Rally Sunday at St. Peter’s always has the feel of a homecoming each second Sunday of September. We catch up on each other’s lives, we renew ties with those we haven’t seen, and we introduce ourselves to those who are new to the family since the last time we gathered. We sing together, we tell the stories that have made us who we are as the people of God, and we eat together … today with both bread and wine, and barbeque and corn on the cob.
We are not unique. Virtually every church community I know, enacts this same ritual every September. Their families are larger or smaller … they play different games at their picnics … they may even share different meals than we do. But they too, celebrate the gift of homecoming, as their community regathers in a way that acknowledges their common bond, as both friends of each other, and as friends of God.
Few of us are prodigal sons and daughters of the magnitude which we read about in the larger story from which the verse above is drawn. But we all have our moments … situations in which we are wasteful … moments when we think only of ourselves … times when we think no farther into the future than our next obsession, or desire, or whim. Times when we turn our back on the Father of Mercy and do what we want. Thankfully, that same Father does not turn a back to us, but sighs … maybe mutters “kids will be kids” … and then stakes out a place on the driveway in a lawn chair, so that when we come to our senses, there is someone to welcome us and help us return to our senses.
Homecomings in our land in the 21st century have become some crazy amalgamation of football and dances and parade floats and marching bands ( this last which I will quietly admit I do actually love). The homecoming God always envisions is the gathering of the family, the welcoming of those who have been missing, and a celebration of our shared history. As you pray and reflect of your faith this week, consider what your needs are from the homecomings in your life and ask yourself the question, “Have I been missing parts of my faith family, in ways that have made me less than who I want to be?”