We all know the feeling of coming home after a time away. The place where you shared significant, life-changing moments with people who helped shape your life and nurture you into becoming the person you are continues to have an attraction many years later. This is why we celebrate Homecoming Sunday every year at ABC. Many people who are separated from the church by miles and life circumstances have warm memories of spiritual growth and fellowship they experienced here, and they make an effort to come back for a visit and a time of mutual blessing. We worship and eat and hug and laugh.

This is a good season to celebrate homecoming in the United States, as Thanksgiving and Christmas are both holidays that emphasize family roots and renewing of relationships. Even the horse knows how important this is:
    “Over the river and through the woods
     To grandmother’s house we go;
     The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh
     Through the white and drifted snow.”

Animals seem to have this down. The toe game we play with a baby’s foot ends with the impulse to find your way home:
    “This little piggy went to market,
     This little piggy stayed home,
     This little piggy had roast beef,
     This little piggy had none,
     And this little piggy went wee wee wee all the way home.”
When you finally reach the baby’s “home,” there’s tickling and laughter.

Little Bo Peep’s sheep are not to be outdone by pigs in their nostalgia for home:
    “Little Bo-Peep has lost her sheep
     and doesn’t know where to find them;
     Leave them alone, And they’ll come home, 
     wagging their tails behind them.”

By telling their kids these stories, parents are imprinting in their subconscious minds, “You may leave here physically, but you’ll never be able to totally leave here psychically. Just remember, we’ll always be here for you.”

What is known as a “homing instinct” is a very powerful drive in many animal species, including salmon, sea turtles, monarch butterflies and many types of birds. Some follow notable landmarks, others guide on heavenly bodies, still others can detect the earth’s magnetic fields. The impulse to return “home,” to forage or to mate or to spawn or to die, is built into their behavioral DNA.

The Church of Antioch, in Syria, was the spiritual home of some of the most important leaders among the first generation of Christians, including Paul and Barnabas. In fact, this was the church that sent the two of them out to be the first missionaries to other parts of the world:

“Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the ruler, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.” (Acts 13:1-3)

After spending about two years preaching and establishing churches from town to town in the Mediterranean islands and throughout Asia Minor, they returned to their home church in Antioch:

“Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. When they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. From there they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had completed. When they arrived, they called the church together and related all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith for the Gentiles.” (Acts 14:24-27)

That must have been a great Homecoming Sunday!

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Hope you make to ABC on Sunday, wagging tail and all. We’ll be tickled to see you.

– George Van Alstine