As I thought about homecoming, though, my thoughts drifted back to my high school days when you had a homecoming game in football or basketball and all the ceremonies around it. As I thought about homecoming spiritually, my thoughts automatically went to the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15.
How many times have we ever been celebrated even when we have done something wrong or are still doing wrong? For some people, the cost of coming home may be great, but for others it's the knowledge it brings that sets us on our way in life.
I'm sure that many of us at one time in our lives have seen some of the Prodigal Son within us. At one time or another, we have probably gone against our parents in some way. In some fashion, like the Prodigal Son, we have all sown our wild oats in some form that has become costly in our lives.
Today, there are many persons in our lives, even within our churches, who are still like that young man. Many persons have thought at one time or another that we have plenty of time in life to get things straight, but in reality, we never really know. I was reading recently about someone visiting a young man who said that he believed in God but wasn't ready to commit because he wanted to experience all that life had to offer. In Luke 2:25-35, we see when Christ was presented in the temple and we meet a man named Simeon. We don't know much about him, but what Scripture does show us is that Simeon was one who was living on borrowed time, just as we all are.
Unfortunately for our world, we have so many people who think they can fill their lives with anything and enjoy the world because they feel they have plenty of time, but in reality, we are all living on borrowed time.
The way of our world and society today attracts many, and some even try to bring the world into the church. The Prodigal Son lived high on the hog until he squandered it all away and had to eat with the hogs. Many persons today love to live in the world, and they want the church to be exactly like the world. It is a shame today when Christians are allowing things like homosexuality, abortion, adultery, fornication (or as someone recently put it to me, "shackin'") and many other things to be acceptable in not only our world but in our churches as well.
The way of the world, as we see in this parable, brings downfall to all who think they are above everything, including the Father. When the church allows things like this and does things for appearances before the world, God corrects what takes place, for He wants His people to put Him before everything else.
This is what part of the conflict was between Christ and the religious leaders of that day. The leaders lived for appearances before the world in the name of God, and Christ taught to set them straight.
But in the parable of the Prodigal Son we are also reminded that being knocked down to the dirt by the world we enjoy so much reminds us where we can turn to find the one who truly loves everyone. The son went back home, but in doing so, he did not want to be a son anymore, for he felt like he did not deserve it. Instead, he wanted to be a servant, for he knew his father cared for them as well as he did his family. The father threw a huge celebration because his son, who was lost to the worldly things, had returned.
I have a book on one of my bookshelves in my office titled "God Has No Grandchildren." I often think of this wonderful title to remind me that we are all God's children and he waits for all of us with open arms, just like the father in the parable.
There is a song that is sung by the country group Diamond Rio. It is called "God Only Cries." Though this song refers to loved ones who have died, I am reminded of how God cares for all of us in the last line of the chorus in the song: "God only cries for the living, 'Cause it's the living that are so far from home." God calls all of us to be a part of the family, and it grieves Him when we are not closer to Him.
Sometimes though, when we are striving to draw closer to him, we get knocked down even more by those whom we look to for a reassurance in Christ, our fellow Christians. Alice Walker wrote a wonderful short story in 1967 called "The Welcome Table." It is about an elderly African-American woman who tries to attend a church but is thrown out because she is black and poor. But as the elderly woman sat outside the church on that cold winter morning, Jesus came walking toward her and said, "Follow me," and that woman answered His call. In the story, she marched with Jesus, even after those who were religious threw her out.
In the parable of the Prodigal Son, we find through this father's love for his son the image of salvation for the world. We see in the son a confession with his mouth, but most importantly, in his heart as well. And in the father, we see a forgiveness that knows nothing but love attached to it. The son confessed his sin and asked to be a servant, but the father restored him to his rightful place as his son. That is what God wants to do for us, but there are many around us who do not understand or they want to do what they are doing, thinking that it is not hurting them or their relationship with God, but they are wrong.
We celebrated our homecoming back on Sept. 2 at the church, but one day, those who are God's children on earth and live according to his ways will face a true homecoming celebration. One in which all of heaven will rejoice, just as the father in this parable did. God is waiting and watching with open arms for us all to come home.
Do not wait until later or believe that you are already there - know without a doubt in your heart that you will be there. I pray that one day all of us will be there together. Prepare for your homecoming now.
Robert Amundsen is the pastor of the Evarts Congregational United Methodist Church and the Wallins United Methodist Church. He can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org