A Sermon preached by Rev. Malcolm Frazier, Foundry United Methodist Church August 5, 2018
One of our most endearing sentiments is that of “Coming Home.” It has a universal appeal and touches us in a special way. Some of our most popular movies are about coming home. You might recall some of these:
- Argo – Ben Affleck plays a CIA agent who launches a plan to rescue six Americans in Tehran during the US hostage crisis in Iran in 1979.
- Lion – starring Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman. The story of a 5-year old Indian boy who gets lost in the streets of Calcutta, thousands of kilometers from home. He survives many challenges before being adopted by a couple in Australia. 25 years later he sets out to find his lost family.
- The Martian – Matt Damon and Jessica Chastian.. Matt plays an astronaut who becomes stranded on Mars after his team assumed he was dead.
- The Trip to Bountiful – stars the late Geraldine Page as a woman who wants to return to her home during the post-World War II 1940s. When she gets there she finds that the town is deserted. She is moved to tears as she surveys her father’s land and the remains of the family home. Accepting this reality she is at peace – she had gone back home before she died.
- Lassie Come Home – starring Roddy McDowall, Elizabeth Taylor, and the canine actor, Pal. The movie is set in Depression-era Yorkshire, England. Lassie’s owners are poor, so they sell their dog to a rich Duke. His granddaughter knows that the dog is unhappy so arranges for her to escape. Lassie sets off to go home and escapes many dangers before returning to her home.
- 12 Years A Slave – Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Solomon Northrup, a free African-American man who is 1841 is kidnapped in Saratoga Springs, New York and enslaved again. After some intervention by key people, he is restored to freedom and returns to his family after 12 years. As he walks into his home, he sees his wife with their son and daughter (fully grown) and her husband, who present him with his grandson and namesake, Solomon Northrup Staunton. Northrup apologizes for his long absence while his family comforts him.
- Rabbit-Proof Fence – an Australian film set in 1931, about 3 mixed-race Aboriginal young girls who are kidnapped and placed in a camp where they are to be trained to be servants to white families. The three girls escape, one is captured again, and the other two follow a rabbit-proof fence and walk 1500 miles in nine weeks to get back home.
Personal stories of coming home
- When I came home from college
- Coming home from England as a first-year student
- Homecoming in the Black Church
- Homecoming on Howard’s campus
- 50-year high school reunion
- Whenever I came home for the holidays I would drive through my hometown.
Sharon Daloz Parks writes in Big Questions Worthy Dreams that it has been said that home is the most powerful word in the English language. It is where we start from. It is what we aspire to.
To be at home is to have a place where we are comfortable; know that we belong, can be who we are; and can honor, protect, and create what we truly love.
To be home within one’s self, place, community, and the cosmos is to feel whole and centered in a way that yields a sense of power and participation.
(To be at home is to be in a special rhythm of life, engaging in patterns of work, play, and diverse relationships. We have a support system, etc)
Diana Butler Bass in Grounded writes that home happens in numerous geographies and in a number of different dwellings. Home is more than a house. It is a sacred location, a place of aspiration and dreams, of learning and habit, of relationships and heart. People are out of place. Transient moderns make their homes in new places.
I have been a transient. When I accepted a position with Global Ministries in New York, I sat in an empty apartment in Maryland the day before and cried and cried and cried. When the Board moved its headquarters from New York to Atlanta, I moved with it and sat in an empty apartment prior to leaving and cried and cried and cried. When I was informed that my appointment with the Board was ending, I accepted an appointment in Washington, DC. The day before I left Atlanta, I sat in an empty apartment and cried and cried and cried. I cried because I had established a strong relationship in each place and the people had made me feel at home.
Diana reminds us that home can be a place of horror as well. Too many people have experiences of a home that shelters sickness and addiction, of homes that deteriorate from carelessness and neglect, or homes broken apart through willful violations of the relationships in them, resulting in reports of domestic violence. I would add reports of incest. Some social scientists refer to home-centered violence as intimate terrorism.
Those who have no home:
- The homeless in our midst – mention the ID ministry
- Those kids kicked out of their homes because they are LGBQT
- Those who are part of the global migration crisis
- A recent report from the GBCS share that an estimated 65.3 million people were displaced from their homes by conflict and persecution.
- Tens of thousands of unaccompanied children are annually apprehended at U. S. borders.
- For refugees Church World Service reports that the wait in a refugee camp is at least 10 years.
- Church World Service reports that the vetting process for refugees can take up to two years.
- Only the most vulnerable are referred, accounting for less than 1% of refugees worldwide being resettled.
Now let’s look at the Lucan passage that was read this morning. Explore with me how this text informs our theme of Coming Home. While the themes of sin and forgiveness are important, I will focus on how the three main characters relate to each other. This story is set in Galilee early in Jesus’ ministry.
- Simon the Pharisee – a member of the group of Jewish people who followed a strict code of religious laws. They play the role of Jesus’ opponents, practicing a lifestyle of separation from unbelievers or Jews outside of their own group. The word Pharisee means “separated.” They consider themselves more holy and righteous than ordinary men. In fact, Luke reports in the 30th verse that the Pharisees refused to be baptized by John and rejected God’s purpose for themselves.
- So why did the Pharisee invite Jesus to his house for dinner?
- Let’s begin with the fact he could. He had the wealth and thus the power to do so.
- And he could be selective about who he invited.
- His attitude is ambivalent – he addresses Jesus as Teacher but did not show hospitality. Why not? Perhaps because he was busy hosting his other guests that he was trying to impress.
- Simon was perhaps giving Jesus an assessment, trying to determine his credentials.
- The Pharisee, with his arrogance, represents those who look down on others. (talk about the scene in “Philadelphia” when the librarian looks with disdain on Tom Hanks’ character)
- The woman – who is referred to as a sinner
- Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza in an essay from In Memory of Her points out that the story does not say what kind of sinner the woman was. A sinner could be a criminal, a ritually unclean or a morally bad person, a prostitute, or simply the “wife of a notorious sinner.” (Jesus was always in the company of people like her and others)
- Look at her actions – she enters the dinner scene uninvited, ignoring the boundaries of class and patriarchy.
- She washes Jesus’ feet and dries them with her hair. Touching or caressing a man’s feet could have sexual implications, as did letting one’s hair down in public.
- She created quite a scene.
- Jesus – so what does he do?
- Jesus challenges us to confront the Pharisees in our society.
- He exposes Simon’s lack of hospitality (he did not greet him with a kiss, offer him water to wash his feet, or offer to put oil on his head)
- In the Middle East the importance of honor and shame is very high.
- Jesus showed bad table manners by insulting his host and in doing so becomes the host, as evidenced by his encounter with the woman.
- I would like to suggest that Jesus presents a model for how we should confront people and structures that prevent everyone from being included, feel wanted, affirmed and protected.
- We say NO to immigration policies that prevent us from welcoming the neighbor.
- We say NO to the Book of Discipline that would deny T. C. Morrow the privilege of serving as an elder.
- We say NO to institutions that tolerate the abuse of the elderly, the mentally challenged or other vulnerable
- We say NO to the racism in our penal system, causing a disproportional number of black and brown persons in mass incarceration.
- We say NO to sexism in Corporate America and our churches.
- We say NO to white supremacists, participating in love rallies.
- We say NO to racial profiling.
- We say NO to schools that pass kids through who cannot read.
As I approach my conclusion, let’s look at the importance of the scene being one of a dinner.
I frame this again around the work of Diana Butler Bass, who writes in Grounded about John Wesley’s emphasis on holy habits and declares:
Home is a training ground for spiritual and ethical habits that we take out into the world, with the door and table being the school for holy habits.
- It is around tables where we learn what to eat and how, ways to set a table for special meals or guests, how to share customs and traditions, and how to serve others. (share personal story about Cambodia or China)
- The table is the earthly manifestation of God’s presence, the “heavenly feast,” where all are fed and sustained and no one suffers from the lack of anything.
- This closely aligns with the Pacific Islanders practices of reciprocity and mutuality.
- Times of fellowships and meals are inherently spiritual as they promote the body’s growth by making the mundane sacred.
- Meals are never just a time of eating, it is always a time of sharing the journey.
- Meal times are times of celebration and feasting.
- The abundant display of food affirms the bountiful providence of God, a celebration of what God is able to do in the midst of scarcity. (share about my meals with them)
As I reflect on this text, I marvel at how Jesus, by assuming the role as host, transforms this home into a sacred place where all are welcome.
All means all.
Larry Stookey writes in Eucharist that Jesus’ fellowship is a manifestation of a new creation, which embraces all who are discriminated against in the course of human activity.
To this feast, all are invited by God on equal terms.
No one approaches the feast by means of merit, but all are invited by grace. There no one can boast or dominate or exclude, for this is Christ’s feast. Christ is the host and the one who sets the rules (of acceptance, mutuality, and inclusion).
Maya Angelou writes that the ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.
Foundry UMC, as I come home to my annual conference, I will partner with you to welcome anyone who wants to join our family – anyone who wants to make Foundry UMC their home. No one will be excluded.