This is the second in a four-part sermon series “Summer Words – Bounty, Baseball, Barbecue, Beach”
Baseball is unique among the many sports of summer in that its goal is not to get a ball across a goal line but for the batter to return home. In most cases, the effort to return home ends short of its goal. An exciting beginning often gives way to a disappointing conclusion. When successful, the journey home is likely to require several stops, careful patience and occasional risk. Rare is the journey home that simply requires a short touch of each of the bases. Further, the journey home does not have a timeclock. Each journey proceeds at its own unique pace.
To find home, get home, return home is a profoundly human hope, a deeply spiritual longing.
Many of the great hymns of our faith are in touch with this longing. The last verse of “O God, Our Help In Ages Past,” written by Isaac Watts in the early 18th century of the Common Era, reads “O God, our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come, Be Thou our guide while life shall last, And our eternal home.”
In the Bible, the hope that our home is with God and that God’s home is with us receives frequent expression. In the early chapters of Genesis, the first humans, Adam and Eve are at home in the Garden of Eden. Their overreach results in the loss of home.
The prophet Isaiah proclaims that God dwells in the high and holy place but also with those of a contrite and humble spirit. He promises that it is God’s intent to provide a home, a place where the broken can be restored, the weary revived.
As The Revelation to John, the last book of the Bible, reaches its conclusion the author shares this soaring vision,
“See, the home of God is among mortals, He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them.”
(Revelation 21:3 NRSV
One of most memorable of the parables of Jesus is that of the Prodigal Son. Jesus tells of man who has two sons. The younger son leaves home on an ill-advised journey, squandering his inheritance and finding himself starving and lonely, far from home.
In that distant land he purposes to return home. The great preacher, and my predecessor in the Lakeshore pulpit, David Bartlett, tells us what happens next. “The return, not so much the party and the fatted calf, but the welcoming Father and the outstretched arms: that’s heaven. Like the great paraphrase of Psalm 23 when the wanderer comes back to his house: ‘No more a stranger or a guest but as a child at home.’”
On the baseball diamond this summer both the A’s and Giants are doing fairly well at getting their batters back home. Let’s hope that this happy trend continues. At a deeper level, let’s trust that God is ever at work, in this life and even the next, to lead us home. Never giving up on us when we strike out, head in the wrong direction or lose patience and try to take a short cut across the diamond.
Might we even hope, with the great African theologian of the third Christian century, Origen, that the desire of the Creator to welcome us home is so profound that the invitation is never cancelled, the search for the prodigal never ends, the Father’s back is never turned in disgust. Let’s head home.