Note from CM: I will be moving our weekly sermon from Mondays to Sunday afternoons for awhile, to create more space for other things. So we will have both a cantata post in the morning and a sermon post in the afternoon on Sundays.
Sermon: “There’s No Place Like Home”
The next day he saw Jesus coming towards him and declared, ‘Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, “After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.’ And John testified, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.’
The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’ The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come and see.’ They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas’ (which is translated Peter).
• John 1:29-42
• • •
The Wizard of Oz is one of my all-time favorite movies. From the time I was a small child, it was a staple on our family’s TV screen when one of the networks would broadcast it each year. It filled my imagination as a child, and continues to shape me.
Of course, everyone knows the message of that film: “There’s no place like home.” In order to understand how blest she was to have her home in Kansas, young Dorothy had to go through a dream-experience of traveling to another world. There, in the land of Oz, everything appeared in technicolor; it was more vibrant and interesting, fascinating and attractive than drab old Kansas had ever been.
But soon she learned from the characters she met in Oz that there is something deeper and more lasting than bright colors, interesting sights, and magical experiences. Dorothy learned about faith and hope and love in Oz. She learned what it means to have a brain, to have a heart, to have courage. And she learned that all those things were available to her where she never thought it possible before — right there in her own home. She didn’t need to travel “over the rainbow” or “follow the yellow brick road to find them. They were right there, in the place she had been so eager to leave.
There’s no place like home.
In today’s Gospel, a couple of John the Baptist tells his disciples that Jesus is the Lamb of God, the one greater than John, the one who is the Son of God. The next day, when Jesus walks by, they decide it is time to leave John and become followers of Jesus.
So they run after him and approach him. He stops, looks at them, and asks them an important question: “What are you looking for?”
They reply, “Rabbi, where are you staying?”
And Jesus invites them to find out. “Come and see,” he says.
What were they looking for? According to the text, they were looking for a place to call home. They were looking for the place where Jesus was staying, so that they could go there and stay with him as his learners and apprentices. They were looking for Jesus to become their Master, their Leader, their Rabbi. They wanted to dwell with him, to abide with him, to learn from him. They wanted to find their home with Jesus.
Their experience with John the Baptist had been good, but it wasn’t ever meant to be permanent. It was a stepping-stone along the way toward their real home with Jesus. Now they had graduated from John and it was time for them to find their permanent vocation, their life’s calling, the place in life for which they were created. There’s no place like home, and they had come to realize that they were meant to make their home with this Rabbi, the Lamb of God, the Son of God.
Do you mind if I ask you? What are you looking for?
I doubt if you and I are much different than these disciples. Like them, I would guess that there is a deep longing in our hearts for home. For acceptance. For a place where we can rest and be ourselves. For a place of welcome, a place of fellowship. A place at the table where we can sit down and share meals and converse and laugh with others with whom we are bound together by cords of love. A place where we can rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. A place where we can learn and grow, where our questions can be heard, where our hopes and fears can be spoken.
One of my favorite music artists is a wonderful pianist and singer named Ken Medema. Ken once wrote and sang about such a place:
If this is not a place, where tears are understood,
then where shall I go to cry?
And if this is not a place, where my spirit can take wings,
then where shall I go to fly?
I don’t need another place, for trying to impress you
with just how good and virtuous I am.
No, no, no I don’t need another place, for always being on top of things.
Everybody knows it’s a sham, its a sham.
I don’t need another place, for always wearing smiles
even when it’s not the way I feel.
I don’t need another place, to mouth the same old platitudes;
everybody knows that it’s not real.
So if this is not a place, where my questions can be asked,
then where shall I go to seek?
And if this is not a place where my heart cry can be heard,
where, tell me where, shall I go to speak?
So if this is not a place where tears are understood
where shall I go, where shall I go to fly?
There’s no place like home.
In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy discovered that, and Kansas was never drab and uninteresting to her again. This is how she put it: “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard.”
I know some people find places like church drab and uninteresting, especially on the surface. It’s just people getting together, singing old songs, reciting words, listening to someone talk, going forward for a bit of bread and wine.
But I tell you: Jesus is here, right here among us in the common, ordinary actions of worship, in the faces of women and men, boys and girls who gather as brothers and sisters, fathers and mother, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and friends.
It just depends what you’re looking for.
If you’re looking for something like Oz, something “over the rainbow” where “troubles melt like lemon drops” and everything is novel and surprising and stimulating all the time, where horses change colors and cities are brilliant emerald green and you can be friends with scarecrows, tin men, lions and beautiful good witches, and engage in thrilling battles with powerful enemies, then I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed.
But maybe that’s not really, down deep, what we’re looking for. And maybe none of us need to look any further than our own back yard.
Maybe home is right here, where we pray and give thanks, where we hear God’s word of grace, where we come to the Table together.
Perhaps this is where Jesus is, and there’s no place like home. As he said to the disciples that day, “Come and see.”