A Place Called Home

Tony Cooke

There is within the heart of people a capacity to have a yearning and a very deep sentiment for a place that is called “home.”

Many things divide and separate people, but this yearning and desire for a place called home is a universal, common denominator.

During the Civil War

“In the early spring of 1863, the Union and Confederate armies lay encamped along the Rappahannock River near Fredricksburg. The Union army on the northern bank of the river, and the Confederate army along the southern bank.  In the evenings, when there was a lull in the fighting, the soldiers of both armies would sing their favorite songs.

After each army sang their song, they would shout, whistle, and carry on.

On the Union side, the band would play:
We Are Coming, Father Abraham
The Girl I Left Behind Me
The Battle Hymn Of the Republic
…And the Union soldiers would let out a great cheer.

On the southern side, their band would play:
The Bonnie Blue Flag
My Maryland

…And the Confederate soldiers would raise a great cheer.

At length, the band on the northern side played “Home, Sweet Home.”  and when it was finished, both armies sent up a great cheer.

“Home Sweet Home” struck a universal chord, which knew no Union or Secession, no north or south.”

Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz

Clicking her heels, said “There’s no place like home.”

E.T. (The Little Extra Terrestrial from the Movie)

“E.T. Phone Home”

Bing Crosby

“I’ll Be Home For Christmas”

John Denver

“Hey, It’s Good To Be Back Home Again”

“Take Me Home Country Roads”

Simon and Garfunkle

“I Wish I Was Homeward Bound”

Stephen Foster

“My Old Kentucky Home”

Other Sentiments Regarding Home

“It’s Good To Smell The Green, Green Grass Of Home”
“Home On The Range”
“When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again”
“Back Home Again In Indiana”
“Home Sweet Home”
“There’s no place like home”
“Home is where the heart is”
“Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home”

“This little piggy went ‘wee-wee-wee’ all the way home”

When the nursery rhyme was originally written in 1760, the actual words were: “This little pig went ‘wee-wee-wee,’ I can’t find my way home.”

All of these were looking for a place called “Home.”

There is a natural, emotional yearning that people have for that place called home.

Much of the “searching” that people do is based on sentiment and nostalgia.  People are often looking to revert back to the simplicity and security of another time.

But spiritually speaking, no person will be ultimately satisfied until they find their spiritual home.  What people ultimately need is:

  • An eternal home
  • An enduring home

Augustine“The heart of man is restless, O God, until it finds its rest in thee.”

Isaac Watts“O God, our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come.  Our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home.”

There is a universal desire in the heart of man for a place called home.

The Bible gives us several very clear illustrations about this:

Psalms 137:1-6
1 By the rivers of Babylon,
There we sat down, yea, we wept
When we remembered Zion.
2 We hung our harps
Upon the willows in the midst of it.
3 For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song,
And those who plundered us requested mirth,
Saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
4 How shall we sing the LORD’s song
In a foreign land?
5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
Let my right hand forget its skill!
If I do not remember you,
Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth —
If I do not exalt Jerusalem
Above my chief joy.

This is a Psalm of Homesickness!  But there came a time when their captivity ended, and the Israelites were able to go home!

Psalms 126:1-3
1 When the LORD brought back the captivity of Zion,
We were like those who dream.
2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
And our tongue with singing.
Then they said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
3 The LORD has done great things for us,
And we are glad.

The point is not that they were laughing.  The point here is what they were laughing about:  They were going home!

Perhaps the most beautiful story in the Bible, without exception, is the story of the prodigal son.

Luke 15:11-24
11 Then He said: “A certain man had two sons.  12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood.  13 And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.  14 But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want.  15 Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.  16 And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.

17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!  18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you,  19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”‘

20 “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.  21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants,’Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.  23 And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry;  24 for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.

He made a decision to leave the foreign land of:

  • self-indulgence
  • self-will
  • self-rule

…And came back home to the land of his Father’s mercy!

Phillipians 3:20  –  …For our citizenship is in heaven

Peter called believers “strangers and pilgrims.”  He referred to the time of our sojourning.  Indicating that we are “just passing through.”

John 14:2-3
2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.

Have you ever noticed that you don’t quite “fit” down here?  There’s a realization that there’s another place that’s yet to come where our ultimate fulfillment will come?

2 Corinthians 5:1-5 (The Message Version)
1 For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven — God-made, not handmade 2-4 — and we’ll never have to relocate our “tents” again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move — and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! 5 The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less.

Hebrews 11:8, 10, 14-16 (The Message Version)
8 By an act of faith, Abraham said yes to God’s call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home. When he left he had no idea where he was going.

10 Abraham did it by keeping his eye on an unseen city with real, eternal foundations — the City designed and built by God.

14 People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. 15 If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. 16 But they were after a far better country than that — heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City waiting for them.

If your heart is after God, then you are looking for a place called home!

That’s not to say we should abandon life here on earth.  We are to occupy until he comes.  You are not to cop-out from your responsibilities to live life here to its fullest.

We need to run our race and finish our course here!

But even when you’ve occupied — even when you’ve obeyed — even when you’ve lived fully, there’s still something more, something beyond…

If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable (I Cor. 15:19).

We know that we have to do the best we can with where we are now and what we have to work with, but there’s still a longing to be somewhere that we’re not.

Sometimes, in the natural, even now, we can’t be where we really want to be.  We have to be places that we don’t want to be.

Some who travel on business will take a picture of their wife and their children.

It reminds them of home — of the people they love and of the place they want to be.

In the Bible, we see a story where an object represented “home.”

During one of Israel’s conflicts with the Philistines, David and his men were holed up in a cave.  The Philistines were occupying David’s hometown of Bethlehem, and David yearned for some water from his hometown.  Here’s how this story reads in Scripture

2 Samuel 23:14-15
14 David was then in the stronghold, and the garrison of the Philistines was then in Bethlehem. 15 And David said with longing, “Oh, that someone would give me a drink of the water from the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate!”

What followed is amazing.  Three of David’s men took him literally and went and got him the water.  David refused to drink the water, but instead, poured it out as an offering to the Lord.  Scripture reads:

2 Samuel 23:16-17
16 …Nevertheless he would not drink it, but poured it out to the LORD. 17 And he said, “Far be it from me, O LORD, that I should do this! Is this not the blood of the men who went in jeopardy of their lives?” Therefore he would not drink it.

If we don’t understand their traditions, we would assume he insulted them, but instead he paid them the highest honor.  He was acknowledging the sacredness of their act and was treating their action as an act of worship to the Lord (pouring it out as a drink offering).

The point, though, is that David wasn’t just longing for any water.  He was longing for water from home!  It probably wasn’t all that different tasting from water he had access to, but as a material object, that water represented the home that he longed for.

Deitrich Bonhoffer

Brilliant pastor and seminary professor during the 1930’s in Germany.

He was one of the ministers who opposed Adolf Hitler’s policies.

His church was closed by the Nazi’s in 1937.  He was forbidden to teach, preach, or publish any type of material.

In 1939, Bonhoffer had an offer to come to America and serve as a seminary professor here.  He declined because he did not feel he should abandon his countrymen.

On April 5, 1943, he was arrested and put in jail for helping smuggle 14 Jews to Switzerland.  Two years later the Nazi’s executed Bonhoffer — hanging him just days before the Allies swept in to liberate Germany.

In reading Bonhoffer’s Letters and Papers From Prison, it becomes apparent how close he was to his family.

The affection and love he had for them is obvious.  He would often request that they send him certain items from home, and when he received them, he would respond with “thank you” letters that overflowed with heartfelt gratitude.

Sometimes his nieces and nephews would send him a piece of their candy, and he was always moved that they remembered him.

There was one letter in particular that he wrote about 10 weeks after his arrest is particularly insightful:

“It’s Monday, and I was just sitting down to a dinner of turnips and potatoes when a package you sent by Ruth arrived.  Such things give me greater joy than I can say.  Although I am utterly convinced that nothing can break the bonds between us, I seem to need some outward token or sign to reassure me

In this way, material things become the vehicles of spiritual realities.  I suppose it’s rather like the felt need in our religion for the sacraments.”

Bonhoffer knew that his parents loved him.  But he still longed for that love to be shown in some tangible way.  The package that he received from home with a book, a sweater, a comb… that was a tangible expression of the spiritual and emotional bond that he felt with his family.

And he said:  “It’s the same way with the Lord’s table.  There is an indissoluble bond between us and God, but these elements – the bread and the cup – this is our package from home.”

It reminds us of where we’ve come from – of the one who purchased that home for us.

It’s his broken body and his shed blood that made a way for us to have a home to look forward to.

Whenever we take this bread and take this cup — we are reminded that we’re not home yet, but we have a package from home.