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There is no place like Home!

In Jesus' parable of the Two lost Sons -he eludes to a powerful reality we call "home". Deep within the heart of every person is a longing for home. Home carries with it a sense of peace, comfort and belonging. This longing for home powerfully impacted the younger son in Jesus' parable. We all have a longing in our hearts for something better, a better place, a place where we truly belong. No matter where you are in life's journey…no matter how far you've wandered - it's time to come home.

Our Longing for Home:
It is important to read Jesus' parable of the lost son in the context of the whole of Luke, chapter 15, but the story has an even larger context. If we read the narrative in light of the Bible's sweeping theme of exile and homecoming we will understand that Jesus has given us more than a moving account of individual redemption. He has retold the story of the whole human race, and promised nothing less than hope for the world.

In Jesus' parable the younger brother goes off into a distant country expecting a better life but is disappointed. He begins to log for home, remembering the food in his father's house. So do we all.

"Home" exercises a powerful influence over human life. Foreign-born Americans spend billions annually to visit the communities in which they were born. Children who never find a place where they feel they belong carry an incapacity for attachment into their adult lives. Many of us have fond memories of times, people and places were we felt we were truly home. However, if we ever have an opportunity to get back to the places we remember so fondly, we are usually disappointed.

Home, then, is a powerful but elusive concept. The strong feelings that surround it reveal some deep longing within us for a place that absolutely fits and suits us, where we can be, or perhaps find, our true selves. yet it seems that no real place or actual family ever satisfies these yearnings, through many situations arouse them. In his novel A Separate Peace, John Knowles' central character discovers that summer mornings in New Hampshire give him "some feelings of hopelessly promising that I would fall back in my bed to guard against it...I wanted to break out crying from stabs of hopeless joy, or intolerable promise, or because those mornings were too full of beauty for me." In East of Eden, John Steinbeck similarly says of the mountains of central California that he wanted "to climb into their warm foothills almost as you want to climb into the lap of a beloved mother."

The memory of home seems to be powerfully evoked by certain sights, sound and even smells. But they can only arouse a desire they can't fulfill. Many of the people in my church have shared with me how disappointing in my church have shared with me how disappointing Christmas and Thanksgiving are to them. They prepare for holidays hoping that, finally, this year, the gathering of the family at that important place will deliver the experience of warmth, joy, comfort, and love that they want from it. But these event almost always fail, crushed under the weight of our impossible expectations.

There is a German word that gets at this concept - the word Schnsucht. Dictionaries will tell you that there is no simple English synonym. it denotes profound homesickness or longing, but with transcendent overtones. The writer who spoke almost of his "spiritual homesickness" was C.S. Lewis , in his famous sermon "The Weight of Glory." He refers to many similar experiences like those described by Steinbeck and Knowles, and then he says: Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter.

     Our life-long nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the
     universe from which we feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which
     we have always seen from the outside, is one mere neurotic fancy, but the
     truest index of our real situation.

There seems to be a sense, then, in which we are all like the younger brother. We are all exiles, always longing for home. We are always traveling, never arriving. the houses and families we actually inhabit are only inns along the way but they aren't home. Home continues to evade us.

Why would "home" be so powerful and yet so elusive for us? the answer can be found as we examine on of the most pervasive themes in the Bible. the experience we have been describing is the trace in our souls of this larger story.

In the beginning of the book of Genesis we learn the reason why all people feel like exiles, like we aren't really home. We are told there that we were created to live in the garden of God. that was the world we were built for, a place in which there is no parting from love, no decay or disease. It was all these things because it was life before the face of God, in his presence. There we were to adore and serve his infinite beauty. That was our original home, the true country we were made for.

However, the Bible teaches that, as in Jesus' parable, God was the "Father" of that home and we chafed under his authority. We wanted to live without God's interference, and so we turned away, and became alienated from him, and lost our home fro the same reason the younger brother lost his. The result was exile.

The Bible says that we have been wandering as spiritual exile ever since. That is, we have been living in a world what no longer fits our deepest longings. Though w long for bodies that "run and are not weary," we have become subject to disease, aging and death. Though we need love that lasts, all our relationships are subject to the inevitable entropy of time, and they crumble in our hands. Even people who stay true to us die and leave us, or we die and leave them. Though we long to make a difference in the world through our work, we experience endless frustration. We never fully realize our hopes and dreams. We may work hard to re-create the home that we have lost, but, says the Bible, it only exists in the presence of the heavenly father from which we have fled.

This theme is played out again and again in the Bible. After Adam and Eve's exile from the ultimate home, their son Cain was forced to restlessly wander the earth because he murdered his brother Abel. Later Jacob cheated his father and his brother and fled into exile for years. After that, Jacob's son Joseph and his family were taken from their homeland to Egypt because of a famine. There the Israelites were enslaved until, under Moses, they returned to their ancestral home. Centuries after this, David, before he became king lived as a hunted fugitive. Finally the whole nation of Israel was exiled again, taken captive to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar.

It is no coincidence that story after story contains the pattern of exile. The message of the bible is that the human race is a band of exiles trying to come home. The parable of the prodigal son is about every one of us.

This is a paraphrase from the book "Prodigal God" by Timothy Keller. Published by Penguin Group. Copyright 2008. exert from pages 101-109