Monday, June 2, 2014
Church Homecoming Sundays are likely to become a thing of the past. In our part of the country, it is an event peculiar to the small town or rural church. In urban areas filled with people whose roots are elsewhere, it does not work. My first appointment was in a rural area and two of the three churches had a certain Sunday each year designated as Homecoming Sunday. In those places the Sunday of Homecoming also was the beginning of a Sunday to Friday evening revival which some of the old timers called a "protracted meeting." Maybe Homecoming is also a Southern thing. Having lived all my life in south Georgia, I cannot really speak with any sense of authority on that issue. What I do know is that the Homecoming Sunday experience is still very much alive in these parts.
Yesterday my wife and I attended Homecoming at the Portal UMC. It is the church in which she grew up, the one of our community, and the one in which we were married long decades ago. Homecoming tends to bring back folks who are gone, but who have roots in a church. There were a number of such folks present yesterday. There was even the widow of a former pastor present. The church was filled with home folks and folks who had come home for Homecoming. The church had its best foot forward. The grounds were immaculate as was the church. Flowers lined the front porch. The choir did a stirring rendition of something called, "The Old Country Church Medley" and the guest preacher was one who had deep roots in the church and the community. A memorial service inside the worship moments brought to mind those who had died in the last year as well as others who had sat in those pews long years ago. And, of course, there was a covered dish meal after the benediction. Folks brought enough food from their kitchens to feed folks for several Homecomings.
It was indeed a great moment of worship, remembrance, and fellowship. As an event, it is celebrative and, yet, also reflective as the deceased members of the fellowship are remembered. As an experience, it points us to a heavenly homecoming. It always strikes me as something nothing short of remarkable that the church is the one place where people can go, and still do, and be reminded of their mortality. One of the underlying; yet, unspoken themes of Homecoming is that we are all going to die. Surely, the reason the church can go to such is a place is the central truth upon which it is established and that is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As He died and yet lives, so shall those who trust in Him. Some say our home is heaven. As surely as such is true, it will surely be a moment beyond any human comparisons, but just maybe, these Homecoming moments give us a small glimpse.