JUL 4th 2021
Jesus left that place and came to his home town.
If you are like me, you have probably been asked a thousand times, “Where are you from…?” In other words, I suppose, “Where is home for you…?” The question itself is an innocent ice-breaker -- a good way of opening a conversation with someone you hardly know or have perhaps just met for the first time. As if somehow knowing where a person was born or raised might tell us something about their character or their likes and dislikes.
And perhaps it does.
For many people, the answer to the question comes quick and easy. Someone might say, for instance, “I am from Budapest. I have lived here all my life. This is my home. I expect to die here.” For others among us however -- myself included -- things are not so clear-cut. Many of us have called a lot of places home over the years. Where am I from…? Recently, in an idle moment, I counted up the number of places where I have lived throughout my seventy-three years and was astonished to realise that I had actually lived in more than thirty places. Thirty homes. So far...
So, where is home for me…? West Michigan where I was born, and where my sister and her family still live? California perhaps, which is my favourite place in my home country, the United States? Or Hungary, where I now live, and where my father was born over a hundred years ago, although quite honestly I am glad he left the village…? Hard to say. So, do not ask me where I am from unless you have a few minutes to sit and listen to my story.
And again, if you are like me, you may even have mixed feelings about home and what it means exactly. I would not want to live in West Michigan again for anything, for instance, as lovely as place as it is. In summer… On the other hand, will I spend the rest of my days here in Budapest…? Maybe. Maybe not. Difficult to say. Folk wisdom suggests that “there’s no place like home.” Cynics might respond: Thank God.
Jesus too seems to have had some ambivalence about the place called home, as we see in our reading today from the Gospel of Mark. Visiting home for the first time apparently in some while, our Lord preaches in the local synagogue, no doubt telling neighbours and friends in his hometown of God’s love for them and of the Kingdom, the same message by the way which others in other places have accepted with joy and gratitude. Yet, far from being welcomed by his fellow townspeople, Jesus seemingly causes offense. The people are, as the text tells us, “astounded;” the original Greek verb here also suggesting an element of incredulity and doubt. “Where did this man get all this,” they ask. Who does he think he is…? As another old proverb has it, familiarity breeds contempt. And, Jesus in his turn is “amazed at their unbelief,” confounded by their skepticism and distrust of his message.
In any event, our Lord has had quite enough of home and hits the road, where he always seems more comfortable, making his way from village to village, preaching his message of love and acceptance to others who are presumably more receptive than his townsfolk. For a follower of Christ, it seems, any place and every place can be home. The early Christians sensed this as they referred to their newly embraced faith not as home or shelter, nor even castle or fortress, but as the way or the path.
It is a far cry from the sense of belonging and stability portrayed in our first Reading this morning from the Second Book of Samuel, in which “all the tribes of Israel” come together as one and anoint David as king -- for the second of three times by the way. David in turn goes on to unite the nation and reign from Jerusalem, as the text tells us, for some “thirty-three years.” You do not get much more stable than that.
But that was David.
As Christians, we are all at some level spiritual nomads, reigning from the road, bravely making our way with Jesus across the landscape of our lives, never quite knowing what awaits us across the next ridge or bridge. Like the disciples, we too are sent forth to cast out the demons of despair and fear and to anoint -- not kings -- but the sick and lonely, the desperate and the lost. Perhaps the pandemic, which seems to have run its course for now, has if nothing else taught us the importance of reaching out beyond our spiritual comfort-zones; the importance of human touch and welcome. Sometimes if even only electronically.
Today and this past week, we have honoured the national holidays of Canada and the United States, home countries of nearly a third our parish community. Such events remind us all, no matter our origins, of our roots and our values. But the old expression, “home is where the heart is,” perhaps best expresses a Gospel outlook for us today; for it recognises that our true home is not a nation or a dot on the map, as fond as we may be of that dot, but a dwelling and abode found only in our hearts – and only in the Kingdom to come.
No matter our connections to our place of origin or current physical surroundings, it is only the geography of the human heart that matters. And from where we are, the compass needle always point in but one direction, toward the Kingdom proclaimed by our Lord and his disciples along the dusty pathways of ancient Israel. We are all in some sense simple wayfarers who have come together for a while at this oasis called Saint Margaret’s to be nourished once again for our long journey home to the spiritual Jerusalem, where King David still reigns and patiently awaits our arrival.
And because we are all guests, we must learn, in turn, to welcome others as we ourselves would wish to be welcomed. After all, we remain people of the way even if we never leave home.
The Rev. Dr. Frank Hegedűs