They say you can’t go home again. Anyone who has experienced a loss in their home of origin knows this in their bones: the death or divorce of parents, a life-altering medical condition, the sale of a childhood home – losses like these forever alter our sense of “home.” Even when we visit the location of our former home, it doesn’t feel like “home” anymore.
For most people, a sense of “home” is deeply rooted in childhood feelings of security and comfort. But children grow up. And with age comes the understanding that we will never again have that sense of security that comes from innocence. You can’t go home again.
Like Heraclitus wrote, “No man can ever step into the same river twice; for it is not the same river and he is not the same man.” Nothing stays exactly the same as it was, and it’s not meant to.
As we are looking ahead to our first “normal” celebration of Homecoming since 2019, we might reflect on what it means to come “home” to Bethany Lutheran Church. Yes, many of our traditions of the day will be back: a guest preacher, great music, a covered dish fellowship meal (Hallelujah!). But don’t be surprised if it doesn’t feel like it used to.
We have all been through a collective ordeal the last two years. To use biblical terms, we have been in exile and a time of wilderness, though we have stayed in place. We can’t step into the same river again. The river has changed and so have we. And, honestly, we’re not even over our grief about it yet. Here’s the little secret about grief: you never get over the loss. It doesn’t go away. You just learn to live with the hole in your heart.
That may sound bleak, but’s it’s the truth we need to acknowledge to be able to then joyfully embrace this new time we’re in. God did not create a world that stands still. The very planet under our feet spins constantly, changing minutely every day. Even the universe is constantly expanding! God created change into the very fabric of creation.
You can’t go home again. That’s true. But that sense of “home” we’re looking for is not found in a place or in traditions. It's found in God, our creator. As Psalm 42 puts it: “As the deer longs for streams of water, my soul longs for you, O God.” St. Augustine said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in You.”
Our “home” is in the Lord God. And it is that knowledge that frees us from unrealistic expectations of what church or Homecoming “should” feel like. We get to meet Jesus – in Word and prayer, and the faces of others – that satisfies our longing. The rest is icing on the cake! And there will be desserts at Homecoming! And laughter and good times, and we can’t wait to see you there!