Church Homecomings (It’s a Southern Thing)

O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come.  Our shelter from the stormy blast and our eternal home.  Isaac Watts (1719)

I’m back in the South now where the late summer/early fall is Homecoming season in the Church.  Homecoming in Church is not like Homecoming in High School.

In high school, there’s a King and Queen and a football game.  In church there’s a guest preacher and congealed salads – if you are lucky.

I’m preaching at two different Homecoming Services in the next two weeks.  The first will be among family members in the church where I was baptized and where my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents are all buried.  Because I know that congregation I can take some risks and challenge them in ways I cannot challenge strangers.

The second will be at an historically African American Church where I did not grow up (Note: I’m a white lady) and it’s humbling to be asked to share God’s Word when I actually need for that congregation to preach a word to me.  The ancestors of those members were once enslaved by the ancestors of the white church down the road.

We look back and remember the former days at Church Homecomings.  But my hope is that – while everybody’s “home” – we take this opportunity to look forward to where God is leading us forward.  The future is not about the cemetery.  It’s not about past chains.  It’s about what God is calling us to be next.

What do you imagine your congregation will be like in 20 years?  Will it be limping along?  Will it be making a difference in the community?  Will it be tired and irrelevant?  Will it be a vital part of the city or town?

The best preachers I know – who have been invited to preach at Homecoming services – are looking at the future.  Yes, there will be congealed salads – if we are lucky – but if there is a vision cast, we will be blessed.

Note: It’s 9-11 today and we can’t help but remember.  May there be peace on this earth.

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