John chapter 16 and verse28 I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.
A man arrives at the gates of heaven. St. Peter asks, “Religion?”
The man says, “Methodist.”
St. Peter looks down his list, and says, “Go to room 24, but be
very quiet as you pass room 8.”
Another man arrives at the gates of heaven. “Religion?”
“Go to room 18, but be very quiet as you pass room 8.”
A third man arrives at the gates. “Religion?”
“Jewish.” “Go to room 11, but be very quiet as you pass room 8.”
The man says, “I can understand there being different rooms for
different religions, but why must I be quiet when I pass room 8?”
St. Peter tells him,
“Well the Anglicans are in room 8, and they think they’re the only ones here.
Where is home for you? How would you define your home? What makes it home? Familiar landscape, a quality of life, or the presence of particular people?
Some people who engage this journey we call Christianity discover that home is found on the road, whether literally the restless travel that occupies some of us, or the hodos, or path, that is the Way of following the one we call the Christ. The home we ultimately seek is found in relationship with Creator, with Redeemer, with Spirit. When Augustine says “our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee, O Lord,” he means that our natural home is in God.
The great journey stories of the Hebrew Bible begin with leaving our home in Eden, they tell of wandering for a very long time in search of a new home in the land of promise, and they tell later of returning home from exile. Jesus’ inauguration and incarnation of the heavenly banquet is about a home that does not depend on place, but on community gathered in the conscious presence of God.
There’s a wonderful Hebrew word for that vision and work—shalom. It doesn’t just mean the sort of peace that comes when we’re no longer at war. It’s that rich and multihued vision of a world where no one goes hungry because everyone is invited to a seat at the groaning board, it’s a vision of a world where no one is sick or in prison because all sorts of disease have been healed, it’s a vision of a world where every human being has the capacity to use every good gift that God has given, it is a vision of a world where no one enjoys abundance at the expense of another, it’s a vision of a world where all enjoy Sabbath rest in the conscious presence of God. Shalom means that all human beings live together as siblings, at peace with one another and with God, and in right relationship with all of the rest of creation. To say “shalom” is to know our own place and to invite and affirm the place of all of the rest of creation, once more at home in God.
This church has said that our larger vision will be framed and shaped in the coming years by our vision of shalom —a world where the hungry are fed, the ill are healed, the young educated, women and men treated equally, and where all have access to clean water, and adequate sanitation, basic health care, and the promise of development that does not endanger the rest of creation. That vision of abundant life is achievable in our own day, but only with the passionate commitment of each and every one of us. It is God s vision of homecoming for all humanity.
Augustine said that as Christians, we are prisoners of hope—a ridiculously assertive hope, a hope that unflinchingly hangs onto the possibilities of life. ‘I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.’ Jesus has come from the father asking us, inviting us to live for the common good, within the truth of God’s transforming love. Now he goes to the Father, carrying all the ambiguity of humankind to that centre where all the bits and pieces fall into their rightful place and become part of the greater harmony.