When I was a kid, I watched movie musicals all the time. I would sing and dance along in my living room in front of the TV, dreaming of someday performing in a movie musical myself.
One of my favorite movies, that I used to watch over and over, was The Wizard of Oz. I would put on a dress, something that looked similar to the blue and white dress Dorothy wore, and I would pretend I was wearing the sparkly ruby slippers and sing along as Dorothy and her friends made their way down the yellow brick road.
There was something about Dorothy’s journey in Oz that was relatable to me—and it was obviously relatable for most of America too, through many generations. In 2008, the American Film Institute named the Wizard of Oz #10 in the top 100 movies ever made.
And just to show how popular The Wizard of Oz is, we are going to do a quick poll. Raise your hand if you’ve seen The Wizard of Oz. OK now, raise your hand if you’ve seen it more than once. Yeah, I would say this movie is pretty popular!
And since it’s so popular, I’m sure you could name your favorite scene from the movie…. Let’s try it—yell them out….
My favorite scene is probably just before Dorothy leaves the Land of Oz. So the Wizard has given each of their travel group a version of the gift they wanted. Dorothy just wanted to get home to the family farm in Kansas. So Glinda tells her that all she has to do is click the heels of the ruby slippers she’s wearing three times and say… does anyone remember what she is supposed to say…?.... “There’s no place like home.” And she says it as she clicks her heels, “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.”
And then next thing you know, she really is home in Kansas, with the farm workers and Auntie Em and Uncle Henry and her dog Toto. She’s made it home—and she realizes how happy she is to be home. Even if it is in Kansas on a farm!
Coming home. It’s something we’ve all felt at one time or another. Maybe you have traveled recently and you finally got home—I can relate to that this week! Maybe you work all day and come home to your comfy place. Maybe you just leave to go somewhere and come back to your home on a regular basis. No matter the reason we leave, we know that it feels good to be home.
And we all know that feeling of “home.” When we leave home and we return later, we know what that feels like. We know that sigh of relief, that comfort of being in your own place, that feeling of familiarity, that feeling of warmth, of sitting in your favorite chair or couch, eating your favorite foods, watching your favorite movie or TV show, being with your favorite people.
It’s a feeling that’s hard to describe--- but when you return home from a long day, or a long trip, you know exactly what it’s like. We’re going to take a brief moment—I’d like you to just sit here a minute and remember what it feels like to be at home after some time away….
Feels good, right? Feels…. right. Like you’re where you’re supposed to be.
In the Bible passage we read today from John, we hear Jesus talking about a home. God’s home. Jesus says: “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?”
This Scripture text is used for funerals A LOT. And I think there’s a big reason for that—when we think of going home to God, we usually think of, well, heaven. We think of being at home and at peace with God, for good. Jesus says he will prepare a place for us, so we know that there will be a place in eternal life with him. Pretty cool.
Father Murphy walks into a pub, and says to the first man he meets, "Do you want to go to heaven?"
The man said, "I do Father."
The priest said, "Then stand over there against the wall."
Then the priest asked the second man, "Do you want to go to heaven?"
"Certainly, Father," was the man's reply.
"Then stand over there against the wall," said the priest.
Then Father Murphy walked up to a third man and said, "Do you want to go to heaven?"
The man said, "No, I don't Father."
The priest said, "I don't believe this. You mean to tell me that when you die you don't want to go to heaven?"
The man said, "Oh, when I die, yes. I thought you were getting a group together to go right now!"
You see, we like the idea of going home to God’s house in heaven—just not yet!! So usually, when we talk about going home to God, we see it as something in the future. We’ll go home to God—when our time comes, when we die.
But there’s another way to read this text. God’s house isn’t just in heaven. What else do we usually call God’s house…? Yeah, a church.
THIS is God’s house. And the Methodist church just down the street is God’s house. And the United Church of Christ congregation that meets down the road the opposite way is God’s house. And a Pentecostal church across the country is God’s house. And a Presbyterian church in Korea is God’s house. No matter what type of church, or where it is--- wherever people meet to worship God, that’s God’s house.
Jesus has also prepared a place for you in God’s house, the church. It’s no accident that you’re here, right now, listening to this sermon. Right now, we are having church! And you are part of that.
And you have a place prepared for you in your own congregation, as well. Jesus has guided you to Zion, so that you can share your gifts and love for others here and in the community surrounding Zion. Zion is God’s house, your home. And if you are a visitor today, if you are looking for a church to call home, maybe Jesus is calling you to your new home at Zion!
There is yet a third way to read this text. We’ve said that coming home to God could be going to heaven, and it could also be going to church. Well, coming home to God is also simply coming home to Jesus himself.
Because— let’s be honest—we wander away from Jesus on a daily basis. You may not be running away from Jesus actively (or maybe you are!) but we frequently take a few steps away when we do or say or think those things we know we shouldn’t, either on purpose or by accident. We all mess up, make mistakes, sin at one time or another.
The good news is, Jesus welcomes us back with open arms, no matter what. And because Jesus is our Lord and savior, coming back to him gives us that “home” feeling. Remember when we sat here and remembered what it felt like to come home when you’ve been away? Coming home to Jesus can feel just like that— like you’re where you belong.
Jesus says “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” All that we have, all that we are, is from Jesus. Returning to Jesus really is coming home—because, in Jesus, we have all that we ever need.
There is a story of a young man who asked his father for his inheritance early. The father gives him the money, and the man travels to a distant country. He spends the money on food, on drink, on women. After a while, he realizes that he has no more money left. He begs for a job, any job—and is given one of the lowest and dirtiest jobs ever, taking care of pigs.
He’s hungry, and homesick, and finally decides to beg his father to take him back--- but only as a hired hand on his father’s land. The man knows that he no longer deserves to be treated as his father’s son because of his mistakes.
So the man makes his way back home—and when he gets there, he is surprised to see his father running to meet him. The man starts to beg his father to take him back, to let him just be a hired hand, but his father won’t hear of it. He hugs him and kisses him, brings him some new clothes and shoes and throws a party because he has returned. He is his father’s son once again. He has come home.
You may have recognized this story from the Bible, the story of the Prodigal Son. It’s been used countless times in TV shows, movies, and books.
It’s no wonder this particular Bible story is so famous, and so popular. It’s a story of coming home, of being welcomed back with open arms, even when many mistakes were made.
It’s the story of Jesus welcoming us home. Of Jesus running to meet us, hugging us close, clothing us in new clothes, and throwing a party in our honor. Of Jesus loving us so much that he was waiting for us that whole time, calling our name, itching to run and hug us.
And when we come home to Jesus, we feel that amazing feeling of being home, of being right where we belong. Jesus is calling your name, ready to welcome you home. No matter who you are, where you’ve been, what you’ve done—you can always come home to Jesus, where you are accepted and loved, no matter what. Jesus has that place prepared for you in our Father’s house. Come home.
Because-- as we know, with Jesus, there really is “no place like home.” Amen?