Fall means Homecoming for many high schools and colleges. It’s time for football games that present the Homecoming Court with the King, Queen, and attendants. Small towns have parades, and students have been happy to escape classes to decorate floats with this year’s theme. The community turns out to watch their children ride the floats, march with the band, and cheer with pride for school spirit. Class reunions are held where old friends gather to reminisce.
Churches have homecomings, although it may be more fashionable to call it something else these days. Former members, family, and friends are invited back to share in a day of celebration. It’s a time to recognize the heritage of that community of believers. The big mile-markers are especially noted – 40 or 50 years, 75 years, or 100 years if they are particularly blessed. And then they gather for dinner on the grounds in the glorious autumn weather, or in the fellowship hall, but always around tables laden with the best dishes that the congregation has to offer. This is a picture of the family of God.
But homecoming is also a euphemism we use to say that someone has died. “Aunt Sally went to her heavenly home.” “This is the tenth anniversary of Daddy’s homecoming.” “What a great homecoming that will be when we all get to heaven.” It’s the stuff of gospel songs and the final verse of most church hymns.
Years ago, I sat in the Nashville airport on standby, waiting to see if I could take an earlier flight home. I chatted with a lady who was on her way to visit her very ill sister. Although her flight would be boarding soon, she hoped to get to the hospital before her sister passed. She said she’d love to have one final visit, but in this case, death was healing, a welcome relief.
I went to check my status at the attendant’s desk, and as I returned to my seat, the lady asked me, “Any chance of getting home sooner?” That question hit me hard. I heard it for myself, but also for her sister. My desire to get back to my earthly home was strong. I could not imagine what this very ill woman, who knew her eternal destination, was feeling. I haven’t been in her shoes. But that’s the question I asked the attendant for myself, “Any chance I can get home sooner?” Had the dying woman asked that same question of her heavenly Father? “Any chance of getting home sooner?”
This week is Feast of Tabernacles, or Booths, or Sukkot. It’s one of the major festivals on the Jewish calendar. These yearly festivals are multi-layered with meaning, but I won’t attempt to explain that here. I will say that Sukkot remembers the time that the Israelites spent forty years in booths or tents in the wilderness before they entered the Promised Land. It was a time of preparation and experiencing God’s provision for their every need. They lived in flimsy, temporary housing, totally dependent on God for protection. They were promised the Land where they could build strong homes and plant crops. This was to be their permanent dwelling under God’s rule or Kingship.
So here we are. Sukkot reminds us that we aren’t home yet. Our homes may be sturdy, and they may qualify as a “permanent address.” But they really aren’t permanent. These bodies we live in are certainly not permanent. Our daily walk is best lived out when we recognize the ultimate Lordship of the King of the Universe who provides for our needs, protects us, and prepares us for a better life.
One day, I will celebrate a great Homecoming. In the meantime, I’ll take another lap around Mt. Sinai as I’m marching to Zion.
Unless the Kingdom comes here first – on earth as it is in heaven. Not by our efforts, but by the King himself. Hallelujah!