Good morning everyone and welcome
I want to start this morning with something Her Majesty the Queen said. I think it’s quite appropriate due to the fact that Mark’s theme for his Presidency year is Hope. I wasn’t here for the Jubilee celebrations but I did watch the programme about the Queen which showed personal photographs and footage previously unseen. In it she says this –
‘If you health you have Hope. If you have Hope, you have everything’.
This morning I want to talk about home – what we think of as home and how it’s defined. I have talked about this before, in fact, it was the first time Martin came to our Church.
Let us pray
Dear Lord, grant that the journeys on which we find ourselves may offer us all the wonders of home. Bless us with true friends, neighbours and companions, with relationships founded in faith, love and justice. By the power of your Holy Spirit, that it may serve your will on earth as in heaven. Lord have mercy upon us, and send us your peace. Amen
The definition of the word home in the Oxford dictionary is ‘the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household’. However, I like the way the American writer Verlyn Klinkenborg puts it, he says Be it ever so humble, it’s more than just a place. It’s also an idea – one where the heart is.
Reading – John Chapter 4, verses 1 to 6
‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Lord we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’
Jesus was trying to convey to the disciples that he had to go away but that they were not to worry. Jesus was going to get things ready and then he would come back and welcome them to their heavenly home.
Jesus also said his Father’s house had many rooms, so there will be enough space for all of us. Some people believe God’s house is limited to a select few. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe only 144,000 will be allowed into heaven. This number comes from the book of Revelation verse 7 which says the 144,000 were made up from the twelve tribes of Israel, 12,000 in each tribe.
Everyone has their own idea of heaven, for some no such place exists. As far as I know no-one has gone to heaven and come back and told someone what it was what like. I don’t have any answers.
At one of our Bible Book study sessions recently we talked about the Lord’s prayer and the sentence ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
The book we are looking at is ‘What if Jesus was serious? Says this –
‘some people are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.’ Sadly, this description could apply to many Christians who have uncritically accepted the notion that this world does not ultimately matter to God, and therefore should not matter to us. ‘we’re just passing through’ is a popular cliché. This dismissive attitude towards the world does not align with how Jesus taught us to pray. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven – rather than praying to escape the earth for heaven, Jesus tells us to pray for God’s kingdom to arrive on earth from heaven. This phrase carries both a longing and a responsibility – a longing to see our world bloom with the order, beauty and abundance that marks God’s kingdom and a responsibility to see this happen.’
May be while we’re on this earth we should do as Jesus taught us and try to make it a better place for everyone, concentrate on the here and now – food for thought I think.
Let us say the Lord’s prayer together and think about what it is trying to teach us.
Our father, which art in heaven
Hallowed be thy name
Thy kingdom come,
thy will be done on earth
as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us
And lead us not into temptation
But deliver from evil
For thine is the kingdom,
The power and the glory
For ever and ever
I have gone back to my old friend Gary Barlow to give an interpretation of home might be. I found when I listened to the words I could apply it to my house but also this Church. Now I don’t know whether Gary is a Christian but the album this song is taken from – Since I Saw You Last – for me has several songs which do have religious overtures and have a message worth listening to.
What is the difference between a house and a home? House is essential for man’s life. It is considered that the place where you live is your home whatever type of house it is. If you are lucky enough to have a house, then you have a home. As Gary Barlow said – A house is bricks and mortar – somewhere to protect us from the hot sun or a terrible storm. A home is totally difference – it isn’t made of bricks and mortar. It is a place where we feel safe, where you can be free to be yourself. For some people
Home is a special place. Christmas in my home is all about being together. It always starts with us going to Christingle on Christmas Eve at the village church. The church is always fit to bursting with villagers both young and old. I often think, why can’t churches be full like this the rest of the time? My 2 children have both left home so Christmas Day is the one day of the year when we spend the whole day together with no interruptions. We don’t go out, we don’t see anyone else, it is just we four. We all have busy lives and it is lovely that we can sit down as a family, talk, play a game, watch a film. We will eat, we will laugh and we will celebrate being together and home.
I want you to take a few minutes to sit and think about home and what it means to you. Is it a building, a place, a person. While you are thinking the music from the film Local Hero entitled going ‘Going Home’ will be playing.
Back in March Neil, my husband, and I went to The Netherlands on a river cruise. One of the places we went was Arnhem. Arnhem is a city in the eastern part of the Netherlands. It has a bridge which proved to have strategic importance during World War II and in September 1944, Operation Market Garden was instigated to liberate Arnhem and secure the Arnhem Bridge. These events were dramatized in the 1977 film A Bridge Too Far. Operation Market Garden was not a success, Arnhem was not liberated at that time and the bridge was not secured. Just outside Arnhem, in the town of Oosterbeek the Commonwealth Graves War Commission built the Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery which contains the graves of most of those killed during Operation Market Garden. There are 1,684 Commonwealth servicemen of which 243 are unidentified buried there- British, Canadian, Australian, New Zealanders and Polish. I don’t mind telling you I walked through the Cemetery with a lump in my throat. All those young men lying there, some of them 1000s of miles away from home. It was a place of peace and tranquillity. Beautifully maintained and the headstones looked brand new as if they had only just been erected. Time had stood still for these young men.
During my visit I learned that the local schoolchildren in their final year of primary school each have responsibility for one of the graves – they visit, sometimes leave flowers, in the case of the Jews buried there a stone is placed on the headstone rather than flowers. This is done as a thank you to those brave men for the sacrifice they made for a place which they had probably never heard of before landing there and giving their lives.
It was clear to both Neil and I that the Dutch and Belgium people are so grateful for the sacrifice so many made during the Second World War in liberating their countries. During our visit to The Netherlands, we learned that there is a scheme there, and in Belgium, where you can volunteer to visit a particular war grave. The scheme is so popular there is a long waiting list. The Dutch and Belgians see it as a way of saying thank you, making sure the sacrifice made is not forgotten and also that these men may be far away from home and would otherwise have no one to remember them.
As an aside, we saw the house where the actress Audrey Hepburn lived as a young girl (until she was about 15). Audrey was a talented ballerina who performed at the Arnhem Theatre. It is said that during the war, and when The Netherlands were occupied by the Nazis, that she performed illegal recitals in people’s homes to help raise funds for the Dutch Resistance.
I talked earlier about home and where we consider this to be. During my visit to Arnhem Cemetery it made me think about where those young men would consider home to be. Would they be happy with their final resting place? Would they want to be taken back to their own country or would they want to stay with their comrades with whom they shared the horror of war.
On the graves of the unknown soldiers their headstones say ‘known unto God’. It is said that this phrase was coined by Rudyard Kipling who had lost his son in the First World War trenches. Here was a man, who once had arms and legs and a father and a mother but they could not find all parts of him, least of all his name but God knew him, as he knows us all. This man was one of God’s children and had taken him to God’s own house.
Let us now have a few minutes of quiet to offer up our prayers.
I think it’s time for a hymn.
When we went to the ConFed Annual Assembly in May, on the Sunday morning we went to the Hay Mills Congregational Church in Birmingham. They made us feel very welcome. We sang this next hymn, sung by Matt Redman – Bless my lord of my soul – and I loved it.
You all know that I hail from God’s own country, Yorkshire. Although I’ve lived more of my life out of Yorkshire than in it, I still have a feeling of going home and a sense of place when I pay a visit to my mum and dad who still live there. When I go back to Yorkshire, and especially when I go out into the Yorkshire Dales, the air feels different and, it’s difficult to explain, but I can just be. I want my final resting place to be in Yorkshire and to become part of the landscape I love. I don’t know of any other county in the UK which has such a strong sense of identity. It gets into your blood and has helped define me as a person. There is a straightforwardness about Yorkshire folk – what you see is what you get. My youngest daughter now lives there, it’s got into her blood too, even though she was born in Grantham and lived in Newark until she was 23. She has made Yorkshire her home.
When you leave here today, you will be going home. I hope when you have a moment of quiet you think about what I’ve talked about today. Home is where the heart is.
I’d like to read you a poem called Home by Ardelia Cotton Barton
A perfect home is heaven’s door
Its built of loving deeds,
No angry frown nor biting word
Will sow discordant seeds
No selfish wish nor cruel act,
Will in this home be found.
No thought of self will have a place,
For each to each is bound
By ties of love so pure indeed,
So helpful, so serene;
That door seems portal of high heav’n
Rich treasures there are seen.
Oh! Joyous home, when built of love –
Foundation of esteem.
The walls are raised from happiness,
With love the windows gleam.
This home will stand for aye on earth
And through eternity,
For God and angels hold the lease –
The rent is sanctity
We’ll finish with a song by Jon & Vangelis – ‘I’ll find my way home’. Vangelis passed away in May of this year – he wrote the Oscar winning score for the film Chariots of Fire which was used as the background music at the London 2012 Olympic Games winners’ medal presentation ceremonies – this is a tribute to him.
The last word goes to our Queen, she said ‘Our purpose is to observe, learn and love. Then it is time to return home’.
We’ll end by saying the grace to each other
By the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Be with us now and forever more. Amen