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Lessons From the Farm – Homecoming Day

by Bob Yarbrough

Many smaller churches annually conduct an activity called Homecoming Day.  It is a sweet time of fellowship and joy with past and present members of the church.  Usually, announcements and advertisements are made well in advance, and sometimes a guest speaker that has had some connection with the church is secured.  I recently attended a Homecoming Day at a church in Indiana where a colonel in the Air Force, who had seen service time in Iraq, was the guest speaker.  He had grown up in that church and his parents continue to worship there.  The meeting was well attended with a combination of past and present members plus some visitors.  What a wonderful and moving time that day was!  Almost everyone stayed after the services for a fellowship dinner.  It was truly a memorable day as church members had “come home.”  Family reunions fall into a related category, but most of the time they are not connected to a church activity. 

After we moved to the farm we had a similar experience at our home.  For about 25 years, in addition to my career in public education, I served as a pastor of a small church in southeast Dallas.  It truly was a ministry of service and love.  Our children grew up in that church and many sweet memories were forged during those years.  The friendships formed were cemented in Christian love and memories.  So after a few years of farm life, we thought it would be a great idea to host at our farm a homecoming of sorts with those wonderful people.  A planning committee organized, and soon we had a date, a list of names, and a menu for the occasion.  Then one Saturday it all came together with about 80 people attending.  What a great time of fellowship!  There in our living room remarks were given and prayers were offered, and yes, we even pulled out the hymnals and sang a bunch of the old-time favorites; and it still sounded pretty good.  The ladies brought covered dishes and the old trusty hamburger grill was fired up.  We reviewed the latest events in everyone’s lives, and we reveled in the memories of the past.  It was truly a Homecoming Day. 

In thinking back to that day, and the whole idea of a Homecoming Day, several applications come to mind.  The Bible talks about some homecomings – individual, national, and worldwide.  Once Jesus told a parable about a prodigal son who came home (Luke 15:11-32).  There are so many lessons that one could gain from this story, but first and foremost is the love of the Father for the son.  We cannot begin to fathom how great the Father’s love is for the sinner.  Our collective sin is so great that its wages is eternal death (Rom. 6:23), and everyone stands guilty before God (Rom. 3:9-12).  But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is ye grace you have been saved (Eph. 2:4).  In the parable, the son had to make the decision to come home, but I believe the emphasis of the story must be upon the Father.  While the son was a long way off the Father was compassionately and eagerly looking for him.  And then the most astounding thing took place –  the Father ran to the son, wept and kissed him.  I believe that is the only time that scripture records that God ran.  A popular Southern Gospel song entitled “When God Ran” sung by the Kingsmen Quartet emphasizes this parable and the great love of the Father.  It was Homecoming Day for the prodigal son; and the best robe, the ring, the sandals, the fatted calf, and the celebration were his because the Father loved him. 

The Bible also records a homecoming in the history of the nation of Israel.  After spending 70 years in captivity under the Babylonian Empire, in 586 B.C. God said it was time for them to go home.  In a succinct message, the prophet Jeremiah spelled out God’s judgment upon Israel and the duration of that punishment (Jere. 25:8-14); but then he prophesied that they would eventually go back home.  This is what the Lord says: ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place – home (Jere. 29:10).  That home-coming is recorded in the Old Testament books of Ezra and Nehemiah.  Israel did go back home, but sadly not as the once-proud nation they had been.  They returned by the kind permission of a foreign government and they occupied their land only as a puppet nation.  The powerful empires of Persia, then Greece, then Rome occupied the real seat of government.  Israel returned home in three stages beginning in 516 B.C. and rebuilt their cities, their walls, and most importantly – their temple.  When it was finished the nation rejoiced, “With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord, ‘He is good; His love to Israel endures forever.’  And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid (Ezra 3:11).  That was a Homecoming Day with mixed emotions (Ezra 3:12-13).

 However, the greatest Homecoming Day yet awaits us.  One day, along with a trumpet call, there will be a loud voice which shouts, “It’s time to come home!”  Past and present family members will be called.  The most outstanding speaker the world has ever known will be there, and a fantastic supper will be served.  Let me tell you about it. The Bible says that one day (perhaps soon) Jesus Christ is going to come back and gather all believers (those who are alive and those who have died in Christ) to meet Him in the air.  It will be “the mother of all reunions” (1 Thess. 4:16-17)!  Just think of that moment.  How wonderful to be reunited with those who have fallen asleep in Christ through the years!  Even though other scriptures teach us that we will be changed in a moment into His likeness (1 Cor. 15:51-52; 1 Jn. 3:2), I believe that we will be able to recognize and know each other, both past and present believers.  In fact, that is why the Apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians – to remind them that those who died in Christ will not be forgotten (1 Thess. 4:13-14).  Jesus will take us to a glorious Homecoming Day in heaven, complete with “dinner on the grounds.”  This is pictured for us as a great wedding between the Lamb of God (Christ) and his bride (the Church), with a wedding feast included (Rev. 19:7-9).  The invitation is for “whosoever”(Rev 22:17; Jn. 3:16), but it will be restricted only to those who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb (Rev.22:14). This sounds like the most fantastic Homecoming Day ever!  I certainly hope that you will be there with me to join in the celebration.   

When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be! When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory.

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The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

John 10:10