Its All Saints Day and Tom and I are back home in Seattle . In spite of the cold drippy weather it is a delight to be here. There is nothing quite like coming home to evoke warm fuzzy emotions of joy and satisfaction. The sighting of familiar faces at the airport, the enthusiastic greeting of our golden retriever Bonnie, and that first glimpse of house and garden all overwhelm us with contentment. This is the place our hearts have longed for during our long drawn out journey. This we know is where we belong. It sights, sounds and smells are all part of something we feel incomplete when away from, no matter how enjoyable the experiences in other places might be.
No wonder we often view our entry into the kingdom of God as a joyous homecoming feast, an event that seems very appropriate to think about on this All Saints’ Day. Our coming home to God’s kingdom is the ultimate homecoming, what Richard Foster describes as a “coming home to the heart of God.” It is a fulfillment of the deepest longings of our souls, that sometimes heart wrenching craving for a closer and more intimate relationship with God which makes everything else fade into insignificance. This is the place where our spirits truly belong.
Coming home to the kingdom of God is about more than reaching a destination however. It is indeed an incredible welcoming feast when we sit down at table with all those who have gone before us, not just our loved ones and our ancestors, not even just the saints of old, but also those that God has brought in from the highways and byways – the poor, the disabled and the marginalized.
Chris Lawrence, one of the people we were with in England this last week once held a banquet feast in his neighbourhood at which the police officers and the city council members served table for the homeless, the drug addicts and the welfare single parent families. I suspect that this is something of what the kingdom banquet feast will look like and heading those that wait at table will be Jesus, coming to all of us as a servant, filling our plates with the choicest of food and our glasses with the finest of wines. What an incredible homecoming that will be – something that all of us should indeed long for in the depths of our being.
So what images come to mind when you think of homecoming? And in particular what comes to mind when you think of the homecoming banquet of God?
Here is one of my favourite All Saints scriptures to help you reflect. (Hebrews 11:32 – 12:2)
32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning;[a] they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.
39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.