Go Home Again
it is good to be back home. Good to be in this place and to see all of
you. No matter where I go and what I do, Memphis will always be home,
and there is no place like home. I am so grateful to my good, dear friend
Doug Bailey and the good people of Calvary Church for this invitation
and this opportunity to return to this wonderful place with so many memories,
so many reminders of the powerful and prophetic ministry of Calvary Church
in the heart of this city. It is good to see Mississippi Boulevard and
so many friends here. My good friend, the Reverend Billy Kyles and the
Reverend T. ONeal Crivens and so many others who are here today,
it is good to see you. Tina and our son, Colin, are still here in Memphis
as Dr. Bailey indicated, and will be here until June, Collin finishing
his senior year at Central High. I have not seen them in a few weeks,
and so I might not be that accessible later this afternoon. Tina and I
might just run off and be crazy for a while, if you get my drift.
I would call attention to a very familiar passage in the gospel of Luke, Chapter 15, the Parable of the Prodigal Son. I will not read it. You know this parable. I think I will title this word, You Can Go Home Again.
sure most of you remember the movie E.T. where millions and
every age and in every culture wept openly when E.T. in the movie whispered
to Elliott, Home, Elliott. Home. That is because we identified
with E.T. and that desire for home. There is this desire, this longing
in all of us for home. We want to go home again. Not necessarily to a
geographical location, or to an address on a particular street, or to
a particular place in time, but home. I know I will probably never live
again in Memphis, or at 506 Roosevelt Street in Indianola, Mississippi,
or play marbles in the schoolyard at Carver Elementary School, or run
track at Gentry High School, or play alto sax in the marching band. Things
have changed. Ive gotten older. Im not as swift on my feet
as I used to be. Im not as agile. Things will never be the same
again. I can never go back and recapture the days of my childhood. They
are gone forever. But I can go home again - back to the essence of who
I am. Home - my spiritual home. Home - back to the image of God in me.
Home - it is what T. S. Eliott was talking about when he said, At
the end of all of our exploring, well ... arrive where we started
and know that place for the first. That is home.
You see I
believe we came from God and we belong to God. And no matter where you
go, or how good it gets, or how high you climb on the social economic
ladder, you are still not home. You still have not arrived. You may think
that youre there, but you are not home yet. St. Augustine said it
well: Thou hast made us for thyself, and our souls are restless until
theyve found rest in thee. So I thought I would come and remind
us today that you can go home again.
wrote a beautiful, moving novel. It is a classic. He called it, You
Cant Go Home Again. I want you to know today that Thomas Wolfe
was wrong. You can go home. [It] matters not how long youve been
gone, or how far youve wandered, or what youve done, you can
go home again. You can break bad habits. You can leave your ruts. You
can be forgiven. You can get rid of guilt. You can make it. You can overcome
depression. You can scale high mountains. You can walk through valleys.
You can press toward the mark....You can turn your pain into gain. You
can survive, and even thrive, against all odds. You can go home again.
You can realize your potential. You can recapture the joy, the excitement
of living. You can smell the roses. You can go home again. I dont
have anything profound to say today. All I came to tell you today is that
you can go home again. I know you can. I declare you can. You can go home
again, and the reason Im so certain about it, so sure beyond all
doubt, I know God. I know His nature. I know His heart.
this parable in the text is called the Parable of the Prodigal Son.
But I would suggest that a much better title would be the Parable
of the Prodigal God. For this parable is much more about the loving
graciousness of God than it is about the sinfulness of the son. Do you
know what that word prodigal means? It means extravagant.
It means lavish, abundant, bounteous, excessive, wasteful, unrestrained.
And more than describing what the son did with his inheritance, it describes
what God does with His love. Gods love toward us is extravagant,
lavish, abundant, bounteous, excessive, unrestrained, even wasteful. While
we were yet sinners, off in a far country, Christ died for us. I tell
you this is the parable not of the prodigal son but of the prodigal God.
It is why I am so certain we can go home again.
the scribes, the professional church folks accused Jesus of receiving
sinners, spending time with the wrong folk. This man receives sinners
and eats with them, they said of Him. Jesus did not deny the charge
but rather used the charge as an opportunity to preach a sermon on what
is really important to God. And he really told three parables. One about
a shepherd who had a hundred sheep but lost one. Jesus said, Will
he not leave the ninety-nine and look until he finds it? And another
parable he told about a woman who had ten pieces of silver but lost one.
Jesus said, Will she not light a candle and sweep the house until
she finds it? And when she had found it, she calls her neighbors
and friends together saying, Rejoice with me, for I have found the
piece which I had lost. And the third parable was about a father
who lost a son. But when the son returned home, the father said, Bring
forth the best, for even this my son was dead, but now is alive. He was
lost but is now found. Jesus said in all three instances - the father,
the woman, and the shepherd - thats God. That is where is heart
is. You want to know what God is like. There He is. The father, the woman,
the shepherd - that is God.
And I see
five things here, quickly, five things God is concerned about and five
reasons I know we can go home again. The first is separation. The first
reason I know we can go home again is because God is concerned about separation.
The sheep got separated from the shepherd. The coin got separated from
the woman. The son got separated from the father. God is concerned about
separation. Say it, Separation. God is concerned about separation.
Anybody here who knows the experience of separation? Gods heart
reaches out to you. For some of you, this word doesnt say much.
But I know as I looked out over this congregation, this noon day, I know
without knowing everyone here personally, I know that this word separation
for many of you is more than just another word. I know that there are
many of you here this noon day who started out your life with a sense
of hope and anticipation, and you joined together in holy matrimony with
the love of your life, but for some reason it did not work. And you are
sitting here this noon day; you know separation. You have experienced
it. Some are separated by divorce. Some by abandonment. Some by death.
Some by geographical distance. Separated in the home. Isolated. Alienated.
No real companionship. And you know that there are different ways to have
separation. Sometimes it is when someone leaves home, but other times
it is when you live in the same house, sleeping in the same bed, shoulder
to shoulder, but hearts are separated one from another. And you are praying
that the service will last as long as possible so that you wont
have to return to that hell of a home without love. Separation. Youre
at home, but youre homesick. Homesick at home because you are separated.
not talking about separation so that you can start feeling sorry for yourself
or get all teary-eyed. No, no, no. I want you to know that God understands
your problem of separation. Youre going around saying, No
one understands me, no one knows what Im going through. God
knows. He understands. I hear Him saying through the text, Tell
them, Jackson, not to ever say again that no one understands. Tell them
that I am the God of creation, and that I know all about separation. Tell
them that I know the pain of the fragmentation of relationships. Tell
them that I made a creation and loved it, and yet, my own creation that
I had made and loved and kissed and called good, that creation somehow
got separated from me. It fell, and it breaks my heart. You say
nobody understands. God told me tell you today that He understands. He
understands what it is to love and not have that love returned. He understands
what it is to give and not receive anything back. He has a special sensitivity
to those who have been separated. He knows your complications. He knows
your frustrations, your loneliness, the absence of companionship, and
He is working on this project. He has a major project going on. He is
trying to get his separated creation back. And what He wants you to know
is that if you will let Him, He will take your individual situation as
a little project, a pilot project, a demonstration of what He is going
to do, on a cosmic scale.
here today and youre separated, God wants you to know that since
He is working on the problem of separation from a cosmic level, if you
will allow Him to work on the frustrations, the complications, the loneliness
you are experiencing, He would like to take your case on as a demonstration.
Let Him handle the problem of separation. Turn it over to Him. He may
not arrange it like you expect. He may not solve it like you want it solved.
He may not fix it like you want it fixed, but He will fix it. I dare you
to turn it over to Him. For He is eager, anxious, waiting and longing
to take your burdens and work them out. For He is concerned about separation.
And my friends, I tell you, we better get concerned about, as the Church,
we better get concerned about separation. Whether it is caused by divorce,
racism, age, death, or sin, wherever there is a problem of separation,
that problem ought to be admissible to the church. Dont get sidetracked.
Dont let some little doctrine, or creed, or bible verse out of context
trip you up. God is concerned about separation. All kinds of separation,
and that is why I am so sure that you can go home again.
reason I know you can go home is, not only is God concerned about separation,
but He is also concerned about restoration. What did the shepherd do when
the sheep was lost? He went out and found him. What did the woman do when
the coin was lost? She swept the house until she found it. What did the
father do when the son was lost? He looked, he watched, he waited until
he came home. And this reminds us that wherever there is separation, God
is trying to bring about restoration. Wherever there is brokenness and
fragmentation, alienation, wherever there has been an interruption of
a relationship, God is trying to bring about restoration. Say it, Restoration.
This is a participatory situation today. God wants to restore somebody
here, for somebody here has fallen far from a faith that was once rich
and vital and alive, but youre out of relationship, out of fellowship.
God wants to restore you. And I want you to know that God is an expert
at restoration. I hear Solomon saying, He restoreth my soul. Restore
unto me the joy of my salvation. He can do it. Yes, He can. You
remember that time when your conscience was clear. He can restore you.
When you were free from guilt and your lifestyle was the right style.
He can restore you. You remember when your salvation was sweet and [you]
doubted your doubts and had faith in your faith. God can restore you today.
He is concerned about restoration. And so must we be every chance we get.
We ought to be asking God to make us instruments of restoration and reconciliation.
That is where his heart is. God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto
Himself. And He has committed us to the ministry of reconciliation.
not only is God concerned about restoration and separation. Look at the
text, what happens after separation and then restoration? What does the
shepherd do when he finds his lost sheep? What does the woman do when
she finds her lost coin? What does the father do when he finds his lost
son? They celebrate. And so when there is separation and then restoration,
there is always some celebration. Hallelujah! Say, Celebration.
The shepherd said, Rejoice with me for I have found my sheep. There
is no going back to business as usual. No, Ive longed for the sheep
and looked hard and long for him, and now that Ive found him, Ive
got to celebrate. Come on and rejoice with me! And the woman who
lost the silver coin, when she found it she said, Come, rejoice
with me, for I have found the coin which was lost. And I said to
myself , This woman, bless her heart, this woman is way out. Shes
excessive. Why would she take the expense of throwing a party? It probably
took the other nine coins to pay for the party. But that doesnt
matter when celebration is in order. It doesnt matter what it costs.
Some folks, when God blesses them, feel like giving vent to the spirit.
Praising God. You know what? Theyre kind of afraid of that reputation.
But I can tell when there has been real restoration. You dont care
how much it costs. Ive been restored. I dont care who knows
it. You can talk about me. You can scandalize my name. But God has brought
me from a mighty long way, so I am going to praise Him.
It is alright
to celebrate. God will join you in the celebration. When there has been
separation and restoration, it is automatic that a celebration will follow.
Go ahead and celebrate. Dont let anybody intimidate you. Dont
let anybody quench your spirit. Dont let anybody put your fire out.
Dont let anybody jail your joy, pick at your peace, or hijack your
hope. You tell them, I got good sense. I know what Ive got.
I know where I got it. I know how I feel, and I know where my blessings
come from. And I know to praise Him. Celebration is always in order
when youve been restored. I tell you, you can go home again.
I ought to stop now, but I said there were five things. God is concerned
about separation and he is involved in restoration. He joins us in our
celebration. But I see something else, looking for a moment at the celebration
going on in the home. The father whose son had returned, he said, Bring
forth the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger, shoes
on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and let us eat and be merry. For
this, my son, who was dead, is alive. He was lost but now he is found.
all of the celebration and rejoicing going on, there was a party pooper
there. There was an uncooperative spirit there. There was one there who
was out of place. He was mad that a party was going on. Im talking
about that elder brother. His real problem, though, that he too was separated.
He was at home, but he was separated. And because of his separation, he
couldnt even appreciate the restoration that had taken place. So
he missed the celebration with his lack of cooperation.
is, that is number four. Cooperation. Say, Cooperation. If
we are going to enjoy the celebration, weve got to cooperate with
the spirit. The elder brother failed to cooperate, wouldnt even
come into the house. His father had to go out to him. Some of you like
this elder brother, I know, you identify with him. You like him because
you are just like him. You know youve been around here a long time.
Youve been working. Youve been faithful. Youve been
at your post of duty. You like this elder brother because you say, Somebody
has got to do the work. Somebody has got to take care of business. Father
is always going around killing these fattened calves for somebody whose
gone off and squandered everything.
this elder brother, but Im going to tell you the truth today - I
dont like him. I dont like him. You can get mad with me if
you want to, but I dont like this elder brother. The reason I dont
like him is because he is a workaholic. He thinks hes going to get
saved on the basis of how much work he does. You see him working so hard
he didnt even know a party was going on. The other thing I dont
like about him, I dont like his self-righteous attitude, getting
mad because the father had done something for his younger brother. You
hear him talking about how his young brother had wasted his money on harlots.
How did he know? He didnt even know the boy was back. He hadnt
even talked to the boy. He didnt even know what the boy had done,
unless he assumed that the boy had done what he would have done if he
had been out there. And so he was illegal, as [if] he had kept track of
everything. [He says to his father], Here all these years Ive
worked for you, and youve never killed the fattened calf for me.
Youve never helped me make merry with my friends.
And I wanted
to say, With your attitude, you dont have any friends.
He was envious. He was jealous. He was self-righteous. He was uncooperative.
You cant do anything with an uncooperative spirit. You know it is
the uncooperative elder brothers in so many churches that keep so many
of the prodigals out there in the far country and [away] from a relationship
with the Father. The greatest evangelist in the church are the members
of the church. This word has to be lived out and demonstrated in the life
of the people.
there is one last reason I know you can go home again. As I read this
15th chapter of Luke over and over again, I keep seeing where Jesus said,
And likewise joy shall be in Heaven over one sinner. And likewise
there is joy in the presence of the angels of God. And likewise he is
comparing this with Heaven. And he is trying to show us that the restoration
that takes place here because of our separation and the celebration and
the cooperation that follows is but a foretaste of what it will be like
in Heaven. You think you know the joy of restoration and celebration now....
Because of our separation and lack of cooperation, you wait until the
consummation. There is more to come. All of this is but a dress rehearsal
of what is yet to come. You havent seen anything yet. Oh, you havent
seen anything yet. The love, it does not yet appear what we shall be.
But we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him for we shall
see as He is. Home - where the wicked will cease from troubling, and weary
souls will be at rest. Home - where everything will be to our taste and
liking and we will have a perpetual vision of holy and unceasing communion
with the Godly. Home - where every hill and mountain are brought low.
The workplace is made play. The glory of the Lord is revealed, and all
thresh shall see it together.
You can, you can go home again. Go home again.
Copyright 1999 The Rev. Dr. Alvin O. Jackson
Copyright ©1999-2006 explorefaith.org