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Blog Post

You Can’t Go Home Again

Updated: Jul 9

Mark 6:1-13

Before our passage, Jesus had a spectacular streak of miracles. He had ejected a spirit strong enough to burst chains, that was filled with enough frenzied evil to take 2,000 swine over a cliff. He healed a woman who suffered for 12 years not only from her sickness but also from the treatments by doctors. She simply touched Him and was better. For His finale He comes to the house of a prominent official whose daughter had died. He simply says, “Talitha Cum, ‘Get up’”, and…she…does. 

Jesus was on a hot streak and feeding off the crowd as great athletes do. He must have felt like, well, He could rule the world, which I think makes the events in our text so much more jarring for Jesus…and us. After such success He might have been afraid His hometown would mob Him with requests for healing and laud Him as a hero. Not going to happen.

It turns out that even Jesus can’t go home again. The novel by Thomas Wolfe, You Can’t Go Home Again, tells the fictional story of George Webber, who writes a successful book about his hometown. Only his hometown is not flattered by their portrayals. Wolfe writes:

He had learned that in spite of his strange body, so much off scale that it had often made him think himself a creature set apart, he was still the son and brother of all men living. He had learned that he could not devour the earth, that he must know and accept his limitations.

If there was something Jesus had to learn it was that even He was limited.  

Yes, his body was limited. It too would grow tired and need rest, but something more than that; something much more painful than that. He could not change the hearts of humankind, not by mere talk anyway. 

Even though He had shown them what He was capable through His miracles they would not trust Him. They still would not follow Him. They, we, would stubbornly keep kicking the can of life down our own path. 

And perhaps worst of all it didn't first come from strangers. But His hometown. From His family.  

George Webber, who was never so assured of his purpose as when he was going somewhere on a train. And he never had the sense of home so much as when he felt that he was going there. It was only when he got there that his homelessness began.

When Jesus was beyond His hometown His miracles sent awe and amazement through the crowd. When He was home Mark tells us, “He could do no deed of power.”

Jesus had just brought back a little girl from the dead. Now He was reduced as Mark describes it to only curing a few sick people. No deeds of power. 

I wonder how this must have felt for Him. Jesus had the power of God’s Holy Spirit coursing through His veins, and He had used that power to great effect. But now in front of those who knew Him best He could do nothing of significance.

Mark says He was “amazed at their disbelief.” He was amazed that they could be so cruel. He would hear the praise and thanks from strangers whom He only met momentarily. They were ready to give up their lives to follow Him but those who know Him best, since He was a child, and His very own family rejected Him so thoroughly that He was unable to do for them what He wanted more than anything – to make them whole. Physically whole, yes, but He is after something more profound. He is after a deeper place and from their attitude He knows He is having even less success in changing hearts than in healing bodies. His words were not working. 

Perhaps Jesus did so much traveling because He was searching for something. Listen to this synopsis of Wolfe’s novel:

Family and friends feel naked and exposed by the truths they have seen in his book, and their fury drives him from his home. He begins a search for his own identity that takes him to New York and a hectic social whirl; to Paris with an uninhibited group of expatriates; to Berlin, lying cold and sinister under Hitler's shadow. At last Webber returns to America and rediscovers it with love, sorrow, and hope. (Goodreads synopsis)

This is how I feel about this amazing country of ours, love… sorrow… hope...

When I look at the founding documents, I read something incredible…a dream…a country with justice equality and freedom for all. 

We hold these truths to be self-evident …all are created equal.

I love that our country has built into it this deepest of truths found in our faith. I love that people have the freedom to express their conscience, to speak the words that God has laid upon their heart and to do so with passion, with conviction.

But I also feel sorrow. 

Sorrow that people use their words not only to build up to break people down and to tear apart. People have used words to demean women, people of different races, people of different professions, people of different gender and sexuality, and people of different politics.

And so, as we have seen, even in Jesus’ case words can only take us so far. We need actions that demonstrate we truly believe in our central tenet of equality for all, that we are made in the image of God. And so, I also feel sorrow that here in the city we live in, during an historic time of prosperity, of bounty, of plenty, that there are people that go hungry, there are people whose medical needs are not met, there are children who have substandard education and housing. 

Jesus also felt sorrow. He knew that humanity could not go home again, that is, we couldn’t return to the Garden of Eden, to a time of ignorant bliss, and so He had to chart a path forward. Jesus knew that even God couldn’t return to the past, that is a time when God relied on the hearts of humanity to be obedient and shape a world of love. 

And so, Jesus’ sorrow took Him on the path of sacrifice and in that act, He solved the problem of home once and for all, and for everyone.

We would all find an eternal home with God and in that place, we will discover that not only will we find a warm reception from strangers, but we will find that hometown reception, that hometown feeling, from those whom we’ve been estranged from.

But that time is not yet.

We know that there are many people in this city that “cannot go home again.” That feel rootless and homeless even if they have a roof over their head. That don’t feel home in body, mind, and spirit. And there are people like George Webber and Jesus who feel like a stranger in their hometown. 

And so, the Session has made a commitment. “To be a spiritual home for all.” 

And so, I also feel hope for our country. 

Because I believe that the great majority of people do want this land to not only espouse truths of equality but to do the work necessary to include more and more people. I feel hope that The Brick Church wants to reflect more deeply the fabric of our city. That we want to share God’s love in such a way that those who have no home, that feel forgotten, that feel rejected as Jesus did will find a place of welcome of love and respect within our house.

I feel hope because I see people gathering on Sunday evenings in the garden, children playing, older adults sipping cold drinks, people chatting and sharing their lives. I feel hope because Brick Church welcomes in people that have no home on Tuesday evenings, not only to share a meal but just share fellowship, and that this is their church home as much as it’s mine or yours. That is the commitment of the Session – a spiritual home for all people, regardless of their faith, we simply welcome them in the name of God’s love.

I feel hope because people who have no faith or of a different faith have come through our doors, come to our events, and found acceptance, and found love, and found welcome. In short, they have found a home a spiritual home at Brick.

So, you can’t go home again, and maybe that’s not all bad because the promise we have through Jesus is eternal home that we can experience right now when we share God’s love with openness with acceptance without judgment and without limit. Amen.

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