It's neither the drive-to, the walk-in, nor the sit-down that makes it familiar. It isn't the artwork on the wall, the colour of the carpet, or the smell of coffee that reminds me. It's the man up front; and he doesn't have to speak long before I know I'm home again. It's with these words: "Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:2) that I can breathe easier and silently acknowledge ... ah .... 'Home Sweet Home.' It's awesome! Every Sunday, I have the privilege of hearing God's greeting! The words are always the same (well mostly), but it's my queue to bow my head in humility - just like I observed my own Dad bowing his head to receive the greeting when I was a boy. To me, bowing my head allows me to silently pray, "God, my father, thank you for your invitation. I'm not worthy to be here...I've sinned against you...but you love me...and have invited me in." It's a "Welcome home. 'I'm happy you're here" hug ... every week!
There's something very welcoming about coming home. Familiar sights, sounds, and smells gently remind us of the place where we belong. (You can almost hear John Denver's 'Country Roads!') Think about how many songs in all music genres refer to going home as a highlight of Christmas and Thanksgiving celebrations. The mental picture of a home where music softly plays, a fire crackling in the wood stove, the smell of home-made apple pie filling the air, and children running freely throughout the house is very familiar...and comforting. These images create a certain homesickness that most can identify with. And we crave for that void to be filled.
I think that God has placed something else in each of us - something that only he can fill. Some people try to satisfy their itch with 'stuff'; thinking that toys will bring contentment. Others, will try to find satisfaction in 'snuff' i.e. drugs and booze to fill the void. Yet, a third group will try 'smut' - consume pornography - to escape reality. Still, others will overeat, shop, or exercise to excess. I've thought about this often in my own context as I've struggled to find lasting contentment. And sometimes, I wonder if this constant drive within me is an ache that can only be filled by Jesus. Because, there's a place when that itch vanishes... and it seems to vanish every Sunday morning when I hear God's greeting at 'home'.
You know what's better than God's greeting? Nothing, actually. But, there's something special about God's blessing that is spoken over us at the end of each service. As the minister speaks, I'll close my eyes, extend my open hands, and symbolically receive God's blessing. And, here's the best part - when the words: "The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace" (Numbers 6:24-26) are spoken, I've occasionally caught a glimpse of one of my kids extending their hands, too. And, I know they've come home. Home at last. Thank God, they're home at last.