Text: Luke 2:21-30
Have you ever attended a church “homecoming” Sunday? It’s something of an odd concept within our contemporary culture. I’ve never really understood the term, even though I attended quite a few growing up a Baptist in western North Carolina. They were usually in the fall, early September, and featured “dinner on the grounds,” special music and a guest preacher – usually someone who had served as pastor of the church in years past. In some cases, years and years past. Months before, the church leaders would start talking about and planning for homecoming Sunday. I can remember spending the weekends leading up to homecoming with my father and others in the church cleaning up the church building and making sure the grounds were well manicured. We spent extra time in the graveyard that sprawled across what seemed like acres out in front of my home church. There was a special homecoming tradition at the Sandy Plains Baptist Church in Newhouse community. On the Saturday before homecoming Sunday, people would bring flowers to put on family gravesites. I remember it being a beautiful sight – the different color flowers, chosen with great love and respect, transforming the austerity of a burial ground into a bright living memorial. But as I said, I was never really sure what was meant by the name “homecoming.” Someone once said the term implied welcoming back both those who have moved away, as well as those whom the church ran off. At best, homecoming seemed to be the time for the church to affirm its past; to remember those who had shaped the church; to reconnect with the people who not only knew you as a child but often times shaped you as a person of faith; to welcome home those who had moved away; and, last but not least of all, to eat good food.
The Sandy Plains Baptist Church homecomings I attended as a child were pleasant enough but nothing spectacular or really even memorable – other than the extra work to get ready for them – ever happened that I can remember. There was a graciousness that surrounded homecoming Sundays. People were glad to see one another – glad to have those who had moved away “home” again, pleased that you’ve made good and proud of your accomplishments.
And that’s pretty much the way it starts out in today’s scripture reading. Jesus has come home – he’s preaching to a crowd of people who’ve known him since he was just a child – and they are pleased, and proud, and gracious. “Why, isn’t that Joseph’s boy?” “Just a poor carpenter, he was, when he left us. And look at him now.” “Where did he learn to read? And with such authority? He was born with it, I’m telling you – born to it.” By all accounts it’s a beautiful, sweet scene. So what goes wrong? How does this seemingly peaceful homecoming turn suddenly so rowdy?