Can you remember a time when you were ‘homesick’? The first time away from home, family and friends is never easy. There is a longing for familiar faces and places which steals upon you. One young man left home with big ideas and a bounce in his step to find new pals and the high life only to discover that what he had found was the low life and ‘fair-weather’ friends. Things got so bad that he had to take a job as a swineherd. As he watched them enjoying family life and friendships, in his poverty he realised that even the pigs had it better than him! Coming to his senses, his thoughts turned to home and he took those first vital steps albeit with trepidation.
- ‘The pattern of the prodigal is: rebellion, ruin, repentance, reconciliation, restoration’ – Edwin Louis Cole
- ‘Every time I see my brother, I just praise God for God's grace in his life. Because if God can change Franklin from a prodigal into a man of God, he can do it for anybody’ – Anne Graham Lotz
- ‘The thrill of coming home has never changed’ – Guy Pearce
- ‘Every parent is at some time the father of the unreturned prodigal, with nothing to do but keep his house open to hope’ – John Ciardi
Homecoming can mean one thing to a student, another thing to a prodigal and then there’s the fish! To be precise, the Atlantic Salmon known for its large size at about a metre long, for its ability to leap almost 4 metres high, for its magnificent taste but also for its remarkable life ending with its final homecoming. This fish can live in freshwater and saltwater and swims up to 6000 miles. It has many larger predators to outwit before sensing it is time to make the final journey home to the same river and often the exact place where it was birthed. To achieve this, it relies on its remarkable sense of smell. Having gone through seven stages of life (egg, alevins, fry, parr, smolt, adult, and kelt) the salmon doesn’t get much of a homecoming welcome as it returns to spawn but often dies soon after. Does a fish have emotions when it senses it’s time to return home or is it truly a ‘cold fish’?!
- ‘It's always good to remember where you come from and celebrate it. To remember where you come from is part of where you're going’ – Anthony Burgess
- ‘Everyone goes astray, but the least imprudent are they who repent the soonest’ – Voltaire
- ‘People seldom do what they believe in. They do what is convenient, then repent’ – Bob Dylan
- ‘Forgiveness provides hope, joy, and a bright future that nothing else can’ – Paul J Meyer
Providing wool gives sheep a somewhat brighter future than the pig which has only its meat to offer! No wonder that shepherds generally bond more with their sheep than swineherds with their pigs. How fitting then that our relationship with the Lord is compared to that of a trusting sheep with the caring shepherd. Psalm 23 portrays this for us right through to our homecoming, for it is the shepherd who is with us the entire journey home. With him:
- We lack nothing – all is provided
- He leads us on to safe green pastures and quiet waters
- Our souls are refreshed by his reassuring presence and find peace
- The pathway is made obvious and cleared of hazards
- Complete protection is given even as daylight fades and night beckons
- He tells us about our homecoming where a feast and celebration awaits
It was something like this for the prodigal son when the father runs to greet him, gives new clothes and throws a party. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who knows his sheep and his sheep know his voice. He tells us that a place is prepared for us and all will be well. When older people out-survive their peers, they can begin to feel strangers among a generation that speaks a different language and has an alien culture. Yet for those who know ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’, they can be certain that they are headed to a generous table set with a place for them, among a people who speak the same language and have the same culture – HOME. Every child of God is ‘homeward bound’ where ‘love lies waiting’ for the best is yet to come. The nearer we get, the clearer we hear the music. Not so for the poor pigs as market day draws closer!
TAGS – judgement, end times, death, transformation, heaven, rod, staff, comfort