Greet Prisca and Aquila, who work with me Christ Jesus, and who risked their necks for my life…Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convertin Asia for Christ. Greet Mary who has worked very hard among you. Greet Andronicus and Junia, my relatives who were in prison with me; they are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our coworker in Christ, and my beloved Stachus. Greet Apelles, who is approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the family of Aristobulus. Greet my relative Herodion...greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; and greet his mother – who is a mother to me also…Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches in Christ greet you. Romans 16:3-16 (I have not included all the verses. Fun to read it all.)
Home, they say, is the place where when you have to go there, they have to take you in. Well, I don’t know about that, but as a native Southerner, I have a strong attachment to “home.,” both the people who make it home and to the land upon which I was raised.
I have lived nearly ¾ of my life in eastern North Carolina, and I love it. I have beloved friends here, and have learned to value vinegar-based barbecue sauce above the tomato based sauce of my youth. My children were all born in Rocky Mount, and to them ENC is home. And right now, my home is the lovely little city of New Bern. But were a stranger to ask me where home is, I would probably tell you that home is Union County, and the gently rolling piedmont hills.
Most every story in the Bible begins with a journey and talks about “home.” Abraham was sent by God to a place that God would show him, a land that would be “home” for him and his descendants. It continues with Moses and the Hebrews on a 40 year journey through the wilderness trying to get from Egypt back to that home.
When the Israelites were in captivity in Babylon, they thought of home, and wept when they remembered Zion. All they wanted was to go back home.
The story of Jesus begins with Mary’s journey to visit her cousin, Elizabeth. Then she and Joseph travel to Bethlehem, then to Egypt, and finally they make their way back to Nazareth and home.
These days I seem to have a particular longing to go back home…back to the days when things were familiar and routine. When we didn’t walk into the grocery store and suddenly turn on our heels and race back to our car hoping to find a mask therein so we can do our shopping. Home to a time when we got into the store and found everything we needed on the shelves. We want to come to church and greet one another with a holy kiss…or at least a holy hug or handshake. But, alas, it is not to be for the present.
We long to go to our families for the holidays, or to have them come home to us. But that isn’t going to happen this year for most folks. And so… Some days we just want to go back home. For me, these feelings of longing for home are especially strong in the fall. I miss my life-long friends who know me and accept me with all my failings.
In Paul’s letter, he seems to be having a bit of yearning for dear friends in the Roman church. Paul greets a number of folks by name, including a startling number of women. And we may be a bit surprised to note that Paul makes no distinction between the offices and duties of women and those of men.
We have all just passed through a long and harsh election period. As I write this on Wednesday afternoon, it is still not over. But we might do well to remember that Paul goes on to conclude his letter to the Romans with a focus on Christian unity.
For many of us who read this, our church is, in a very real way, our home. And where home is, there is our family. Let us greet our sisters and brothers in Christ with a holy hug…virtually.
Help us accept each other as Christ accepted us;
Teach us as sister, brother each person to embrace.
Be present, Lord, among us, and bring us to believe
We are ourselves accepted and meant to love and live.
Let your acceptance change us, so that we may be moved
In living situations to do the truth in love;
To practice your acceptance, until we know by heart
The table of forgiveness and laughter’s healing art. (UMH 560)