Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Coming Home

I wasn’t expecting it but knew it from the first few notes.


I didn’t even know that it was in the Presbyterian hymnal, and as I flipped through the pages to find number 418, I realized that I remembered all the words, at least to the first verse. Then we sang the refrain, and that took me home.

 "Come home, come home, 

Ye who are weary come home."

Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling, 

Calling "O sinner come home. "

 The version in our recently revised purple hymnal didn't say "ye," it said "you," but in the churches of my childhood Jesus always spoke in King James English, and that is how I remembered it. The language was a bit different, but we were singing it at the end of the service, what is known in Southern Baptist congregations as “The Invitation.” I don’t recall what was being sung when, as an eight-year-old, I took that anxious walk down the aisle at the end of sermon to be saved from the Fires of Hell (I had been told specifically by church elders that I was going to burn in Hell after one particularly eventful Sunday Evening when the garter snake I had brought to show a friend “accidentally” got loose during the sermon) but it could very well have been to the strains of “Softly and Tenderly, Jesus is Calling.”

 My next few years were, I guess, a success at being part of the church community. I was adept at quoting scripture, had a decent voice for various choirs, and could easily figure out the things to do and say that made the adults happy. But by my teenage years, I started seeing and feeling a growing divide between the church and what it stood for, and the personal relationship I had with Jesus. When I left the church for the wilderness, I felt that He was calling.

 My wilderness had plenty of actual wilderness in it- more than 25 years of working in the woods, paying attention to the small details in order to ask the right questions of the big picture, and trying to bring it all together in a greater understanding of the whole revealed no conflict between using the scientific method and being still, to hear the voice of God.

The archeological investigations were always best understood as being into one part of the total environmental setting, the clues of human behavior in the past as modifications made to the natural systems, and as well my understanding of world religions became one of similar function, not limited to the modification of God’s natural love for us, but from how we grew to impose our own systems of how to treat each other as well, from relationships to politics. And though how we treat our gifts from God, our planet and each other, has become a point of increasing dismay, the third verse of the hymn gave me hope-

 O for the wonderful love he has promised,

promised for you and for me!

Though we have sinned, he has mercy and pardon,

pardon for you and for me.

 And then again the refrain, which I sang as written in our hymnal, because at that moment, surrounded by these voices, this church family, and being part of a denomination that is truly working to glorify as well as realize the love of God through justice, inclusiveness, and action, I was truly Home.

 Come home, come home, 

You who are weary come home."

Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling, 

Calling "O sinner come home. "

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