Well, I want to begin by thanking church member Dick Lucier once again for those wonderful words about our Stephen Ministry program. It was seven years ago now that church member Paul Burdick and I went to Pittsburgh for a week-long Stephen Ministry training. And at that training, there were more than 300 people from more than 60 Christian denominations.
Well, as I mentioned at the top of the service today, the theme for our worship today is being at home with God. And so I've titled My homily this morning. “There is no place like home.”
There's no place like home! That’s the truth. And of course, we all know that quote from The Wizard of Oz. It's one of my favorite spiritual stories of all time. Now, I know that many of you think that the Wizard of Oz is merely a children's story, but it is actually a very profound and very powerful spiritual story. It's a story that has its roots right here in West Michigan.
Well, let me start off by saying that no, I did not make a mistake and read the Gospel reading from two Sundays ago. I promise it is not the same reading, although it sounds almost exactly the same. If you look at it, it's a continuation of that reading. And Jesus just repeats himself. He says the same exact thing he said in the earlier passage -- whoever eats of the bread of life will live forever.
After hearing that horrible story, I wonder if you paused even for a moment before responding, “Praise to you, Oh Christ.” It’s a hard passage to give praise for. It’s a horrendous story, full of debauchery, murder, corruption, lying, even stupidity.
Well, most of you know that I grew up Catholic. And when I was in Catholic elementary school, I served as an altar boy. Maybe some of you did, too. Now, back then, when people came up for communion on Sunday, they didn't receive the wafer in their hand, they received Communion on their tongue. And so we had a really important job. During communion, we held a gold plate, called a paten under people's chins. In case the wafer fell out of their mouths, we had to be sure to catch it. And if it ever hit the floor, boy, were we in trouble!