Does this place feel like home to you? Some of you may answer, “Yes! This is where I am comfortable. This is where I was baptized, confirmed, married. I’ve been going here for years. This place feels like a warm hug.” Others of you might answer, “Home? I have not been going here long enough to call this home yet.” Or even “Home? This is supposed to feel like home? It used to feel that way until…” Or “It has never felt like home to me. I feel like a stranger. Sometimes I feel like I am not wanted.” No, this doesn’t feel like home to everyone.
Whether you feel like this is your home or not, I want to share with you something real. Gathering with a group of Christians is home. It is home not because it “feels” right, not because it is “perfect,” and not because it is the right location/style. Whether you are part of the in crowd or whether you feel alienated from the Christian family, you are part of a spiritual family. Your brother, Jesus, says, “Welcome home.”
In Hebrews 2, we are told something remarkable. The eternal God of the universe is our brother. Jesus, who is described in Hebrews 1 as the “heir of all things” (1:2), “the radiance of God’s glory and exact representation of his being” (1:3), he is “sustaining all things by his powerful word” (1:3), the one about whom the Father says, “Let all God’s angels worship him” (1:6) and “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever” (1:8) and “In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands” (1:10). He is your brother. That is mind blowing.
It’s not particularly amazing because of who he is, but because of who we are. It is like in the Chevy Chase movie, “Christmas Vacation,” we are introduced to his character’s down-and-out brother-in-law who drives a beat-up Winnebago, his raggedy niece and nephew, and his snarky in-laws. They say you can’t pick your family. Jesus chooses us as his family. I just compared you to Chevy Chase but bear with me for a minute as we look from Jesus’ perspective.
Jesus has witnessed destructive family behaviors from the beginning. If you were raised in a warm, loving family, the thought of going home immediately brings joyful thoughts to mind. Some of my strongest memories were being around family eating food, laughing with and at one another. But not everyone was raised in such an environment. The thought of some of your childhoods brings back feelings of sadness, loneliness, hatred, and hurt.
Likewise, some Christians have a wonderful experience in God’s house, caring and supportive. But others have experienced unloving attitudes and actions. And all of us can agree that we’ve been part of the problem. We’ve given someone the cold shoulder, overly criticized someone, spoken harshly, harbored grudges and bitterness. There is little reason anyone should be proud to call us family.
And Jesus loves us? He calls us his family, even with the disfunction? More than that, he is proud to call us his family. Notice what he said in Hebrews 2. “So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. 12 He says, ‘I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises.’” There is pride in those words. He is proud to call us family. He doesn’t look past our faults, he fixes them.
Jesus took your sins upon himself and did what you could not do: win heaven. He died because of you and he died for you. You get forgiveness and the holiness that you so desperately need to be part of God’s family.
He is not ashamed of you. He is not disappointed in you. He is proud of you because he made you holy with his sacrifice for you. He is proud like the sibling of someone popular says “Yeah, that’s my brother/sister.” You are part of his family. 17 For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. He died so we win.
Actor Kevin Bacon recounted when his 6-year-old son saw Footloose for the first time. “Hey, Dad, you know that thing in the movie where you swing from the rafters of the building? That’s really cool, how did you do that?” He replied “Well, I didn’t do that part. It was a stunt man.” “What’s a stunt man?” His son asked. “That’s someone who dresses like me and does things I can’t do.” Later he said, “Hey, Dad, you know that thing in the movie where you spin around on the gym bar and landed on your feet? How did you do that?” “Well, I didn’t do that. It was a gymnastics double.” After silence from his son, he asked in a concerned voice, “Dad, what did you do?” He sheepishly replied. “I got the glory.” That’s you.
You get the benefit of everything in Christ. This is what you come here to hear. You don’t come because it gives you the warm and fuzzies (even though sometimes it does). You come because he is here to forgive your sins so you don’t need to fear God’s anger, to promise you eternal life so you need never fear death, to strengthen you so you never fear temptation. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. You come to receive the good stuff. Like grandma at Thanksgiving who can’t help but feed everyone, we can’t help feeding you the good news when you come here.
That’s why we want to come and be together often. We are not wired to exist as rugged individuals. We need one another. God designed us to be this way and God redeemed us to be family in Christ. People often ask if someone can be a Christian without going to church. Of course you can. Are you part of the family if you don’t ever return home? Of course you are. But when you come, you get the benefits of being part of the family. You get the Lord’s Supper, which forgives your sins and sustains your faith. You get a God who serves you with exactly what you need because he knows what you need.
I get the privilege of visiting people who can’t come to worship for a variety of reasons, mostly health related. One comment I hear often is, “I want so badly to come to church. I love to sing the songs, be with fellow believers, and hear the word.” You can come and today you did. Today you are blessed because Jesus calls you brother. We are family with him, we are family with one another. Who is hurting? Who needs help? How can I serve? What can I do? This is a place we can call home, not because it is a perfect family but because Christ has brought us together, bought us from sin and death, and will be with us until we go to heaven. We are family. Welcome home!