Alan Langton writes
I am sure that most of us know and understand what it is to feel homesick. We may have experienced it when years ago we left home to work away, or to go to college, or we might have had a spell in hospital. We long to get back to the familiar closeness and regular homeliness of being at home.
I always remember the first time I went on holiday abroad and flew out for the journey---even though it was many years ago! On the return journey, as the plane broke through the clouds and we were able to see land again, the green and pleasant fields of England stretched out before us again, it felt so exciting to be coming home, even though the holiday had been memorable, and I realised the homesick twinges I had had a while away from home.
In Psalm 137 we read of the homesickness of the Israelite people when they were exiled in Babylon for eighty years away from their homeland : 'By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion,.there on the poplar trees we hung our harps.' A terrible experience, and one the Israelites never forgot in their history.
Our enforced absence from Saint Mary's Church has in many ways no doubt created a feeling of homesickness for many of us too : we want to get back home to the place which we associate with the real presence of God. I know that God is always everywhere, closer to us even than our breathing we say, but we do feel and believe that He is especially close to us in this building which has been hallowed by centuries of the prayers of faithful Arnold people. I am sure that over the last six months we have all kept our contact with God in a variety of ways - perhaps our prayers and Bible readings, perhaps watching services on the television, perhaps going to other church services somewhere, perhaps reading a devotional book, perhaps joining the weekly Zoom service, perhaps listening to Songs of Praise or the Morning Service on the radio, and so on. I have to say there has been no shortage of opportunities to keep in touch with God! But at the end of the day, we can still feel homesick!
Psalm 84 tells us : 'How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord. My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord. My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. They are happy who dwell in your House; they will for ever sing your praises.' We members of Saint Mary's have been most fortunate in having such a team of dedicated friends who have done such a splendid job of visiting, preparing prayer sheets and news sheets and distributing them, working on the cleaning of the church building ready for its re-opening. and many other things. And yet I am sure that we have all found that all other forms of virtual worship cannot satisfy our desire to return to God's House, to be at home with Him there- and this is especially true when we come to share in the sacrament of Holy Communion in the company of other people we know and love, and to experience His real Presence with us. Saint John tells us that Jesus said : 'If anyone loves me he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him (John 14, verse 23) Doesn't this remind us of the parable of the Prodigal Son, when the father looks out for his lost son day by day, desperate to see him again, and when he sees him in the far distance He runs to him and greets him with great love and joy and forgiveness.
So, we too are longing to get back to our Father's House and to receive His special blessing again, and know His cry : 'WELCOME HOME'.
Love and blessings to you all, Alan