“When the Lord brought back the captivity of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing.” Psalm 126:1-2a
We were coming home. From August 1977 to August 1980 we lived in Germany while serving in the United States Air Force. Our time there was incredible. We saw windmills in Holland, the alps of Switzerland, the famous horse-fountain in Salzburg, and ate real pizza in Italy. Where we lived was much like living in the middle of the Shawnee Forest—large rolling hills and lush green forest. We loved it.
Some hard times happened while we were there too. Those were the days of no internet, no cell phone and no overnight delivery from Amazon prime. Landline phone calls were rare and expensive and snail mail was all there was. I remember Judy receiving a letter that opened, “I guess you heard about your dad’s heart attack.” Turns out right after we left for Germany he had a massive heart attack and almost died. One night about midnight or so, a knock came at our apartment door. It was an officer from my squadron. He said I needed to call the Red Cross immediately. My mother was dying. They connected me to my sister-in-law in Florida. Her words were simple and direct, “If you want to see Mom alive you have to come now.” We made it home the day before she died.
So, our time in Germany was divine but difficult. The bottom line at the end of three years we were more than ready to come home. As the time neared and preparations were underway for our leaving and returning we started counting down. Everyone did. We would say, “25 days and a wake up. 13 days and a wake up. Three days and a wake up.” Finally, we woke up, got on a plane and came home. There was no place like home. There is no place like home.
I can remember picking our VW van at the airport (we had shipped it home) and driving. It was marvelous. We could read the signs and we could understand the people. Instead of four dollars for a gallon of gas it was 69 cents. I stopped at a market and got a fried apple pie. I can almost still taste it. For lunch we stopped at McDonald’s. No big deal right? Not at all unless you had spent the last three years explaining a cheeseburger and fries to someone who didn’t speak English. And, instead of a few dollars you paid almost twenty. As I ordered at the counter, speaking English and being understood…I wept. I apologized to the young lady and explained we had been away for three years. And I explained…there is no place like home.
Well, after too many weeks away, church families in Illinois will have the opportunity to come home. Sunday we will be gathering as a corporate body to sing, pray and preach. Now whether you are reading this in real time or months later it doesn’t matter. There is no place like home. My time in Germany taught me several things and one of them is you appreciate the simple things. A fried apple pie and a McDonald’s cheeseburger never tasted so good. My family never looked so good. Driving the roads of America never felt so good. Reading the billboards never seemed so interesting. By the way, did they ever find out who shot J.R.? Smile. Somethings were different but it was still…home.
So coming back to church is like coming home and I am almost giddy. When the Israelites realized they were coming home after 70 years in Babylon they were just a little more than giddy. Here’s what one of their songwriters wrote, “When the Lord brought back the captivity of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing.” In those words you can almost feel their excitement. Things were going to be different when they got there but that didn’t matter. They were going home.
So this weekend, and every weekend after, when you walk into your place of worship and things are just a little different, remember how it felt to come home and the different things won’t matter as much. When “Bob” irritates you at church after you’ve been back a while, just pause and remember how good it was him the first week. When the sermon seems too long, and the music too loud and the room too warm…yup…just remember how good it was…how good it is to be home. And, in a few weeks, when something fearful pops up or something rubs you wrong…just remember the time He brought you home, when you rested in Him, when you realized He’s got this. And dream. And sing. Be like the ones who knew the Lord turned our captivity. Because He has.