When I was a kid, I remember I loved to watch this really obscure movie that barely anyone heard about because it was already really old even when I was little. I’m actually kind of surprised that I remember it myself, this movie was so old and unknown. It was called Wizard of Oz. You probably never heard of it, so I’ll recap it real quick. The movie is basically about the adventures of a young girl name Dorothy and her dog Toto. The house that they lived in Kansas gets swept up by a tornado with them in it, and then finds herself in a magical land called Oz. She is told that in order to get home she is to speak to the Wizard of Oz, who could certainly help her with his great power and magic and wizard-ness.
And so, adventure ensues. They meet different characters, encounter different obstacles, and battle different trials. They see strange new sights, learn about strange new creatures, and sing strange new songs. You know, now that I think about it I’m surprised that it wasn’t more popular as it’s actually not a bad movie. I’d recommend it.
Of course, I’m kidding, I’m pretty sure at least 4-5 of you have seen it. But I reason I bring it up is because of one of the lines in it kind of defines the whole movie and actually much of who we are as people. It is the line that helps Dorothy finally make it back to Kansas after all that she has gone through facing the lions, tigers, and bears, oh my. Ironically she makes friends with the lion and doesn’t even see a hint of tigers or bears, oh well. But you probably know the line I’m talking about, “there’s no place like home”.
It is this saying that helps her get home as she repeats it over and over while clicking the heels of those fabulous red shoes she was wearing, and with the help of some magic she reappears in her bed, all black and white and sepia like before, instead of the amazing Technicolor that Oz had. She had to repeat it and repeat it, over and over, and who knows? Maybe she even believed it a little. I mean she did just go through like almost 2 hours of minute after minute ordeal trying to get home, so it had better be worth it for her.
But that was kind of the point of the movie, wasn’t it? To Dorothy, there isn’t any place to her like her home, where she grew up, where her family and friends are, where she has a heart and longs for. To her, all the ordeals she had to deal with from her house landing on that witch and following the yellow brick road and falling asleep by poppy breath and being attacked by winged monkeys and all that was worth it, because there is no place like home.
I also bring up this story because it also reminds me of Jesus’ story. Luke describes Jesus’ story as a journey from baptism to Jerusalem, and it takes a surprisingly long time. Jesus goes on different adventures, meets different kinds of folk, and probably sang a couple songs here and there. All the while, Jesus had one goal in mind, to go where he is led to go, to be there where his heart is, to make it home. Jerusalem is just a place, yes, but it is the heart of Judaism and the culture of Jesus’ lineage, and where he can go to prove God’s love for and faithfulness to all people once and for all.
But that love wasn’t exactly returned. In today’s passage, some Pharisees come up to Jesus and maybe warn him, maybe threaten him, or maybe just to strike up casual conversation, but they tell him to go away because Herod, the king appointed by Rome to oversee Jerusalem, wants to kill him. Now, I should mention that this probably isn’t the same Herod that wanted to kill Jesus when the Magi very unwisely told him about the new king they want to worship, but more likely his son. So this is a younger king without experience of the massacre that happened almost 30 years prior, so we aren’t sure exactly why this Herod wants Jesus dead. Maybe he doesn’t like the things that Jesus has been saying, like calling Herod a “fox” for example. Or maybe Herod doesn’t like the idea of someone gaining a following that could overthrow the government. Or maybe Jesus’ house landed on his brother. Who knows? The point is that he dislikes Jesus enough that he wants him dead.
Another trial for Jesus. Another issue to deal with. Another reason to just give up and walk away. Jesus has ample time to do so, I mean all he has to do is stop walking in Jerusalem’s general direction and he’ll be good. There are people all around the region that love Jesus and would be happy to take him in, but for Jesus, there just is no place like home.
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” Jesus’ lament here about Jerusalem confuses me as to why he would even want to go there or even cares about the place. Because really, according to Jesus, Jerusalem sounds like an awful place to go, especially if you’re a prophet or someone sent there. It sounds like certain death.
So why? Why does Jesus long for this city so full of corruption, brokenness, and hate? Why does Jesus care so much for this city that wants him dead? Why does Jesus so willingly face all these trials and troubles to make it to this city that sounds like it doesn’t even want Jesus there? There’s no place like home, yes, but Jerusalem isn’t really Jesus’ home! He’s of no fixed address, if I understand his situation correctly.
But along with the “there’s no place like home” saying that has spoken to all of us over the years, there is another saying that adds to it and perhaps clarifies it. And that is, “home is where the heart is.” See, our “home” isn’t limited to a house (and that’s a good thing because Dorothy’s house is in Oz sitting on top of a shrivelled up witch). “Home” isn’t limited to a city or a region. “Home” isn’t limited by physical location or 4 walls. But home is where our passions lie. Home is where we find joy and peace. Home is where we have purpose, meaning, and a promise that we matter and can be cared for.
For Jesus, this home perhaps wasn’t Jerusalem, per se, but wherever God calls him to go and in whatever God calls him to do. I mean Jesus seemed perfectly happy in the wilderness that God’s Spirit led him to for those 40 days of not eating. Jesus knows that God is calling him to Jerusalem, that while people are out to get him, people don’t like him there, and it’ll lead to his inevitable death, Jesus sees the purpose of it and knows that it is where he needs to go.
And it isn’t just that, but in Jesus’ lament, I mean he really cared for Jerusalem. He truly has a passion for it. He wants to see Jerusalem safe and protected, he wants it to grow and flourish, he wants it to see it as he sees it, a beloved group of people facing pain and brokenness but at the same time full of God’s grace and mercy.
And I get how Jesus feels. I get the feeling of walking forward with passion but also the fear of danger lingering over it. I get the feeling of loving and caring about something so much but not having that love and care reciprocated. I get the feeling of just wanting to protect but are threatened with death. I mean I have 3 young kids after all, so those feelings run rampant through my head pretty much every day on my commute home from work.
So perhaps you all share the same feelings. Perhaps you know exactly what Jesus is going through in feeling so strongly called to Jerusalem but also feeling so unwelcomed and unwanted. Perhaps it rings so true in you that there is no place like home and that home is where our hearts are. I think of those who are in the profession of saving lives, like the police or fire department. I think of those stories of parents or teachers giving their lives for their children in danger. I think of the folk affected by the shootings in New Zealand, people who just wanted to worship and pray, people just like us.
These folk have found their home. They have found the places for them of comfort and support and peace. They have found joy and meaning. They have found their identity that is inspiring, uplifting, and granting a sense of call and belonging.
See, our home is wherever God takes us, wherever God is revealed to us, wherever God’s faithfulness, grace, and mercy is most clearly seen and felt, and gives us that sense of hope and peace knowing and trusting that all things come together for the good of those who wait upon the Lord.
I know our lives present to us its own sets of trials and troubles. We all face our own problems and sticky situations. We might find ourselves lost, alone, and in a foreign and uncomfortable place. But we are reminded that there is no place like home, that our homes are where our hearts are, and the journey becomes worth it because the journey itself has meaning and purpose and gives us a glimpse of who we have become, how we are created to be, and where we are going. And we are also reminded that Jesus has made his home in us, in our hearts, in our communities, in our midst, that as we together pilgrimage through this tricky thing called life in this world, we can lean on each other for support, we can lean on the Spirit for strength, and we can lean on God for the faithfulness of God’s promises of grace, mercy, forgiveness, and love, that we might be energized and renewed in our call to find our homes here, there, wherever we find God working in and through us for the sake of the world.
This Lent, let us continue travelling together, led by the Spirit, nourished and strengthened by Christ, and called by God to live in community and right relationship that we might see more clearly our homes and hearts. Thanks be to God. Amen.