As I make the turn into our neighborhood at the end of a long day, my two year old daughter frequently calls out, “Almost home!”
It never fails to make me smile. Now that she is old enough to think about things that are not immediately present, she can conjure up the images that mean “home” for her: her kitty, her play kitchen, her Pooh Bear, and her family. She knows they are waiting for her.
This phrase became the theme of a recent trip we took back to the farm where I was raised. After a very long car ride with a toddler, we were out of books, puzzles, and stories. Finally, I just kept repeating aloud to her (and to me), “Almost home!” We even turned it into a song to keep her occupied; anything for a few more tear-less miles.
On the last night of our visit, we decided to take a side trip to water the flowers on my grandfather’s grave. As we took the gravel roads out to the country cemetery, passing farmers planting corn and new baby calves lying in the pastures, we entered into a quiet state of reflection that makes room for memories and for the emotions surrounding life and death. It must have been something about the way the car turned, or the shifting of the engine’s rhythm, but as I drove in the gates of the cemetery, Annika cried out, “Almost home!”
As preachers, we talk about the Word of God breaking into our broken reality, reminding us of our identity as Children of God and of God’s promises for us. That moment in the cemetery was just as an “in-breaking” for me. The juxtaposition of youth and age, the idea of an earthly resting place as well as a heavenly home, the presence and absence of loved ones, and my inability to understand it all, gave me a sense of the holy and of God’s presence.
God’s abiding love means that at any given moment, we are “almost home,” even when we are too busy to notice. Bringing attention to that reality is one of the privileges of preaching, whether we do so in the midst of birth, death, marriage, divorce, illness, unemployment, pregnancy, miscarriage, hope, despair, or just the daily grind. As we preach, we provide images of a loving God that can accompany people when they feel most alone, or when God seems most distant. Calling out the refrain “almost home,” gives a framework for life’s moments, significant and ordinary, and reminds our people that, as they journey, God is always present with them.