Ezra ran a restaurant.
In some ways this was his way of caring for people; by providing them with something mouth-watering and appetizing. They could feed to their heart's delight at Ezra's and this in turn gave Ezra a great deal of delight and satisfaction.
Now he had not always run the restaurant. It had first belonged to Mrs. Scarlotti and Ezra had worked for her, but when retired the business was turned over to Ezra and he came up with this idea:
"he'd cook what people felt homesick for- tacos like those
from vendor's carts in California, which the Mexicans were always pining after; and that wonderful vinegary North Carolina BBQ that Todd Duckett had to have brought by his mother several times a year in cardboard cups.
He would call it the Homesick restaurant.
(From the novel Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler, Berkeley Books)
The Homesick restaurant. What would you put on the menu if you ran the Homesick restaurant? If you ran a restaurant and put on the menu all the things you pine for. The things you got at home. The foods you really miss.
I would probably start off my homesick menu with the dessert side of the menu.
First would have to be my Grandma's homemade cake donuts liberally covered in sugar.
Those were the days when I would sit at the kitchen table and watch my grandmother mix up the batter and I would cut the donuts out with a cutter . She would put them in the hot oil and cook them and I would sugar them. Delicious. Awesome.
Then there would be the cookies. In our house we called the cookies after the kids. There are Ranal cookies named after my eldest brother and there are Harry cookies named after you know who. Warning. These cookies are highly addictive.
Then there are the puddings. The favourite is Grandma's Lemon souffle. The standards are rice pudding and tapioca pudding and custard. But there is also Christmas pudding with the brown sugar sauce.
These are the things I used to order when I would back Home to New Brunswick. It is funny that no matter where one lives, where one grew up is usually referred to as home. I have not lived full time in Hampton since about 1974.
Oh, there are lots of other things to put on the Homesick menu. Grandma's icicle pickles and Great Gram's mustard relish. Huge turkey dinners with umpteen dozen helpings and tons of people around the table.
Stew Yep. Good old fashioned stew.
Toad in the hole. Egg inside a bun with meted cheese.
Baked Alaska. Strawberry shortcake. Hot rhubarb with biscuits and ice-cream.
Later on, after meeting Fiona there was Cloutie Dumpling. A Scottish pudding which used to get from my Mother-in-law for my birthday.
Oh! I am back on the dessert menu again.
What would you put on the Homesick menu?
What was your favourite meal growing up?
Are your tastebuds beginning to awaken? Is your mouth watering? Are you getting those special memories?
You see food is much more than food. It is not just the donuts or the turkey which was enjoyable. The food you are homesick for has to do with more than taste; it has to do with place and time and the experience of joy and comfort or love.
When I am homesick for Grandma's donuts, I am pining away for that beautiful experience of sitting with her and being loved and included and valued. The food and the love go together.
What are you Homesick for? Food ... Love
Someone told me that when He was a teenager he had his buddy and they would often eat at each other's house. One day at a hockey game the two mothers were sitting together and the one turned to another and said; "My but your son is a good eater."
"Well yours is a pretty good eater too"
"How do you know that?"
"Well the 2 boys eat every night at my house. I ought to know."
"What do you mean? The two boys eat every night at my house.
“Well, how can they be eating at your house?"
It turned out that the two friends were eating two meals every night. One meal with one family and the second with the other family.
I thought that was kind of funny, but I thought it was kind of neat too. Those two boys. It was like they had 2 families where they felt loved and welcomed. Where they could be nourished and fed in more ways than one.
What are you Homesick for?
What would you put on the menu?
It seems to me that church should be a kind of Homesick restaurant. It is the place we come to meet out deepest longings; the things we hunger most for.
Sometimes we do not know what we are hungry for and we stand in front of the fridge with the door open letting all the cold air out while we are trying to figure out what it is that we want.
Sometimes that is what it is like at church. We want something special to happen but we are not sure what that is.
Here we are at the Homesick church and what is on the menu for this World-wide Communion Sunday?
Well, it is a good old-fashioned menu right out of the book of acts: "The disciples devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and fellowship to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
The first thing on the menu at church is a God's word.
That's what they were fed. Apostles’ teaching. And that is what we are Homesick for all of us.
A word from God.
A message from God. A communication from the Almighty.
Something greater than ourselves. Something to give us purpose and meaning and guidance.
A word of love.
A word of forgiveness.
A word of encouragement.
A word of kindness.
A word of life and joy.
When we read the bible, and read the stories of Jesus, an amazing thing can happen, we can be brought into the very presence of God, and the stories about the people in the bible, become our story and God's story.
The bible is not just some kind of historical document. It is an introduction to a relationship with God.
One day you will read a bible story, or hear a bible story, or even tell a bible story and you will say.
Hey that story is about me. God is speaking to me.
One day you will hear a sermon and think to yourself. Did Harry mean that for me?
In fact, just last Sunday after the worship service, someone sent me an email, asking if I had been spying on them, because last week’s sermon was all about them.
When it sounds like the sermon is speaking to you, it almost always is God is speaking to you.
God's word of love, forgiveness and grace is what we hunger for and what we are homesick for.
And it is on the Communion menu today.
The next item on the menu is each other.
That is who we are Homesick for - Each other.
We hunger for community and we hunger for someone or some ones who will be close to us.
We hunger for intimacy. Another word for that is communion. We hunger to commune with someone else.
That was also on the menu of the early church. They devoted themselves to fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers.
That is a beautiful picture of the church. Together. Sharing and worshipping and praising God. They prayed together, laughed together and cried together.
They ate together with glad and joyous hearts.
Way back when the whole thing began as the story goes, God decided that it was not good that the man should be alone. ( the hebrew word for man is “Adam”) Humans were not meant to be all alone. So, there is a helper, a partner for Adam
Not a slave or a servant. The whole point is that God makes for man an equal. The animals would not do.
They were not equals. God says "it is not good to be alone.'
And we still are hungry and homesick for an end to loneliness and to find people who understand us and love us and accept us. Without that we die.
And so here we are today at the church we are on the Communion menu. One another. People who love and want to be loved. Hearts with gladness who want to give and give and give. We are here for each other.
The first followers of Jesus shared as the church has never shared since. When you share all your possessions you share your lives.
Leo Bebb, the odd evangelist in Frederick Buechner's novel "Love feast” threw a thanksgiving meal and invited anyone in town who would come. When they had assembled he said:
"The kingdom of God is like a great feast... a love feast where no one is a stranger." Then he said:
"We all got secrets.. Hurtful things. Long ago things. We're all scared and lonesome, but most of the time we keep it hid. It's like everyone of us has lost the way so bad we don't even know which way is home anymore only we are ashamed to ask. You know what would happen if we would own up we're lost and ask. Why, what would happen is we'd find out home is each other. We'd find out home is Jesus loves us lost or found or any whichway."
We’d find out home is each other.
When Jesus brings us together, he feeds our souls each other. We are made to love one another.
We are on the communion menu today.
And Jesus is on the menu. Ultimately that is what we are homesick for. Jesus, loving us lost or found, or any whichway.
Jesus is found in many places. I have found Jesus in animals and in movies and in friendships and in nature, and on a mountain, and going for a walk, and in good books, and in good conversation, and in music.
But the place I meet Jesus most, is at church in worship.
In worship we talk to him, we sing about him, we listen to his word in scripture and in the sermon, we give an offering to him.
One place to meet Christ at worship. He is the one we hunger for. He is on the menu today.
There is forgiveness here, and there is a welcome home. There is a Saviour here who understands everything, because there is nothing he has not experienced of the push and pull of the human heart, of pain and sorrow, joy and happiness, every desolation, every broken heart and every heart on fire.
And this Saviour is not just sitting with his arms crossed, just waiting to see if we are smart enough and hungry enough to come home. This Saviour is not even peering out the window waiting anxiously for us to arrive.
This Saviour is the Shepherd leaving the 99 safe ones and going after the one that is lost.
She's the woman turning the house upside down and looking for her cherished coin.
He's a father running down the street to greet his son he thought was dead.
She's the merchant who sells everything she has in order to purchase the pearl of great price.
He's the king throwing a banquet and sending his servants to bring in everybody, anybody they can find.
Today Jesus is on the menu.
Today you meet Jesus Christ.
He is the one you are Homesick for because it was through him and by him and in him you were made.
When you come home to him you find out who you really are.
…That you are child of divine love and that you were made to give and receive love. That you are precious and special and wonderful.
That you are an extraordinary human, capable of the most extraordinary gifts of creativity and love.
Maybe you think you are, or feel you are, or have been treated like the ugly duckling, or a poor girl slaving away in the cinders, or some slimy frog…
But Jesus says that you are really a prince or a princess of love, and he gives you the power to be transformed into what God created you to be in the first place.
It is the experience of the church for almost 2000 years and it happens over and over again.
This communion we are thankful for a word of God, for each other and for Jesus…
and today we are going to make a feast of it.
Jesus is here this Communion meal and he takes an apron and waits on every table. Yours too.
"What would you like?" he asks.
We stammer and ask for a little time. We are not sure what we want, what we are homesick for. He's patient.
"What do you recommend?" we ask nervously.
"I recommend the special" he replies.
We pause looking worriedly for the prices. We can't find any prices. You know you’re in trouble when they don't list the prices.
"How.. How much is the special?" we blurt out.
Jesus looks right into our eyes. "Don't worry" he gently says. "The Special is love, with two sides, grace and forgiveness, and it's on the house. Welcome home."