Not Home Yet

Philippians 3:20-21

20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Dear Friends in Christ,

There are few times more exciting in the life of a family than when the decision is made to get a dog, especially a brand new puppy.  Now I realize that not everyone would agree with that statement like my wife, for instance.  Marilyn was not raised with a dog in the home and so she never had much of a desire to have one.  In all fairness to her, she’d already married one slobbering and shedding beast.  So why invite a 2nd one into the home?

But being the wonderful, kind, loving, sacrificing woman that she is she consented many years ago to allow our family to have a dog in the home.  Actually unbeknownst to her, I’d already done all the legwork.  I’d gone to see this litter of miniature dachshund puppies that I’d heard about.  I’d even picked one out.  That was the easy part.  The tough part, I knew, was going to come when I would have to try to convince Marilyn that our daughters needed a dog that they could grow up with, though in fact it was really I who wanted it.  But much to my surprise it wasn’t that difficult to convince her, especially once she saw what I hoped would be our future puppy.  For she was absolutely adorable and irresistible – this cute tiny dark brown bundle of wiener dog that we named Kibbles.

I can still remember the day we brought her home.  We were living in Tuscola at the time while Kibbles’ owners lived in Charleston where they’d had a major ice storm the night before.  But nothing was going to deter us from getting our puppy.  So we slipped and slid our way there and even had to park a couple blocks from the home where Kibbles was because of downed trees and power lines.  But finally we got her and she was ours and remained ours for the next 12 years until she developed health issues that forced us to have her put to sleep.

Before we brought her home though we’d done certain things for her.  We’d already claimed her as our own; we’d paid for her; we’d named her; and we’d prepared a special place for her in our house.  Does that sound familiar?  It should because isn’t that what God has done for us?  Didn’t he claim you as his own on the day you were baptized?  Didn’t he pay a price for you that consisted not of gold or silver, as Peter says in his 1st epistle, but of his Son’s holy and precious blood?  Didn’t he give you a name that no other name on earth can compare to, namely, CHILD OF GOD?  And isn’t he preparing a place for you?  Like Jesus says in John 14:2:  “In my Father’s house are many rooms…I am going there to prepare a place for you.”

Now think about that for a moment.  If Jesus is preparing a place for us in his Father’s house, you know what that means?  That means, as I’ve stated in our sermon title, we’re not home yet.  And that’s exactly what Paul tells us in our text when he says, “Our citizenship is in heaven.”  I like how the Living Bible paraphrases that verse when it says, “But our homeland is in heaven.”

And the first point that I want to make today as we explore this theme of not being home yet is that God has a better home for you, a home that is far nicer than any you could ever have here.  Can you remember a time in your life when you were homesick?  I sure can.  I believe I had just gotten out of the 4th or 5th grade and I was going to summer camp at Pere Marquette State Park near Grafton, IL.  It was the first time I’d ever been away from home by myself.  Though I hadn’t even entertained the possibility of getting homesick, I don’t think anything could have prepared me for what I went through that week.

It was like I had this big hole in the pit of my stomach all week long.  All I could think about was my mom and dad and what was going on at home.  Things finally got so bad that I started making regular visits to the nurse who became kind of like my mother figure and whom I would follow around like a lost puppy.  I remember when my dad came to pick me up the following Friday.  The first words I said to him were, “Do I have to come back here next year?”

You know, what I felt that week, I suspect some of you may be feeling right now.  Maybe you’ve felt that way ever since you buried your spouse or your parent or child.  Maybe you’ve felt that way ever since you learned about the lump in your breast or the spot on your lung.  Maybe you’ve felt far from home ever since divorce or conflict has caused your own home to fall apart.

We all know what it’s like to feel far from home, don’t we?  And you know what, folks?  That’s ok.  That’s ok because we aren’t supposed to feel at home here.  In fact, pain on earth is a reminder from heaven that we were not made for this place.  Does a fish ever feel at home on the beach?  Does a lion ever feel at home in the concrete jungle of the city?  Does a bird ever feel at home in a cage?  Likewise, can a child of heaven ever feel at home anywhere but heaven?

So don’t be concerned if this world doesn’t feel like home.  Be concerned, however, when this world does begin to feel like home.  Like one author has put it:  “The greatest calamity is not to feel far from home when you are, but to feel right at home when you are not.”

But not only does God have a better home for you, he also has a higher hope for you.  In v.20 of our text Paul says, “And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Recently I read about a Christian couple who had been unable to have any children of their own, so they decided to adopt not one but two children.  Before the lengthy process came to its long-anticipated conclusion though the two little ones stayed in a foster home until all the paper work had gone through.  During that period of time, the soon-to-be-parents would call their soon-to-be-children on the phone and speak to them about their “forever home,” their home where they wouldn’t be shuffled around anymore like a couple of pieces of baggage, as so often happens with foster children.  And the children would say, “But when are you coming to get us?”

You know, that’s not a bad prayer for us, is it?  “Father, when are you coming to get us?  When are you coming to take us to our forever home?”  Isn’t that the hope that you and I cling to each and every day as we pass through this earthly vale of tears with all its trials and tribulations, all of its troubles and challenges that come our way?  It’s not that we have some sort of death wish or anything like that, but rather we have this internal compass, if you will, that keeps pointing and directing us to our forever home.  And even though none of us has any idea when that day of departure from this life will happen, we need to be ready; we need to be prepared.  And according to the Bible, the only way we can be is by looking to Jesus and trusting his sacrifice and death on the cross as the full and sufficient payment for all of our sins – sins that would have otherwise prevented us from ever enjoying eternal fellowship with God in the matchless beauty and glory and splendor of his heavenly kingdom.

So God has a better home for you.  He has a higher hope for you.  And lastly (and you’re going to love this), he has a body of health for you.  In v. 21 of our text Paul writes:  “By the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, (he) will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”

Are you happy with your body right now?  I would imagine about 99% of us would answer no to that question.  At our Central Illinois District Convention this past July Pastor Mark Miller was re-elected to a 2nd term as our District President.  Mark was a former classmate of mine when I attended Concordia Senior College in Ft. Wayne.  In fact, we lived in the same dorm and played a lot of pool together.  Back then he was this skinny kid who would have made a great poster child for the proverbial 98–pound weakling.  But he’s added a few pounds since then as you can see from his picture.  In fact, we were talking one time about his rather noticeable weight gain and he jokingly said, “Yeah, I’m more than twice the man I used to be.”  I may be wrong, but I have a feeling he’s looking forward to a new body.  And I suspect you are too.

Some of you can probably relate to what one fellow wrote as he contemplated his aging body.  He said, “I’m getting old.  I’m patting myself less on the back and more under the chin.  I have everything I had 20 years ago except that now it’s all lower.  The other day I tried to straighten out the wrinkles in my socks and found I wasn’t wearing any.  With the exception of dental problems, intestinal malfunctions, muscle deterioration, emotional instability and memory lapses, hearing and vision losses, impotence, seizures, strokes, prostate trouble, reduced limb functions, massive coronary failure, and of course death, I’m doing fine.”

Growing old definitely has its draw-backs, doesn’t it?  Like I’ve said so many times over the years, what we often refer to as the golden years should really be called the rusty years.  If you want to see an example of a body that is deteriorating, just take a look sometime at the Confirmation pictures on the wall leading into the gym and pay close attention to your pastor’s beard which from year to year gets grayer and grayer.  Now I’d love to say that’s because of some of the Confirmation classes I’ve had, but I know better than that.  It’s just the aging process taking hold.

But you know what?  I’m ok with that because this body that I inhabit right now is not my permanent home, at least not as it is now.  For like Paul says in our text, on the day that Christ returns to this earth, (he) will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” You understand what that means, my friends?  That means that someday this weak, feeble, wrinkled, graying, worn out body is going to undergo the most remarkable change and it’s going to become a copy, a replica, if you will, of Christ’s glorious body.  Remember what kind of body he had after his resurrection?  On the one hand it was similar to the one he had before in that people could recognize him and Thomas could touch him and Jesus could eat.  But on the other hand it was different in that it wasn’t bound by time or space.  Jesus could pass through walls as he did with the disciples when they were hiding behind locked doors in that upper room in Jerusalem.  He could suddenly vanish from sight as he did when eating with the 2 disciples in Emmaus.  He could ascend into heaven without any visible means of support to carry him there.  His was a glorious body, a perfect body, a healthy body, a strong body, an immortal body that had defeated death, never to die again.  That’s the kind of body we’re going to have someday, my friends, so long as we continue to place our faith and trust in the One who died and rose again to make that possible for us.

So it’s true.  We really aren’t home yet, are we?  And as we anxiously await that day when we will be and we meanwhile struggle with the heartaches and hardships that this old world sometimes throws our way, let us remember and stay focused upon all that Paul has told us today in our text, namely, that God has a better home for you.  He has a higher hope for you.  And he has a body of health for you.  And when that time comes, I guarantee that we’ll be able to say what Dorothy said over and over again in the classic movie The Wizard of Oz:  “There’s no place like home.  There’s no place like home.  There’s no place like our heavenly home.”