May 16, 2007

The Homecoming

2007 1514 page30 capow amazing when the Holy Spirit breaks into our ordinary day and captures our imaginations. I had one such experience last summer worth sharing.
My husband, Mark, was invited to attend the International Bible Conference in Turkey. For two weeks he basked in Mark Finley’s devotionals about the seven churches of Revelation and in the discourses of our church’s scholars. As if that wasn’t enough, he toured the ancient cities of those first-century churches. On his birthday and the final day of the conference, he was on Patmos where John received the Revelation of Jesus Christ.
That’s all very extraordinary. Now back to my ordinary existence. I was glad Mark had “Patmos” for his birthday, but sorry I could not celebrate with him on that day. So rather than having a taxi pick him up at the airport the next day, I decided to surprise him and be there to greet him.
Sitting in the international waiting area outside the customs gate in an airport on a hot, humid day is not fun. Sweating and crowded by other sweaty people and squealing, squirming children is what we endure as we wait for the sweet reunion. And it was in this very earthy and ordinary place that the Holy Spirit broke into my mind and took the focus off me, giving me a fresh insight into what Jesus had communicated so often throughout His ministry: the promise of a joyous homecoming we would share with Him one day.
2007 1514 page30The heat, the crowd, and the noise were no longer annoying. I was captivated and inspired by the little scenes playing out all around me. I began to notice the reactions of the groups of people each time the door to the customs area opened and a few more individuals would come through. I noticed the mother holding her child, pointing toward the door to look for Daddy, and the wide-eyed joyful anticipation that crossed the faces of adults and children. I saw one group with a big bunch of balloons, and one balloon with the word “Congratulations” on it, and another in the shape of a champagne bottle. Clearly they were ready to party!
Each time the customs door swung open, a hush came over the crowd, conversations ended in midsentence, and babies stopped squirming. All attention was focused on the people coming through. The sounds changed to tender, sweet, and celebratory outbursts as people were reunited, or perhaps united for the first time. I was struck by the peering and straining of each body, as if willing their friend or loved one to come through the door right then. I wondered about the stories behind each anticipated arrival. I watched those arriving, scanning the crowd for a familiar face or for a sign with their name on it so they could continue to their final destination.
I have always particularly loved the parables of Jesus—especially the ones about joyous celebrations in heaven. I never tire of reading them and learning about how deliberately Jesus tried to fill us with a vision of our heavenly Father—of how He feels about us, and of all He desires for us. Even in His darkest moments before His arrest, Jesus was comforting His disciples, telling them of the joy they would have when He comes to take them to His home, one He was going to prepare for them and us. These words and the parable of the prodigal son—about the party the angels have every time one soul repents—resonate deeply in me.
I’ve been anticipating the return of Jesus since I accepted Him as my personal Savior when I was 10 years old. But my imaginings have been about how awesome that event will be, what it will be like to see Jesus’ face, and about the reunion with family and friends who have died. But as I sat in that airport, the Holy Spirit gave me a glimpse of something more. I became aware of that heavenly family of angels and unfallen beings from all over the universe gathering at the gates of our new home, peering and straining to see Jesus return with this redeemed, rebel race. They will welcome us with shouts of joy and open arms.
Mark had his extraordinary imaginings on Patmos, but I’ve had the Homecoming!
Jean Kellner is an editorial assistant at the Adventist Review.