When Dorothy famously clicked the heels of her ruby red slippers and said, “There’s no place like home,” we all knew exactly what she meant. We knew it even if the actual house in which we were raised was anything but a home. Innate within our being and sown into the fabric of who we are is the knowledge of home. At our core we know that home is a place of affirmation and validation; a place where we can know and be known without fear of intimidation or judgment. We know that home is a place where our gifts are cherished and our God-given identity is affirmed and treasured. We long for and seek it. Because, there really is no place like home!
I’m convinced the mission of God on earth, through the revelation of Jesus Christ, is to open up the household of God to all of God’s children and create a place easily recognizable and immediately identifiable as “home.” Regrettably, organized religion has bastardized the message of Jesus Christ and perpetuated the ideology of a god who is brutal, angry and distant. In doing so, it has made the good news exclusive rather than inclusive, and that is the antithesis of home.
There is a scene in the movie “Spotlight” that is a defining moment for church and culture. About three-quarters of the way through the movie, Mike Rezendes, an investigative reporter for the Boston Globe, is clearly angered by the level of bureaucracy at the paper and the stonewalling tactics of the church. But in a moment of vulnerability, he confesses that he is distraught over something much greater and more personal. He confides to a co-worker, “I was raised in the church. My family went every week. And even though I don’t go anymore, I always knew one day I could go back. But now, after all of this, I realize I can never go home again.”
The sentiment that Mr. Rezendes shared with his co-worker is far too common in our culture. Countless numbers of human beings long for home but have resigned themselves to the pain of never having it. I understand that. I was wounded by the church. I know firsthand how genuinely painful it is to be ostracized and feel like you can never go “home” again. I spent the majority of my adult life as a gay man seeking a surrogate for home. Not unlike so many other stories, my searching took me down crooked paths to dead end roads. It was an exhausting self-indulgent path of consumerism, parties and addiction. But, one Sunday morning after a weekend of binging, something stirred within me. I realized if I didn’t respond, it would cost my life. I gathered myself together, left my husband at home in bed and made my way to an unassuming church building in a less than desirable section of Charlotte.
As I parked my car and walked down Seigle Ave., I saw people from all walks of life spilling into that white frame church. The windows were thrown open and the harmonious sounds of the choir singing “We Are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder” enriched the air. The wooden pews in that sanctuary were filled with people who were young and old, black and white, rich and poor, gay and straight, cisgender and transgender. Seven strangers hugged me, and told me they loved me and wanted me to come back. For the first time in my life, I caught a glimpse of the beloved kingdom and I experienced a taste of home. It was transformative. Through the embrace of that diverse community of Christ-followers living out the true message of Jesus Christ, I discovered that I was an object of divine grace, God loved me “just as I was” and I could find home. My life has renewed purpose. My relationship with my husband is stronger. We have a beautiful company of friends and family who know us and are known by us. We have discovered inclusion in the good news of the gospel and it feels good to finally be home.
But we are not the exception. All over this city people are finding home in communities that are partnering with God to create places where all of God’s children are welcomed, affirmed and treasured for who and what God made them to be. So, regardless of where you’ve been or what you’ve done; regardless of the labels society has placed on you or the stories that you might be telling yourself; you are loved and accepted. You are an object of divine grace and yes, you can go home. So, do a little seeking. I believe you’ll find what you’re longing for. Because, after all, there is no place like home!
info: Rev. Ken Fuquay is the planting pastor of M2M Charlotte: A Matters to Mission Worshiping Community. Visit him at M2MCharlotte.org.