Preaching at Concordia Lutheran


Today I had the great joy of preaching in a rural congregation a few miles outside Albert Lea. Wonderful folks; gracious hospitality. Lovely Sunday! The sermon is based on the narrative lectionary text - Matthew 2:13-23. Here it is:

Sermon: Finding Home

It is a joy to be here with you this morning! My name is Pastor Emily. I served for about 5 years at a congregation in Stewartville, Minnesota - and for the last 9 months, I have served as Director of Communications for our Southeastern Minnesota Synod. Pastor Wendy Anderson is an outstanding person and friend. We both attended the same seminary in Chicago, though we never attended at the same time. I started just as she was finishing up. When Pastor Wendy asked if I’d be able to pulpit supply for her on the Sunday after New Year’s, I was honored and excited. I receive your newsletter each month, and always look forward to it! You are a community who cares deeply for one another, and I am thankful for the chance to worship God together today, January 4, 2015!

Can you believe it? January 4! So Christmas and New Year’s have now passed; here we are in 2015. The holidays are a time that is often centered around “home” - coming home - going home -remembering home from years gone by - perhaps you consider home to be your own dwelling or that of a relative or friend. Maybe the holidays are a time when your home is packed with people. Or maybe for a variety of reasons, your holidays are more like mine….quiet. Maybe alone. Maybe with a few other people. Home takes many forms - and as we all know, it’s not constant. The meaning of “home” changes throughout our lives due to realities like occupation, marriage, divorce, death, health, and aging. I have a dear friend who wrote last week to share about her first Christmas at a Care Center...certainly she understands these realities about the many shapes and forms of home.

Our Gospel text for today is about Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus - and their search for home throughout the early years of Jesus’ life. It was a very difficult time for them. It’s their homecoming story. This Bible reading is also a reminder to all of us that while our lives and seasons change...and the buildings where we live and celebrate and spend time might change...and our families might change - we have a permanent home in the presence of God. God always leads us home. Because wherever we are, God is with us. And that’s our true home. In this life and in eternity. Being in the presence of God.

Our lesson for this morning comes from the very early portion of the Gospel of Matthew - Chapter 2. In chapter 1, we learn the full family tree - from Abraham to Jesus. Then the story of Jesus birth as told from Joseph’s perspective. Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem when the wise men arrived - sent by King Herod to pay a visit. After the wise men presented gifts to young Jesus (thought to be a toddler at the time), they have a dream and are warned NOT to go back to Herod. Herod was jealous, fearful, and insecure. He becomes enraged and calls for the murder of all under 2.

Joseph has a dream…“flee to Egypt with Mary and the baby...stay there; Herod wants to kill your son.” As we journey through the Christmas story, it’s easy to brush right off this section. It’s terrible. But worth pausing to imagine it. A young family - forced to leave what’s familiar - afraid, uncertain, no place to call home.

The extended family unit was integral to life in this time period and culture. Joseph and Mary certainly depended on their families for support and connectedness - just like everyone else. Especially with a young child! They had a clearly identified HOME. But then - out of nowhere - they have to leave it all behind and become refugees in Egypt...a land with different norms and cultures and routines...without family.

The meaning of home was shifting for Mary and Joseph during those early years...they were realizing that it was less about a place and more about the presence of God. First, they had to travel to Bethlehem for the census. Had their baby there. And then had to go to Egypt. So they stay in Egypt for awhile. We don’t know exactly how long. Speculated to be a few months to a year or two. And then Joseph has another dream… “you can go back now.” But understandably, Joseph is still afraid. The Gospel says that the son of Herod is now in charge, and that makes Joseph anxious. He ends up back home in Nazareth. A lot of uncertainty.

Mary and Joseph experienced a lot of challenges on their journey home….fear, surprise, danger, sadness, changes, messengers, guidance, protection, warnings. There was a lot of instability...but through it all, God was present. Fully present and fully active in their lives. They learned that home was less about a building - less about perfectly met expectations of what life SHOULD be….more about trust in the presence of God.

For us, too, home changes...life changes…but God doesn’t change. God’s grace remains. God’s love remains. God’s awareness of us remains. Accepting the various stages of “home” and how it changes is not always an easy process...in fact, it’s usually really hard. Adjusting our expectations is no small task; adjusting what we think we want and deserve for life and home, it’s a challenge. But there is comfort in the promises of God. Just as Mary and Joseph experienced God’s promises in the midst of fear and turmoil, we, too, experience God’s promises and nearness.

This family of faith - this congregation - is a community of people who remind one another of the real meaning of home. This is a place to come every week - no matter what else happens in life - and proclaim God’s love, God’s grace, God’s presence. You pray for one another; you serve the greater community. Our synod, too, exists for this same core purpose - to serve God and love a world in need. 176 congregations, 122,000 people - connected to our larger denomination - together proclaiming that God is love and that no matter what, we have a home; we belong. Our shared commitment - as congregation, synod, and denomination - is to being people who spread the love of Christ wherever we go. We can do more together than we can do alone.

Mary and Joseph went through many challenges first hand - as they found their way home. God was with them. And they learned that experiencing God’s nearness was their real home. May we all be reminded that wherever the road leads in 2015, we, too, have a home in the presence of God. That nearness of the Spirit is with us wherever we go. And that is a home that is constant and forever full of love, acceptance, and peace.



  1. You were preaching in a place I call "home"! My home congregation! Grew up in the house right across the street! Wonderful wonderful people of God in that place and immensely formative to my own faith development! Thanks for sharing such a good Gospel word with them yesterday and a good devotional start to my own day!

    1. Super cool, Anj! I didn't realize that connection; how awesome! :) :) :) It was a wonderful morning!