Central Presbyterian Church

Massillon, Ohio

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"Returning Home"

Psalm 84: 1-4, 10-12

Psalm 118: 19-29

      As Dorothy Gale awakens from her deep slumber, she hears a familiar voice:  “Dorothy ---

Dorothy!  It’s me – Aunt Em….. Wake up honey.”  “--- no place like home….. There’s no place like

home….. no place…..”   “Dorothy, Dorothy dear, it’s Aunt Em darling.”  “Oh, Auntie Em, it’s you.”

In response to Professor Marvel who’s leaning into the window of Dorothy’s room, Uncle Henry

claims:  “She got quite a bump on the head – we kinda thought for a minute she was gonna leave

us.”  Dorothy tries to sit up in bed:  “But I did leave you, Uncle Henry – that’s just the trouble. 

And I tried to get back for days and days.”  “There, there, lie quiet now.  You just had a bad

dream.”  Then one by one, they come to her bedside:  “Sure --- remember me --- your old pal

Hunk.”  “And me ---- Hickory.”  Then Zeke:  “You couldn’t forget my face, could you?”  After

arguing that it was no dream, but rather “a real, truly live place’ --  most of it beautiful, but some

of it not very nice -- Dorothy Gale concedes, “Oh, but anyway, Toto, we’re home.”

      Well…. we’re finally home.  It looks the same.  But not quite.  It’s much brighter in here.  The

colors have changed.  The memory foam upholstery on the pews feels a lot different than the

old pew pads.  And the pews don’t move when leaned upon, and the padding doesn’t bunch up

every time we shift our weight.  The sound is crisper.  The narthex and north entryway have a

more refined appearance.  It still looks like home.  But in some ways, it’s different.  The same,

yet not the same.   We’ll never look again at our worship space in quite the same way.  Perhaps,

we’ll appreciate it more; yet may it not be so much for the brightness, or color palate, or pews

and upholstery, or sound system, or beautiful entry areas.  We’ll appreciate it less for what surrounds us,

and more for who surrounds us. 

      Dorothy was so appreciative to be back home, in her room, in her bed after her long journey

in a faraway land.  Her room was the same, but she looked at it differently.  Her bed was the

same, but it felt a little more soft and comfortable than it did before.  She was surrounded by

familiar walls, and furnishings, and wall hangings [albeit hanging a little crooked after the

storm].  But these were not the things she had a new appreciation for.  It was farmhand Hunk,

who looked the same, but different -- like a goofy but wise scarecrow.  It was farmhand Hickory,

who looked the same, but different -- like a bumbling but big-hearted tin man.  It was farmhand

Zeke, who looked the same, but different -- like a cowardly but good-intentioned lion.  Even

Professor Marvel looked the same, but different -- like a wizard, or a carriage driver in an

Emerald City.  And it was Auntie Em, who looked the same, but different – like a work-hardened

farmer’s wife whose heart broke for Dorothy’s discontent.  It wasn’t what she came home to,

but who she came home to that helped her gain a fresh appreciation for what had always been

there to begin with.  That’s the point.  And Uncle Henry was right.  She had never really left

home at all.  For those who were home had never left her

      We’ve been gone from this space for what may seem like a long time, on a journey not

so far away at all.  Most of it was beautiful, but the lighting was not very nice. The temperatures

got unbearable from time-to-time.  The sloped aisles were a long walk.  You didn’t want to go

out the east door of the theater and up the stairs toward Federal Street.  Suffice to say….nasty. 

So we return today with a fresh appreciation; but not primarily for what surrounds us, but for

who surrounds us.  And from that standpoint, we’ve never left home at all.  For we who are

home have never left one another.  While on our yellow brick road, we walked together.  And as

we had discussed on the first week we worshiped at the Lincoln Theater, the church is not what

or where.  It’s who.  That’s God, and God’s people. When we say “there’s no place like home,”

that’s what we mean.

      The Psalm numbered 84 which we read from this morning might be called ‘a psalm of

ascents.”  That is to say, it was a psalm sung or chanted by the people as they made pilgrimage

up to Jerusalem and processed into the temple they called “home.”  From its opening exclamation to its closing beatitude,

it celebrates the joys of God’s house.  “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!”  This statement makes

clear that the beauty of the dwelling was less about the where, the place, and more about who dwelt there. 

That who was God, and of course, God’s gathered people.

      In the house of God, every fiber of the people sang together for joy.  Verse 4 focuses on the

plurality of the people as it reads:  “Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your

praise.”  This is not a psalm of personal devotion or piety – not happy am I who live in your

house, but happy are we.  It is a psalm of the multitudes for the multitudes.  And it’s not a Psalm

celebrating the return to the home place – although they loved the temple space, as we love

ours – but far more a celebration of those who dwelt therein – again, God, and God’s gathered


      That should be our psalm and our acclamation this morning.  Yes, this house is lovely.  The

painting is great.  The lighting is bright. The pews are comfortable.  The carpet is soft.  The

sound is crisp.  We’re finally home!  But in a sense, we’ve never left home, as God has been

with us all along, and we have been with each other all along.  While it’s true that there’s no

place like home, it’s even more true that home is where the heart is.  And our hearts are in the

Lord, and our hearts with one another. So let’s give thanks.  Let’s give praise.  Let’s join the

acclamation of the Psalmist when he sings:  “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; he bestows

favor and honor.  No good thing does the Lord withhold from those who walk uprightly.  O

Lord of hosts, happy is everyone who trusts in you.” 




Central Presbyterian Church

47 Second Street NE
Massillon, Ohio 44646

Telephone: 330-832-7455
Fax: 330-832-7102