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Coming home

To explore the meaning of ‘home’ and to reflect on God’s call to each of us to ‘come home’.

by Paul Hess

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To explore the meaning of ‘home’ and to reflect on God’s call to each of us to ‘come home’.

Preparation and materials

  • None necessary, but as pupils enter you may wish to play any of the pieces of music referred to in sections 4 and 6 below – or anything else which has ‘home’ or ‘homecoming’ as a theme.
  • A Bible for the reading from Luke 15.11–31 for the Reflection.


  1. You need to give an example of what home means to you or what symbolizes your home town for you. (I include my own example here.)

    People from Cape Town – myself included – tend to claim some kind of spiritual connection with the Table Mountain, which dominates the skyline all over the city.  One thing is for sure, whenever I am travelling back to Cape Town, the moment I catch a glimpse of that mountain – whether I am travelling by car or by plane – something stirs within my soul.  The mountain for me symbolizes a connection with my childhood, with my family and community, with a place where I was born and where I feel I belong.  In short, when I see Table Mountain, I know that I am home.
  2. Human beings seem to have two inbuilt seemingly paradoxical impulses: on the one hand the drive to explore, to push beyond the boundaries of our world as we know it; and on the other hand, there seems to be the yearning to come home, to find a place of belonging, of familiarity, of protection and nurture, a place of love.  It is a dichotomy that you experience profoundly as teenagers – a time when you are rightly seeking to loosen ties with your parental home and strike out on your own in the world – and yet at other times, at a very deep level you seek the protection and safety of home, you want to go back to the place where you belong and are loved.
  3. It is theme often taken up in literature and popular culture. In the popular 1982 science fiction film E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, the lovable Extra-Terrestrial stranded millions of miles from home echoes his first poignant words in English – now part of movie folklore – ‘ET phone home!’
  4. There are many examples of songs about home. Perhaps you can suggest some? One famous song is ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’ by the country and western singer John Denver, in which he calls plaintively to the country roads to ‘take me home to the place I belong’. Another example, by the Jamaican musician Bob Marley, is ‘Exodus’. In this song Marley sees the oppressed peoples of the world as being on a journey from the place of slavery, Babylon, to the Promised Land of freedom and redemption – their true home.
  5. The pain of exile, of being separated from home, the overpowering sense of alienation, is reflected in Psalm 137, when the people of Israel lament while they are in exile – ‘How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?’
  6. For those wrenched from their homes in Africa by the brutality of slavery in more modern times, the idea of home was also at the heart of their spirituality – home representing at times Africa, at other times Jerusalem, and ultimately heaven itself. The spirituals, such as ‘Swing low, sweet chariot’, are an articulation of the longing to go home: ‘Swing low, sweet chariot coming for to carry me home.’
  7. All of this of course suggests that home is not simply a physical place, but a spiritual and emotional place of safety – a place where we feel we belong, where we feel loved. For people of faith it is in the journey into God that we truly come home. For many of us there are times when we feel lost, confused, a sense that we don’t belong. At those moments – if we truly listen – we will hear the call of the God to come home.

Time for reflection

In this story, the Lost Son hears the call to come home when he is on the brink of despair and hopelessness.

Read from Luke 15.11–31 (you don’t need to read the whole passage: 17–22 is the crucial bit).


Lord, we often feel lost and alone in an alien and confusing world.

Thank you that you call us home to a place of belonging, safety and love.



Play one of the tracks mentioned, or another that you know with this theme.

Publication date: October 2010   (Vol.12 No.10)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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