We have an extra busy and an extra special weekend planned and although we wish you could be here in person, we pray that your prayers join ours and that you are blessed with all the goings-on happening half a world away from you.
Tomorrow is the anniversary of the First Baptist Church of Loja and we have a full day of celebrating planned. Preparations start today for this day of rejoicing.
BUT, just think of all the YEARS that have gone into the preparations for today.
Thousands of years ago a man looked up at the stars as God promised him that, through his obedience, the entire world would be blessed. A covenant worked through the loneliness of leaving a known-to-him-home and traveling into the unknown. Years of journey and heartache of promise delayed, and as he looked up into that sky full of stars he had no inkling of an idea what God really had in store.
A few thousand years ago a baby was born, preparations made quickly for a young woman to deliver in an unsterile environment while shepherds rushed to be by her side and majestic kings from afar off began a similar journey, albeit one that would take much longer. Years. A slow journey to offer this infant king gifts.
Not one of them thinking. Not one of them having a clue of the effect that those unfurling events would one day have in a mountainous region of the world a life-time's journey away.
But that baby. He knew. And he made another journey. One that would shatter the entire world into bits of sorrow and mutual joy. As he journeyed to his death surrounded by the laughter and tears of those He loved more than His own life... He knew. He knew that in December 2015 a tiny little church would celebrate. And that all the preparations, all the journeys that came before and after would be rejoiced over.
In the past century of our own lifetime, someone made another long, arduos journey to a country where the gospel had not yet pierced the darkness. It had not yet brought forth the Light of salvation. Some of those who made that journey were themselves pierced by spears. But, I bet they knew. I bet the past had taught them that God has purpose in preparation, that God brings results from our journeys.
Over 23 years ago another journey was made. Homes were sold and possessions given away. Tickets were bought at a price that would make mere men shudder and the long journey from the Northern mountains to the Southern Andes was made. A journey that must have taken days. A new language. A new culture. The loneliness, the desperation, the heartache that must have been waiting for them.
But, I think they too, had an inkling of what God had in store. As they looked into the star fill sky they had to have remembered that covenant of so long ago. They had to have though of all those who had journeyed the way, long before they had even taken their first breath.
And with those thoughts, they began to work. To mold, to teach, to disciple. And with each knew believer, God's promises from so long ago began to be fulfilled. With each person buried to death, and resurrected to new life, the preparations became worth the pain.
And tomorrow, our celebration is not one of just the last year that brought us through painful conflict and into the glorious arms of reconciliation and forgiveness. Tomorrow, our rejoicing won't be just about the new creations that God has brought into our family or the spiritual growth that has shot forth through the souls of our congregation...
Tomorrow we will celebrate a journey started years ago. Eons ago. Long before our imagination can even consider. We will celebrate a journey that continues far beyond what our imagination can possibly grasp.
We will sing.
We will pray.
We will break bread together and we will embrace one another.
Meanwhile, most of you will be standing in another congregation so very far from us. And you will also be celebrating. Because you were also a part of this. You too had a role and a part to play.
And you too benefit from that promise made to a man so very long ago as he tried to count the uncountable stars. Your own journey to salvation began with the preparations in the distance of time and your celebration like our church's will last for an eternity.
Glory to God in the highest! Peace on earth and goodwill to all men.