As I write this blog, our church is preparing for our annual Homecoming this weekend. As is the case with many churches we mark these occasions yearly with anticipation of a guest speaker, special music, a crowd of visitors, and of course the food! As a Baptist Church the food is truly a sacred part of this momentous occasion. But I wonder if we have lost the flavor? No, I’m not speaking of the green bean casserole, the chicken pie, nor the pecan or persimmon pie, but of the flavor of this important gathering?

Scripture reminds us in 1 Peter 1 & 2 that we are “Sojourners and Pilgrims” passing through this world, on our way Home. The annual homecoming serves as a reminder of this truth, and that all those who have passed before us rest in the presence of God. It is there, that we too will find our rest in the Glorious presence of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, if we have by Faith repented and received Christ as our Lord and Savior. (Mark 1:15)

Recently my wife and I took a trip to the Billy Graham Training Center in Asheville, NC to get some rest, and have our batteries recharged while attending a conference there. As we attended daily messages delivered by Dr. Albert Mohler, we were spiritually encouraged in our faith journey to, “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”[Phl 3:14 NKJV] It was truly a blessing to have our souls spiritually nourished in the things of God. We also took the time to do something we had never done while attending conferences there. We decided to take a hike to enjoy time together and to enjoy the beauty of our surroundings. We would soon discover that this was to be no ordinary hike down a beautiful path of serenity, instead it would prove to be a mountain of travail. Full of winding paths, loose rocks, and steep inclines. Where was this in the brochure? I’m not certain I would have chosen this path had I known how difficult it was going to be. My wife and I set out for this 3 mile (one way) journey with the idea that it would be a nice afternoon stroll. Not exactly what we got.

As we made our way, out at first, the path was a scene from a post card, with beautiful streams, lustrous pines providing abundant shade, and magnolia’s that made up a natural canopy, all along the spiraling trail. But as we made our way up the winding road we began to quickly tire, and slowly feel the energy drain from our aging bodies. With every step it became a power of the will just to make the next step. Some places along the trail it would smooth out, and at other areas it felt as if we would lose our footing and no doubt plummet to our certain death just beyond the trails edge! (Ok, so I may speak in hyperbole, but when you are 47 moving from the couch to the kitchen can somedays be a challenge.) Either way, we knew that this was not going to be a walk in the park.

Along the path just when we thought we might give up, we would meet other hikers who had made it to the peak and would encourage us to keep on moving, as “the reward at the top was well worth the journey”, they would say. With renewed motivation we  would press forward and onward in hopes of seeing this great reward at the end of the trail. Mile marker, after mile marker, passed as we pushed forward, caught our breath, and then pressed on. Finally after much fatigue, and perseverance, we found ourselves at the paths end. I never could have prepared for what awaited us. The trail wrapped around a rock, then opened up to the most glorious scene that I may have ever seen. My wife began to cry at the sheer magnitude of God’s beauty displayed through His glorious creation.”The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork”- Psalm 19:1. We were in awe of not just the beauty of His creation but our hearts were drawn to the Creator Himself. Our hearts were moved to worship. As we gathered our composure and ability to speak again, it was only then that we prepared for our descent.

What does this have to do with Homecoming you may ask? Well, for most of you by now you’ve already made the connection. But let me spell it out for you.

Just as Peter wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, during a time that persecution would soon arise, he wanted his readers to know that because of their Salvation in Christ Jesus they were anchored to a living hope. Sure times would be tough. The path would not always be smooth, there would be challenges, trials, suffering involved. But this is not our home Christian, we are Sojourners, Pilgrims, just passing through.

We must press on at times, by the strength and grace that God provides. We must find the encouragement in those around us who are on the same path, and must encourage others along the way just as Christ has encouraged us. (2Co 1:4) We are grateful for reminders of events, such as a Homecoming service. It gives us the opportunity to gather with like minded believers, pause if only for a moment, catch our breath, rest, on the journey of life, as well as to be a source of encouragement to others along the way.

we also appreciate these gatherings because just as in the aforementioned story it points us to a greater hope. One day we long for the hike to end, to come to the pinnacle of the walk called life, and just as we think we can go no further, the final bend will appear, with lives wrapped around the Rock the Glorious end will come. Scripture reminds us of this Glory that one day will appear to us as believers in Christ, as found in 1 Cor. 2:9,… “But as it is written:

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

Our Ultimate homecoming, is at a journey’s end. So keep climbing, and holding on, not turning back for Christ sake, pressing forward one step at a time.

As the Hebrews writer says,

[Heb 10:23 ESV] 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

So this Homecoming, whether at CBC, or at whatever Church service you attend, enjoy the flavor! Savor that sweet time of fellowship, be reminded of the bigger picture that this is pointing to. Be encouraged, have an extra helping of that Green Bean Casserole, then perhaps go take a stroll and be reminded of the Glorious Homecoming that awaits every believer in Christ.

God Speed!

Pastor Jeremy R. Varner