In January, I had a chance to travel to Israel. Before going, I had seen photos of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Church of the Nativity, and other sites where Jesus had been baptized, performed miracles, preached, or that marked some other significant moment in His ministry. While certainly elaborate and beautiful in their own ornate and somewhat gaudy way, I always considered them to be, well… cheesy–a kind of first century souvenir roadside stand, like the gift shop you have to walk through whenever you get off of a ride at Disneyworld. Couldn’t they just leave the site alone, preserving it the way it was before? Couldn’t we just see it as it was when Christ was actually there?
As with so many things I learned in Israel, what I had originally believed and the reality of the thing were two different matters. As it turns out, these churches were actually spiritual markers. In an age where most people, most believers, were illiterate and could not read God’s Word, these markers served to tell the story of what Christ had done in this place, what he had accomplished for them and for the world. These markers were a kind of visual Bible for them. The builders intended for these spiritual markers to be built with the dignity fitting the Lord they loved, so they made them elaborate to show their devotion and love. People learned the narrative of the gospel, learned to worship better through these markers. I still would have liked to see these places in their pristine condition, but I gained a new appreciation for the spiritual markers that pointed to what God had done on that ground.
Throughout the Old Testament, whether it was Jacob, or Moses, or Joshua, God commanded His people to build markers to remind them of what He had accomplished through and, in some cases, despite them. These markers served as a visual reminder to His people and their children, so that they would tell their children the powerful stories of the work of their awesome God.
Although we’re not building a physical marker, that’s what next Thursday night’s 40th Anniversary Celebration is all about. It is a spiritual marker, in the same way that an altar or a stack of stones, or an elaborate church built on a significant spot would be. That evening, we will share the story that is common to our entire community, the story of how God brought us here, a story most of us don’t even know. He has provided mightily for this school. Time and time again, there have been opportunities for our school to go in completely different directions, away from the throne of grace. Time after time, God called us back to that which was most important: teaching Jesus.
The purpose of spiritual markers is to gather God’s people, to celebrate what He has done in their lives, and to worship Him for His goodness. We’re all praying that next Thursday night at the Patriot Center is one big spiritual marker.
You know that thing you pass on, then almost instantly regret when people talk about how wonderful it was immediately after it happens? This is going to be one of those things. I encourage all of you to be there; to join me in wonder and amazement in God’s work, and in committing to continuing as a part of that work in the lives of our kids and our community for years to come. This is one of those nights that will become a part of the fiber of our school. You won’t want to miss it.